“You’re not on auto-pilot”: How to consciously design your life

Tuesday 03 November 2020
You can ditch unwanted habits (even unwanted connections) and take time to reflect and set new objectives. Two coaches help us identify some positives
Notebook, pencil, and colour swatches flatlay

Emilie West started her career in investment banking, working up to a leadership role, before starting her own consultancy business. She had several years of remote working under her belt before the pandemic happened. “Yet lockdown has still impacted me in so many ways… it's just so important that we take some time out to reflect on that experience, and then use that to inform us in our decisions in how we run our lives going forward,” she says.

West works regularly with Laurence Knott, who started his career in local government, before, drawn to the idea of helping people, he retrained as a coach. Knott and West have collaborated on the Conscious Living series, to help people reflect and determine the right next steps for them.

In a webinar with CMI, West and Knott focused on three things: reflecting, reshaping and responding, in order to help attendees create their own ‘new normal’.

“Reflection allows you to make incredible changes in your life from a really informed position,” says West. “So you're going to get an insight into your own life and how you've adapted.”


The world changed at a phenomenal pace back in March. It has been a destabilising factor for everyone, but it can also be a source of reflection. Knott encourages people to undertake a simple three-question exercise: write down what the upside of the pandemic has been for you – something different that you actually enjoyed. Then make a note of a downside; something you’ve missed that you can’t do now. Then come up with something removed from your life that you don’t want back.

“[The pandemic has] taken away our freedom, our routines, but take a pause right now, because maybe you've made some different choices over the last few months… Don't just go back to old normal, create a new normal,” says Knott.

West adds that a lot of her clients are glad that they have more control over who they interact with. “Think about that for yourself… Has there been anybody that's been a bit removed from your life that you think has been healthy to remove?”

Reshaping your life

Going a little deeper, West and Knott use a ‘wheel of life’ with five pillars: relationships; work and career; health and wellbeing; leisure and interests; and impact and purpose. Use these pillars to determine how the pandemic has affected all aspects of your life. For example, for the ‘relationships’ pillar, think about whether you’ve been able to be more or less effective as a leader; have you been able to connect with your team members?

“This is a really nice model to use periodically to stop, assess and say: how has this situation impacted these areas, and where am I in these areas?”

Ask yourself:

  • How has lockdown impacted on the five different areas of your life?
  • Which areas have been positively impacted?
  • Which have been the most challenging?

Once you’ve asked yourself these questions, look at the area that has been most negatively impacted and three small changes you could make that would make an immediate difference.

Responding to the new normal

People have opened up their lives a bit more during the pandemic, says Knott, and are making decisions based on this – but it’s also been disruptive and discombobulating. “There's a lot of uncertainty out there, but don't be afraid of that,” he says. “You've got that power within you, and you are more resilient than you realise. You are able to make conscious choices.”

We have all adapted very quickly to the pandemic, which is testament to that resilience. This is a chance to experiment, says Knott. Come up with something that you could experiment with for a month. This is something that you can commit to that will make a significant change in your life. Once done, reflect on your experience and decide what you want to reshape in your life as a result. Repeat this every other month.

“The disruption that we’ve had has meant that we're out of our automatic habits,” Knott says. “It's shown us that we can take a step back. We're not on automatic pilot all the time. And we can reflect – we don't have to just do something because we've always done it.”

You can watch the webinar in full here. Why not check out our calendar for upcoming virtual events?

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