It's time to let go of the challenges, struggles, and obstacles, and dream big about the future.

The long winter is coming to an end, literally and figuratively. Are you ready to leap forward, rather than retreat, in a moment that may never again occur in our lifetime?

Our world, country, communities, businesses, lives, and livelihoods have all been traumatized by the health crisis, civil and political unrest, and economic volatility for over a year.  Vaccine rollouts, economic stimulus, and the upcoming spring give us reason to be cautiously optimistic.  There will be an end, and it is seemingly in sight. The trauma-induced changes we’ve had to make allow us to rebuild better than ever.

In this pivotal time, we have the opportunity to transform like the tree clinging, 12-legged caterpillar that spins itself into a silky cocoon, experiences a total metamorphosis, and emerges as a beautiful butterfly. That butterfly never goes back to its cocoon’s original site, nor should we retreat to the time before COVID-19.

An opportunity exists for a positive personal and professional evolution through the power of self-reflection, transformative thinking, and planning. The light at the end of the tunnel will be brighter for those who take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime moment.

Pause and Self Reflect

Despite the wisdom of the “live in the present” adage, there is real value in carefully reflecting on what you have been through. The world has been experiencing a health and humanitarian crisis responsible for the death of over 2.6 million people and impacting countless others’ livelihoods and mental health. The country has experienced natural disasters, racially and politically motivated protests and riots, economic turmoil, and more. Put simply: we’ve been on an epic roller coaster ride.  And, if you’re reading this, you’ve survived all of that mostly intact.

Though you may resist self-reflection, research indicates that it can be a powerful tool.  One study demonstrated that workers who spent 15 minutes at the end of each day reflecting on lessons learned performed 23 percent better after 10 days than those who did not reflect.

Powerful reflection requires you to pause, inventory your experiences, consider different perspectives and create meaning. Here are a few potent self-reflection questions to get you started on the path toward thriving beyond the pandemic:

  • How are you doing? How are the people around you doing (your team, your community)?
  • How is your business or restaurant concept doing? How are your finances?
  • How are the tough decisions forced by the crisis impacting you and those around you?
  • What are the actions or behaviors you can stop, start or continue to benefit yourself, family, team, business, finances?
  • What steps can you take today to move yourself, your team, your business, and your finances, forward?

With these questions in mind, choose a process that works for you.  Some of us need to think out loud, while others prefer to write down their thoughts.  Regardless, set aside dedicated time and mental space, and ask for support if you need it. As Brene’ Brown wisely said: “Sometimes our first and greatest dare is asking for support.” 

Transform Forward

There is good reason to believe the long winter may be thawing toward a beautiful spring and perhaps a roaring 20s style future. Multiple vaccines have been given emergency clearance to thwart the spread of COVID-19 and access to those vaccines is expanding rapidly. Economists are predicting economic growth in 2021, and the federal government recently passed the third stimulus to further rescue the country’s hardest-hit citizens and sectors.

As we find ourselves at this inflection point in the crisis, perhaps more optimistic about the future, it’s vital to maximize the benefits of the trauma-induced-change caused by the pandemic. It is time to let go of the past and embrace a better future.

The reality is that our world, work, and lives weren’t perfect before the pandemic started, and we need not retreat to old habits and behaviors that didn’t serve us. The pandemic shattered lives and relationships and business and livelihoods, which now have to be reimagined and rebuilt to hopefully a better place than you have ever imagined.   

Let go of the challenges, struggles, and obstacles. Dream big about the future.  At this moment, take time to clarify your values, your vision and your mission. Think ahead five to 10 years, and ask yourself: what will success look like for you and your business; where do you want to be, and what do you want people to be saying, both about you and your business?

By all means, advance toward a bigger and better future.  Otherwise, you just might find yourself with the same pre-pandemic problems.  

Plan Your Future

If you know where you’ve been and where you’re going, don’t simply let hope be your plan. According to research, only 3 percent of adults take time to plan for the future, yet that same 3 percent accomplish five to 10 times more in their lifetime than the other 97 percent. There is power in making and following a plan. The only way to control your destiny is to create it.

In a detailed and freely downloadable document entitled Restaurant Reset 2021, fellow restaurant strategist Kathleen Wood and I set out to help restaurant operators build robust plans for the next normal.  This tool is organized across three phases: Reboot, Recharge and Rapidly Rise, and spans five perspectives: self, team, concept, finance, and growth.

To thrive beyond COVID-19, you must create a plan that: one, embraces current realities and begins to immediately work to reboot for the next normal, two, sets about a recharge of yourself, people, finances, and operations, and three, begins preparation to rapidly rise beyond the pandemic to make long-term investments toward the future.

As you plan, remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint. Even your plans to reboot, recharge, and rise will face obstacles and setbacks. When dining rooms are full again, it may be challenging to staff your restaurants. A written plan will help you stay focused, keep your team on board and help you adjust in the face of adversity. When all else fails, just remember that the difference between an ordeal and an adventure is attitude—keep your energy positive.

In Summary

The power of self-reflection, transformative thinking, and planning can genuinely be game-changing for yourself and your business.  Be gentle on yourself and the people around you – you have been through a lot, and you’re still standing. Dream big, believe that you deserve better and begin to make your dreams a reality. The difference between good and great is discipline (and sometimes attitude, passion, luck, and support). And as Goethe once said: “Boldness has genius and power and magic in it.”

Jamie Griffin is the founder & principal of Consult to Grow. He has nearly 20 years of experience in restaurants working in multiple facets of a high-growth quick-service restaurant chain. Jamie and his firm specialize in helping restaurant chains improve, scale, and grow their businesses through better strategy, people, systems, and processes.

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