Change, and changing yourself, is usually not easy. It is easier to point a finger at what someone else who needs to change.
Transformation is Messy
People often want to have a transformation without the messy work of it all. Inherent in any transformation is a trans – form – ation, a breakdown of how things were formed so they can be reconfigured. The above textured painting, done by a friend and colleague, sits in my office behind me. It has real butterflies in it (none were harmed in the making of it), long a symbol of transformation. I meditate on this painting daily. As I work with leaders to effect change, it reminds me how messy, fluid, scary, exciting and passionate change can be.
This is exactly what is happening in this country – we are experiencing all the messiness of demanding change. We witnessed a protest unlike any other, in recent times, in our nation’s capital last week. I’m guessing, like you, I had strong feelings about who and what needs to change after this course of events. During, and after, I heard such a range of perspective from friends and colleagues, some very surprising.
I had already decided before the events to take a digital detox on social media for the month of January (with the exception of this blog). Messages still reached me as I have friends and neighbors texting me about what is written on Facebook posts, etc. Anger is unleashed in many places and in many forums. Our democracy is in jeopardy and we have different points of view as to what is really wrong and how to fix it. It’s a complex situation and not solvable in the short-term, but hopefully shiftable in the longer-term.
Beauty Amidst Breakdown
In my post last week, I talked about beauty amidst breakdown. There is something incredibly noble and beautiful in our aspiration of democracy. I, like many of us, was aghast, angry, sad, etc. about the events of last week. I have so many judgments and thoughts about what is right and wrong.
Be Part of the Solution
Being painfully aware of how split this country is, I also realize, I need to be part of the solution, not fueling the fire of division. I love this country, with all our imperfections. It has always been about forming a more perfect union – ongoingly. We may never get there, but the effort to stay with the action toward it, and respect our differences in the process, is the point. I heard two startling quotes this week that caused me to go deep on who I am, and reflect on what I stand for, in these times.
Jane Goodall said, “Change happens by listening and then starting a dialogue with the people who are doing something you don’t believe is right.” Truly listening is a skill an art and a discipline, not for the faint of heart. It requires three things: suspending your judgment long enough to listen, managing strong emotions that might surface, and holding open the possibility that your mind might just be changed.
This brings me to the wise Persian poet, Rumi, “Always remember you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think, and twice as beautiful as you ever imagined. Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”
With such a divided country, we need to relearn the power and art of conversation and public discourse and debate – how to have tough, candid conversations. It can be as hard and simple as managing your personal energy, particularly when you have strong feelings.
Strike up a conversation with someone who has a very different perspective than you on a subject (political or otherwise). Seek to truly understand them. Try to feel their joys and sorrows. Be effected by their life. Allow yourself to be changed, especially if you disagree, even if it’s only in holding empathy for them. THIS is radical change.
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Suze Shaner is an executive coach and leadership & organization effectiveness consultant. She also teaches yoga and meditation – tools to keep one sane in uncertain times. She helps professionals step up to their fullest leadership, life, and growth potential. At times this means getting out of their own way in getting important stuff accomplished. www.sagelead.com.