“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

These words of Victor Frankl, a psychiatrist who survived the horrors of a concentration camp, are fitting now that there are so many things we cannot change.

William Bridges, transition expert, claims that change is “external” and that “transition” is the “internal, psychological process” we undergo to process change.

Some time prior to his death in 2008, John O’ Donahue wrote his poem, A Koan for April, which could well have been written this April. It starts with:

The mind of time is hard to read.

We can never predict what it will bring,

Nor …

Can we say what form it finally takes …

Often we only know it’s time to change

When a force has built inside the heart

That leaves us uneasy as we are.

It is hard to know when it is time for our lives to change – largely because the status quo, while sometimes unexciting, is at least known and comfortable.

In this time of Covid 19 author, Arundathi Roy, reminds us that “historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal … between one world and the next.” (https://www.ft.com/content/10d8f5e8-74eb-11ea-95fe-fcd274e920ca

So, whether it is “a force that has built inside our heart that leaves us uneasy as we are,” or whether we are being “forced” by the pandemic to “break with the past and imagine [our] world anew,” we are living in a world forever changed.

What does this mean for us?

Arundathi urges us to “drop the carcasses of our prejudice … our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas,” and “walk through lightly …, ready to imagine another world…”

I am wondering what “walking lightly” means –

Do the least possible damage to other people and our environment?
Share with those who have less?
Change our perceptions of who or what is the most important?
Focus on work we love?
Replace dogma with a capacity to hold ambiguity?
Learn to operate well and connect differently in a more “virtual” world?
There is much that needs to be done in this time of lockdown – contingency planning; trouble shooting; finding new ways of working; trying to keep staff; having to let staff go….

The deep work, however, is more about being than doing. Who is it that I want to become in responding to the dramatic changes in the external world? In a previous post I celebrated the outpouring of generosity and generativity in these times of Covid 19 – free resources; food collections; support for struggling businesses; the blossoming of poetry and music; massive collaborative ventures; moving tributes to the heroes in the front line …

The choice of who we want to become is ours. We can choose an “infinite” mind set, as Simon Sinek calls it, which sends us into reinvention mode or a “finite” mind set which keeps us locked into survival mode.

I know what I’m choosing.

I can think of no better way of concluding than with the closing words of Koan for April:

May we have the courage to take the step

Into the unknown that beckons us;

Trust that a richer life awaits us there,

That we will lose nothing

But what has already died;

Feel the deeper knowing in us sure

Of all that is about to be born beyond

The pale frames where we stayed confined …

Posted by Juliette Gyure Global Executive, Leadership, Team & Transition Coach

+27 (0)76 285 8579

✉ juliettegyure@gmail.com