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, and 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. And the second is to take the first step into the unknown: leaving behind the apparent security of the way the world used to be and stepping into something new.

This is called the Threshold phase.


Crossing the Threshold

The Threshold phase is the chrysalis stage between the caterpillar and the butterfly: here the old world has gone but the new world has not yet arrived.

Everything here is undefined. So people are likely to be feeling uncertain, disoriented, lonely, vulnerable, or even 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 this 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.”
    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 provides an external framework that enables you and the people around you to respond to anything that happens — starting now.
  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 more that people do these three things the more calm, clear, and confident they become — again, able to respond to anything that happens.

With these two frameworks in place, people become more able to cope with change.

And 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. Find your values. Experiment with bringing them to life. Learn what feels right and what works. See the primary goal not as creating an outcome in the world but as creating calm, clarity, and confidence in yourselves.

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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