We don’t always choose the changes that we face, but we do choose how we deal with them.
My daughter heads off to university this weekend. Like thousands of other young people she is stepping out in to a world away from home, where she can be the grown up that she has become, away from the restrictions that living with people who remember you in nappies creates!! She tells me that she is exactly the right mix of excited and anxious, but it has taken her a while to get there.
Until recently it seemed that anxious had the upper hand, but with many of her friends already moved away she has realised that what she is anxious she will no longer be a part of has already gone, and her staying put won’t change that. And in there I think sits a message that is useful to know. An aspiration to keep things as they are is impossible to achieve. However much we may want to stay still, we can’t, because the context around us changes, and so our sameness will be different.
We explored last time (blog of 4th September) the ideas of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and the transition curve (here it is again):
I’ve coached a lot of people over the years who have been desperate to stay as they are, use the skills they know they are good at and work hard at denying that they need to change. And when this happens to any of us we get stuck, because to accept that things are changing is scary. It’s a slippery slope, full of incompetence and uncertainty, before we reach the place where we can start to have some respite from it all, with a sense of acceptance and the beginnings of a plan to move ourselves on.
And that respite comes as soon as we can see that, as Marshall Goldsmith puts it
What got you here won’t get you there
What works for my daughter at home (moaning when her dinner’s not ready and expecting her jeans to be washed by the ‘washing fairies’!) won’t work for her at uni! What works for the team member (having a day full of getting stuck in, being one of the gang and getting self esteem from ‘making things’) won’t work when she is promoted to CEO. And what’s true for me as the mother of two at home (noise, clutter, banter and sibling tussles) won’t be the same with one child away.
We need to be brave because starting on something new means the end of what went before.
Seneca’s quote that
Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s ending
is an idea taken up by William Bridges in his book “Managing Transitions”. For him change starts not with beginnings, but with endings. If we lay Bridge’s idea over our transition curve it looks like this:
In the rush of excitement (or of anxiety) about what lies ahead it can be easy to overlook the need to get to grips with what is ending. And our bravery can be dulled by the uncertainty of the neutral zone, but without that bravery we will get stuck.
Whether you’re in a new job, heading off to university, or stepping in to a life where your child has grown up and moved away, all these situations and many others besides require us to be brave and know that we can’t stay the same, even if we wanted to.
All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy: for what we leave behind is part of ourselves: we must die to one life before we can enter another
Whatever changes lie ahead for you I hope that, like my daughter, your longing and your melancholy, your excitement and your anxiety, are balanced just the way you want them to be.
Thank you for reading this blog. I am enjoying sharing the Choose You Project with you and I love hearing your thoughts, comments and examples of Choose You moments, so do please continue to share them with me, (you can email me at email@example.com )