Crossing the threshold into the future

In a world filled with change, it is often not the practical changes we find difficult — but rather the psychological or emotional letting go of the way the world used to be and the taking on of new roles, identities, new ways of being.

These psychological and emotional shifts are called transitions. They come in three stages.

The first is to let go of the way the world used to be and turn to face the future. The second stage is to take the first step into the unknown: leaving behind the security of the old world and taking the risk of building something new. This is called the Threshold phase.


Crossing the Threshold

The Threshold phase is the chrysalis stage between the caterpillar and the butterfly: the old world has gone but the new world has not yet been built. Everything here is undefined so people entering this stage are likely to be feeling uncertain, disoriented, lonely, vulnerable, or afraid.

Your role here is to provide structure — first for yourself, then for others.

In a churning world, this structure can’t be rigidly imposed: people need to develop it for themselves (using their own inner leadership).

And there are two things you can do to accelerate their process:

  1. First, top down, you can put the culture of your future vision in place.
    Management guru Peter Drucker said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast” and the  Threshold phase gives you the opportunity to bring that culture alive.
    You do this by defining the values that will make your vision succeed, together with why they matter, and the attitudes and behaviours that will bring them to life.
    This then provides an external framework that says “This is how we do things around here.” And that, in turn, enables people to respond to anything that happens.
  2. Second, bottom up, you can encourage people to develop their own inner leadership skills, to become better at coping with the uncertainty of the Threshold phase.
    Teach them especially to centre and ground, make clearer sense of their situations, and find more opportunities in a crisis.
    The better people can do these three things the more confident they will become, able to respond to whatever happens.

With an internal framework and an external framework in place, people become more able to cope with change. Then they can learn to thrive because of that change.

One day you will look back at the Threshold stage as a time of freedom, so treat the ambiguity of this period as an opportunity for innovation, exploration, and adventure.

When did you last experience a major shift in role or identity? As you stepped into that new role did you experience uncertainty? Would it have been useful to know how to:

  • Stay calm in a crisis, make clearer sense of new situations, and find more opportunities?
  • Have a clearer vision of what you were working towards
  • Have clearer values, attitudes, and behaviours to guide your responses?

Would it be useful to start learning these things now?

Adapted from Inner Leadership: a framework and tools for building inspiration in times of change.

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(And remember: you don’t learn to swim by reading about swimming, you also have to practice.)

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