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The Transformational Potential of Turbulent Times

We didn’t ask for a global pandemic, but here it is. We would never wish for an unemployment rate this high, but it surrounds us. And the murder of George Floyd galvanized us to stand up, push back, to seek justice, and to reexamine racism in America in ways that have eluded us in the past.

For each of these situations (and their downstream effects), we lack well thought out answers or a carefully crafted plan, but we must (and will) find a way through these turbulent times.

When there is disruption, when there is a crisis, when the unwelcome knocks on our door – we are faced with a foundational choice about our approach during this time. And the approach we choose is an invitation to radically transform us. We can either accept that invitation or not.

We can consciously choose to come through a turbulent time wiser, more grounded, more loving, more human. Or we can make the choice to merely wait it out, to muscle through it, to endure – and then to come out on the other side more entrenched, more bitter, more yearning for a past that is far more glorious in our minds than it ever was in reality.

The difference begins with that conscious choice. The first choice is to accept what is. A choice to surrender to the situation and to abandon trying to control it – and instead to be with it. A choice to take time to go inward, to reflect, to take stock and to question the very core of ourselves, our hearts, and our longings. And then the choice to go outward, to take action, to make transformative changes.

As we take stock, we begin to discover and discern. We begin to see what about our lives has not been serving us well. We begin to envision what a better future might look like. We start to move closer to our real selves, our true being.

When we do the internal work and as we begin to reenter this new future, we will be transformed by the fire of the turbulence. It will not defeat us nor make us brittle. In fact, it will make us stronger, more resilient, and more able to allow our light and our brightness to emerge.

In this journey of transformation, there will be things we leave behind. Not because it is easy, but because there is no other choice. We may have lost a loved one. Or a job. Or a false sense of security. Or our innocence and naivety. We may not relish the fact that these things have been stripped from our lives, but they have, none the less.

We leave other things behind because we choose to. Perhaps we have grown closer to family during this time and choose to leave behind our obsession with working at the expense of family. Perhaps we have experienced that we can do with less material things, and we leave behind the consumerism that emptied our wallet and strained the resources of the planet. Perhaps we are clearer eyed about systemic racism and our culpability in that and choose to leave behind old beliefs and assumptions about race and racism.

We are currently in a betwixt and between space. Our lives, as we knew them, were swiftly turned upside down in a series of waves. We’ve been in this turbulent transitory space for going on three months, which at times seems to be the blink of an eye and at other times an eternity.

We do we know this is transitory and what is now chaotic will settle into new and more predictable patterns. What we don’t know is how long this current turbulence will last. And most importantly, we don’t know what it looks like on the other side.

It is in that uncertainty that we find the hidden gift of turbulent times. We can use these times to shape how WE come out, how WE will be different, how WE want to be in this new world as it emerges.

Make no doubt, we will be different. As individuals. As families. As workplaces. As communities. As a nation. As a world of interconnected humans. The question before us is both how we will be different and how much we want to shape the future we are stepping into.

We are facing this moment an opportunity to piece together what has been broken apart. To mend. To heal. To come out of this turbulence time more clear eyed, more connected as a global community, more grounded, more humble and more just.

Our challenge is to fight against our propensity to quickly and without thought, growth or work, “get back to normal”. For when we are betwixt and between, we are ungrounded. Things are uncertain. We are uncomfortable. We yearn for stability, for normal, for the known.

Yet if we have the stomach, the will and the commitment to stay in this transitional space, to learn, to listen, to envision and then to do the work together to create something new, something fresh, something better – we can emerge from this turbulence better and stronger.

I point to sometimes in our past where turbulence sparked the emergence of radically new progress:

  • The crises of the late middle ages (the Black plague, the great famine, revolts & civil wars) gave rise to the Renaissance
  • The turbulence of breaking free of English rule in the Revolutionary War gave rise to democracy
  • The protests in India over the passage of the Rowlatt Act propelled Gandhi’s non-violent response and the emancipation of India from British rule

 

Rather than agonize over the current situation, I encourage you to act. Rather than seeking a “return to normal”, I beseech you to build a better future. Rather than returning to the past, I hope that we can reinvent ourselves into better versions.

The first step in any transformation is letting go of the past. It has been my intent in this post to convince you that there is the potential in the turbulence that we face today to craft something better. For ourselves. For our families. For our workplaces. For our communities. For our world.

If you are curious or intrigued by the idea of turning turbulence into transformation – stay tuned for my upcoming post on tactical ways to do just that.

 

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