This post is written for all who are feeling stuck or unsure how to navigate change.
If you accept the assertion that we are all dealing with design challenges https://marabhuber.com/2017/10/28/redesign/, then resetting is simply a process of realignment. When the context surrounding our lives or work changes dramatically, our patterns of behavior and contributions may no longer fit or be valued. What was once satisfying may feel constraining or even dysfunctional.
I call this dissonance- the state of being out of alignment. It happens at work, in relationships, in virtually all aspects of our lives. Change can be thrust upon us through external events like death, infidelity, shifts in leadership or organizational structure. But it also happens from within, often subtly, compounding over time. Regardless of the source however, change is completely natural and unavoidable, and yet for many, terrifying.
We expend a great deal of energy, strategy and emotion trying to prevent change or slow it down as we grasp for security, sustainability or permanence. And in doing so, we fail to recognize that when viewed through a different set of lenses, change is actually a portal through which we can access growth, humility and perspective- all necessary ingredients for the fulfillment and connectivity that we universally crave.
You see, the secret to resetting lies in developing a sensitivity to the universe of change and differences that spins around us. But rather than trying to stop, prevent or judge the change, it requires a sense of honor and respect as we work towards deeper insights, appreciation and acceptance.
Put another way, resetting requires emotional distance, the ability to remove our feelings and needs when assessing the world around us. Once we release ourselves from our analysis we can begin to observe broader patterns and trends, issues and forces that shape constraints and opportunities, impacting the people and places around us.
As we develop an ability to “feel into” these contextual forces, we can gain insights into opportunities for our own growth and development while releasing the negativity and fear that threaten our success and happiness.
How to reset? Begin by looking around you, considering the internal and external landscape, the ecosystem of structures and people that comprise and influence your world. Start to formulate questions and observations, framing them through words and phrases that convey respect and care. Speak these words out loud in front of a mirror, noting your body language and the way you feel when you say them or imagine the conversations. As you try out different words and observations, work to release any tension or tightness, letting go of negativity, fear or hurt and embracing a more caring and open demeanor. And take the time to observe and reflect on the differences.
Here are some conversation starters with which you can experiment.
Things feel different lately, have you noticed any changes?
What does it feel like to be in your position? What are the pressures that you’re experiencing? What are you most excited about?
I can feel things changing but I’m not sure I understand how or why. Can you share your insights?
I get a sense that the context (of our work) has shifted, what do you see as the new direction? What are you concerned about?
I sense that our relationship is somehow out of alignment. I’d like to understand how things have changed from your perspective.
Once you are able to receive insights about the world around you, without personalizing or getting defensive, you will discover new spaces and opportunities to flex your talents, skills and contributions in ways that add value and feel inherently better. While your relationships and experiences may be different than what you originally expected or even hoped for, you will feel a renewed sense of alignment and stability, and an awareness of the universe of possibilities that is always there but always changing around you.
As I talk with women from diverse backgrounds and professions, the notion of “the weeds” seems to resonate universally.
The weeds are a highly emotional place, a vast and interconnected tangle of thoughts, memories, and experiences. Charged with emotion and fear, the weeds are highly sensitive. Once triggered, they ricochet us through patterns and responses, leaving us wounded and depleted as we struggle to regain our sense of balance and control.
Not surprisingly, growth doesn’t happen in the weeds. And yet that’s exactly where many of us find ourselves. Sent there by tragedy, crisis, relationships, and even complacency- almost any life or work event can serve as a trigger.
Over the years, I have developed an acute sensitivity to the weeds. I experience them as creeping vines, wrapping around our ankles or torsos. I can often sense their shadow as they approach- thoughts of self-doubt or defensiveness, a tightening in the throat or stomach. And in others, they manifest as a darkness, draining both energy and light.
From a cognitive standpoint, the weeds represent the lowest levels of our thinking. Laden with details and context, they keep us trapped in our emotions with little room for reflection or insight. But if we are able to leave the weeds behind, we can travel higher in our systems, entering a universe of concepts and ideas. Unlike the closely knitted tangles of emotions, these constructs are expansive and dynamic, able to be nested, stacked, and rearranged as we build and reconfigure our understanding of ourselves, our work and our worlds.
The cognitive differences between the weeds and higher thinking cannot be exaggerated. It’s like comparing the most innovative playground to the rings of Hell. But escaping from the weeds is neither easy nor intuitive. By definition, it involves getting away from danger but also finding something safer. In simple terms, breaking free from the emotionality of the weeds is only part of the solution. We must at the same time embrace the benefits of higher thinking, pulling ourselves upward through textured goals, commitments, and thought patterns. Imagine yourself on a climbing wall, searching for constructs to grab onto as you lift your feet higher.
The good news is that it’s all within our reach, and interest in this new frontier seems to be building. With every month, I’m being asked to speak about these and strategies with increasing frequency and enthusiasm. From companies wanting to provide their associates with tools to reach and dream higher, to women looking for opportunities for advancement, and organizations focused on community impacts, we seem to be collectively yearning for growth and expansion. Perhaps this is an area that is ready to be developed and cultivated. Perhaps the time has finally come for cognitive redesign.
As someone who has studied and thought about these ideas for over thirty years, I am excited and eager to share my strategies and insights. But I am also mindful of the paradigm shift that this approach represents. I’m curious to hear my readers’ thoughts and feedback. Does this notion of the weeds resonate with you? And are we really ready to embrace a more generative approach to growth and advancement?
Perhaps there is no better gift than a book that speaks to your soul and becomes a trusted companion, ushering you through the discoveries of life.
The Little Prince was a gift that was waiting for me, hidden within a box of books donated by my mother-in-law for a fundraising sale that I was hosting.
Miraculously, it was never sold. Still with its dustcover intact, the 1972 copy- printed the same year as my birth- was peeking out from a pile of rejects, stretching and willing me to find it.
What a find it was. Every time I read The Little Prince I am brought to tears, touched by its beauty and the insights it offers. And like all good books, these discoveries change with the rhythms and resonance of my life.
When I first discovered my book, I was immediately overcome by its beautiful simplicity and the innocence of the Little Prince. I found his love for the flower so touching, his disappointment and bewilderment heart wrenching, and his exquisitely delicate character left me sobbing.
The second time I read the Little Prince, I had been drawn to an antique book store searching for a similar copy to give as a gift to my friend. Once again, it was waiting for me. Despite the owner’s insistence that no copies were in the store (he had just checked for another customer), there it was sitting patiently on the bookshelf. I was so happy to have found it that I sat down on the bench right there and read it from cover to cover wiping away my tears.
How interesting that my second reading revealed a Little Prince who was not so naïve at all. He spoke of simple yet absolute truths: the meaning of friendship and responsibility, the importance of having a purpose. It was through that second reading that I saw the Little Prince as truly wise and the men around him so foolish.
Several years have gone by since I picked up the Little Prince. But just yesterday it called to me once again.
This time I read through it quickly, the story now so familiar that I found it hard to pause and appreciate the beauty of the individual words. Somehow amidst the flowing cadence the phrase “matters of consequence” danced into my awareness, urging me to contemplate its meaning.
The author playfully suggests that the Little Prince is written to and for children since only they understand what’s truly important. It is true that notions that are pure and simple are easily dismissed and discarded out of deference for the complex and more sophisticated.
I am perhaps only now coming to appreciate the purity of the most precious gifts that my children seem to already innately understand.
Ironically, when I first discovered my love for the Little Prince I was so eager to share it with my children. Although they wanted to love it, and pretended that they did, I knew that it was me they loved, and not my beloved book.
But perhaps by connecting their love for me with my love for my book, we will have together created a thing of great and lasting consequence…
“In one of the stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing, when you look at the sky at night…. You- only you- will have stars that can laugh…”