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 and emotional letting go of the way the world used to be and the moving into a new reality.

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

The first stage is to let go of the familiarity and apparent security of the way the world used to be. The second is to step into the unknown: into the way the world is going to become.

This second stage of transition is called the Threshold phase.


Crossing the Threshold

This Threshold phase is the chrysalis between the caterpillar and the butterfly: the old world has gone but the new world has not yet arrived. Here, everything is undefined.

People, including you, are likely to be feeling uncertain, disoriented, lonely, vulnerable, and even afraid.

So your role is to provide the structure that seems to be missing — first for yourself, then for other people.

In a churning world, this structure can’t be rigidly imposed: people need to make sense of it for themselves.

But there are two ways that you can help them (and yourself) to speed up the process:

  1. First, top down, you can put the culture of your future vision in place.
    Management guru Peter Drucker told us that, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”
    This Threshold phase gives you the opportunity to build that culture.
    You do this by defining the values that will make your vision succeed, as well as why they matter, and the attitudes and behaviours that will bring them alive.
    And when you define these things you create a guiding framework that enables you and the people around you to respond to anything that happens.
  2. Second, bottom up, you can encourage people to develop their own skills and abilities of inner leadership. Then they can begin to lead themselves through the uncertainty of the Threshold phase.
    Teach them, especially, to centre and ground themselves, to make clearer sense of their situations, and find more opportunities in a crisis. And if they know how to find their own purpose and values and choose a way forward, even in the midst of uncertainty, so much the better.
    The more people build these skills of inner leadership, the calmer, clearer, and more confident they will become — and the better they will become able to choose how they respond to anything that happens.

By putting these two frameworks in place (one external, one internal), you enable people to cope better with the uncertainty of the Threshold phase.

And as their focus then shifts from the apparent ‘problems‘ they face, to the activities and behaviours they carry out, to the meaning of those tasks and the values they are bringing to life, so they will also begin to learn to thrive because of change.

When did you last experience a major shift in your role or identity? Would it have been useful to know how to:

  • Stay calm in a crisis, make clearer sense of the situation, and find more opportunities?
  • Have a clearer vision of what you were working towards
  • Have clearer values, attitudes, and behaviours to guide and shape 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 can’t learn to swim just by reading about swimming, you also have to do the practice.)

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