10 Nov Urja-The Energy for Transitions
““There is a time for departure, even when there’s no certain place to go.” – Tennessee Williams
A week ago, my colleague and I facilitated a workshop called Urja- Exploring the Energy for Transition. Amidst the scenic mountains of Uttarakhand, our group comprising individuals who are going from the early part of their careers to the next stage, examined the process of transition – its inner and outer workings and how to find the energy for being in this in-between space, a space which is metaphorically ‘no longer and not yet’.
Right at the outset, as we spoke about expectations from the workshop, what surfaced was that here are some talented individuals, each with a fairly clear idea of her strengths and limitations, and even about what seems like the next career move. Yet, somewhere a part of them seemed unsure about what this next step really meant to them at a deeper level, leaving them searching for real energy to make this step different from all others until now. What’s more, their struggle was to find resources or even vocabulary to navigate this experience- of seeming to know and yet not knowing which was leaving them wondering, ‘is this happening to me alone?’
“I’ve got the key to my castle in the air, but whether I can unlock the door, remains to be seen.”- Louisa May Alcott, Little Women
Call it the affliction of our times, most individuals who are moving from the early part of their careers to the mid-career stage are struck by similar feelings of ennui, disorientation and a wish for a deeper energy source to tap into. Organizations also struggle with how to energise this layer of people – upskilling, continuous learning, stretch assignments, mentoring programs, leadership training, all look like lip-service after a point. Technical challenges are anyway best solved by the younger crop, given the rapid emergence of newer and newer technologies. So a de-energised cohort of mid-senior people also directly undermines the organization’s capability to respond to adaptive challenges – the kind which are needed to stay ahead in the game for the long haul.
Coming back therefore to the central theme of transition – transition is an experience characterised by recognising that what is significant/important is changing. Transition and change are used interchangeably causing much of the problem (Managing Transitions – Making the Most of Change by William Bridges). Change is situational and is directed at an outcome, while transition is an inner process of letting go what is no longer significant or adequate to the stage you are in. In our workshop group too, participants knew about career changes that they were up for i.e. move to a new business function, move to a different city and begin afresh in a new organization etc. These changes were also consciously made or planned for, keeping in mind their behavioural and domain related strengths and limitations as well as other constraints, for e.g. travel constraints because of family etc. However, the acute gap was in paying heed to inner psychological processes that any such change process entails – what part of me do I have to let go of and what new parts will I add onto myself. Not examining and answering these questions leaves us often at the same place as before the change happened – and in a sense, robs us of the deeper energy to make the change also count as a transition.
What unfolded through the workshop was a process of getting in touch deeply with
What holds significance/ importance to you right now
To bring more of this (which hold significance/importance to you) into your work and life
– What will you let go of?
– What will you let come?
In the typical course of people development (at the organization level) and career planning (at the individual level), the question of what holds significance/importance is often framed as a goal e.g. turning a business around, acquiring greater P&L responsibility etc. Along with this, creating the space to ask “in doing this, what will I let go of, how will the in-between space feel and what will I let come”, taps into a wellspring of psychological energy which puts one on the path to meaningful transition/growth thereby producing noticeably different results. This energy allows one to craft a different set of productivity-results enhancing practices for oneself and for the work system, leading to payoffs for the individual and for the organization.
The challenges of navigating transition are therefore of relevance to both individuals and organizations and indeed to the larger system around us. In a VUCA world, transitions need to occur ever more often. It’s time we looked at transition for what it is, without conflating it with change, or else we will be left feeling, “Just because everything has changed, doesn’t mean anything is different around here.”