by Paul Casey

Feel Like You’re Just Treading Water?

I had a client say the other day that he was just “treading water” when I asked him how he was doing in this COVID-scarred world we now live in. It made me google that phrase, because I thought it an appropriate metaphor for how so many people I encounter are feeling. To tread water is literally to “keep one’s head above water by remaining upright  and pumping the legs” and figuratively to “expend effort that maintains one’s status but does not make much progress toward a goal.”

So many people are pushing themselves to keep moving at work (and away from work) despite “attacks” on their mental and emotional wellness, in addition to the constant fear of becoming COVID-positive.  Maybe you can relate? You try to get your goals accomplished, even though it’s so not business as usual: all the workarounds to try to get your typical job done. Then there are all the distractions at home, and the feeling that work and personal life are always blurred together (hence the term “Blursday”) without clear stopping and starting one area of your life. And the things we looked forward to every year (travel, holidays, dining out) are all altered in one way or another, detracting from the fun or satisfaction we usually derive from them. So, another day and week go by and we tread water.

One fun fact I read is that a person burns 11 calories per minute due to the exertion of treading water, one of its only benefits. It led me try to find some ways to make the best of our current situation. Maybe one of these might intentionally become a goal or habit for you:

  1. Keep the long view perspective. Looking back, while you might have a bad day here or there, consider how well you have persevered through the many months of your COVID-altered life. And going (growing!) forward, extend the typical time frames of your goals to allow for how you must compensate to achieve them–but keep making progress toward them. Stay on track; make slow progress.
  2. Keep learning. This year I’ve picked up a couple facilitator certifications (DISC and Emotional Intelligence) to add to my quiver of offerings I can do for teams. I made that decision once realizing I wouldn’t be going to a conference as I normally would. What skill can you pick up? What knowledge area can you deepen? How can you stretch yourself so that you are more useful to your company or marketable for others to use your services? That’s why the motion of treading is more beneficial than simply floating.
  3. Find ways to stay buoyant. Using the treading water metaphor once again, you must find ways to keep a good sense of humor and take good care of yourself, or you’ll sink under the heaviness of 2020’s negativity. Watch clean comedians to laugh til you cry. Play games with your family that make you snicker at each other. Use social media to spread cheer instead of doom. Lavish praise on colleagues. Find things to look forward to every day: a coffee at a drive-through, a walk/jog around the neighborhood, a phone call with a good friend, time spent on a hobby that brings you joy, decorating for a holiday, cooking a new recipe.
  4. Distance but don’t isolate. Relationships are the spice of life. Conversations help us learn something new. They connect us to the spark that others possess, that we might not have at the moment (like borrowing energy!). We take our minds off our own struggles (after sharing them with someone who cares) and focus our attention on being a boost to others. We leave their presence with a fuller tank than when we arrived.

Now I throw it to you. Add to my list. How can we all make the best of our situation heading into yet another month of not-so-ideal? The bigger the list, the more options to get unstuck. Who says we can’t thrive? Let’s keep a dialogue going. Start out with an email my way at Would love to have you in my tribe.


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