Between two trapezes – The Transition Zone!
Don’t you feel like life is a series of trapeze swings? You either hanging on to a trapeze bar swinging along or, for a few moments in life, hurtling across space in between trapeze bars, hanging on for dear life to the trapeze-bar-of-the-moment. Today the moment is Covid-19. Six months into the pandemic, it’s carrying us along at a certain steady rate of swing with the feeling that ‘I’m in control of my life.’ I now think I know most of the right questions and even some of the answers.
As I move from one point to another, it’s that in-between, uncertain time of letting go and waiting to grab the next thing – a new trapeze bar, that’s the most challenging at the best of times and for some, even debilitating.
I know that this new trapeze is my next step, my growth, my aliveness coming to get me. In my heart, I know that for me to grow, I must release my grip on this present, well-known bar or old world and move to the new one, the world ahead.
We really do not like change, so part of me hopes that I won’t have to let go of my old bar completely before I grab the new one. But I know that I must totally release my grasp on my old bar, and, for some moment in time, I must hurtle across space before I can grab onto the new bar. In that transition, the uncertainty & unknown, I am filled with terror. It doesn’t matter that in the past, I have previously made it. I am afraid that I will miss, that I will be crushed on unseen rocks between bars. I do it anyway and leap ahead. Perhaps this is the essence of what the mystics call the faith experience. No guarantees, no net, no insurance policy, but you do it anyway because somehow to keep hanging on to that old bar is no longer on the list of alternatives. So, I soar across the dark void of “the past is gone, the future is not yet here.”
It’s called “transition.” I have come to believe that this transition is the only place that real change occurs. I have noticed that this transition zone is looked upon as a “no-thing,” a no-place between places. Sure, the old trapeze bar was real, and that new one coming toward me, I hope that’s real, too. But the void in between? Is that just a scary, confusing, disorienting nowhere that must be gotten through as fast and as unconsciously as possible?
NO! What a wasted opportunity that would be. I have a sneaking suspicion that the transition zone is the only real thing and the bars are illusions we dream up to avoid the void where the real change, the real growth, occurs for us. Whether or not my hunch is true, it remains that the transition zones in our lives are incredibly rich places. They should be honored, even savored. Yes, with all the pain and fear and feelings of being out of control that can accompany transitions, they are still the most alive, most growth-filled, passionate, expansive moments in our lives. But we can only experience it by being fully present in it!
We cannot discover new oceans unless we have the courage to lose sight of the shore.
True transformation is about giving ourselves permission to “hang out” in the transition between trapezes. Transforming our need to grab that new bar, any bar, allows ourselves to dwell in the only place where change really happens. It can be terrifying. It can also be enlightening in the true sense of the word. In the transition, we just may learn how to fly.
As Covid’s dizzying spin starts to slow, leaders steel themselves for the long road to recovery. An essential early step will be effectively addressing the anxieties of millions of workers worried about the future of their work and their health. Given the pain of this moment, leaders are urged to handle the journey’s challenges mindfully with resilience, authenticity, and connection.
With the ringing injunction to “normalize the new” and get back on the treadmill. If leaders want to use this moment to do more than return worried, distracted employees to old jobs they once knew, we need to still the maelstrom in our minds; most of all, we need to break the semi-automated responses that continue to chain us to the old trapeze. If we don’t, we will find ourselves frantically doing the same things yet expecting a different result. We must become comfortable with the uncomfortable and embrace the suck.
To embrace the suck means to have discipline. Having that mental toughness to see the hard work through to the end. You continue with the hard-charging attitude of being able to keep moving forward and never give up.
We are wired for survival and staying in comfort – every fiber in our being wants to hold on to the old trapeze and not let go, but nothing will come of staying put; we have to keep moving. “The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide you are not going to stay where you are,” JP Morgan
According to a Green Beret, Jason Van Camp, there are 7 ways to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
The first step is always the most uncomfortable. All you have to do is show up. The battle is half won if you just show up.
2. Don’t quit.
You’ve decided to start. You do not see the results. It’s difficult. You want to quit. It’s OK. Just keep pushing forward. That voice in your head is going to make you think of a way out. Don’t do it. Don’t give yourself an out.
3. Push yourself past your comfort zone.
At some point, you are going to say to yourself, “I’ve never done this before” or “I don’t know what I’m doing.” We’ve all been there. Here’s a trick: Just pretend to be confident. Fake it till you make it.
4. Embrace “the suck.”
The situation is bad–deal with it. And don’t just deal with it–open your arms and welcome it as you would an old friend. You know him well. You are building your mental and physical toughness.
5. Be around like-minded people.
Create a support network. Talk about your experiences. The worse the experience it is to you, the better the story it is to everyone else.
6. Recognize your improvements.
Track your progress. Revel in it. You are now a changed person. You know it because you see it. Build your confidence by going back to what before was uncomfortable and go through the experience again.
7. Rinse. Repeat.
“repetition is the mother of learning.”
The more you perform the same activity, the more confident you become. Confidence is a tangible thing–it comes from practice and repetition.
Perhaps the most difficult part of this pandemic is the uncertainty we are all facing. Uncertainty about how contagious and deadly Coronavirus is. Uncertainty about the travel that we have planned. Uncertainty about the economy. Uncertainty about our jobs. But the real world is highly uncertain, and that can be uncomfortable. So, to succeed, we must keep moving, take that next step in faith, and welcome in the discomfort of the transition zone as you reach for your new trapeze of growth.