Adapting and Creating New Normals

This week I’ve been thinking about my cousins who live in the Northeast and how they made it through the big blizzard with yet more snow falling this week. They have been waking up to a “new normal” each day.  It’s actually an abnormal day by most standards because of all the chaos that weather extremes create, but the “normal" in the day is that some will find a way to work, by snowshoeing or skiing; others will work from home, and others will elect not to work and enjoy playing in the snow or curling up with a book indoors. Those choices will determine what’s normal right now, in this moment, if we are present to it. Or, if we choose, the abnormality will become a disruption and a distraction. Think for a moment how you react and adapt to new normals in your environment.

I was listening to an NPR interview with a broadcaster in a small town in northern-most Canada, where their normal temperature during the winter is -10 degrees. At that temperature, she said that they could be outdoors for hours.  At -40 with a wind chill of -50, they can be out only for a short period of time. (Really??) My normal would be not to go outdoors at all, ever, in that climate, based on my tolerances and beliefs around winter weather. I’m pretty sure that I couldn’t talk my dog, Bella the Weimaraner, into going for a walk at -10 either. My normal isn’t the broadcaster’s normal, and yet if I wanted to be outdoors in the sun during the winter months in northern Canada, I would have to find a way to adapt the way I think about the cold and change some habits that would allow me to enjoy the cold. I’d also have to invest in winter gear and some new habits for Bella, too.

Brain science says that we have the capability to rewire our thinking through new practices (ways of thinking and being), just like rewiring our bodies through a physical practice. And, by the way, our brain and body work together really well in rewiring and reshaping how we show up in the world.  Try a simple experiment. The next time you are feeling cold, instead of sitting and tensing your body, move your body until you begin to feel warm.  Physiologically, you will warm your blood and tissues through movement. You can also adapt your thinking about what it feels like to be cold, and literally talk yourself into being warm, by relaxing your body, imagining a thick blanket around you or a warm fire, and shifting your thoughts to a more positive experience of what cold feels like.  Pretty cool, right? Pun intended.

Much of what I do in executive coaching is to work with clients to help them create a new normal in mindset, actions and behaviors for a more supportive climate in the day-to-day, and to better prepare for and adapt to the inevitable storms.