This post is part of Aid to Zen – A Quick Guide to Surviving Aid Work from A to Z by Alessandra Pigni.
Random reflections on change and transition
How many times have you packed up your life and resettled? How many times have you found yourself in a new place, building a new “home”, having to make new friends, adjusting to new food, trying to learn a new language? As much as apparently most people “hate change”, some of us deep down are “addicted to change”, otherwise we wouldn’t be doing what we are doing. We love the novelty of a new place, the challenge of a new job, the possibility of new encounters. It’s a love-hate relationship with change. As much as life on the go can be interesting, integrating all its changes at an emotional level is difficult, it means coming to terms with ongoing transitions.
Change happens regardless
Clinging to a fixed model and idea of ourselves and the world may provide the illusion of security, but we run the risk of becoming stuck while life around us adapts, evolves, and moves on. Somehow I feel this is a useful reflection for those working in organisations that aim to change the world, but are hardly interested in changing themselves. When they do it’s all about “restructuring”: changing the outer shell, without accompanying people in a deeper process of transition. That’s why people seem to resist change. In reality what we mostly resist is the uncertainty that comes with it. We resist that ambiguous, uncertain and uncomfortable in-between situation, which organisational change expert William Bridges calls the “neutral zone”. In reality it doesn’t feel “neutral” at all, it can be pretty confusing.
Resilience in the face of change
Remaining resilient through transitions mean adjusting our world-view to the needs that emerge from context to context. When I worked in a psychiatric centre, one of my clients told me: “Who I am remains the same, what I am keeps changing.” I found his insight precious: indeed who we are remains the same, yet it is also in constant change, influenced by the context that surrounds us, by the weather, by the relationships we build and by the situations that life throws at us. Through multiple life transitions our core doesn’t change, yet hopefully we do evolve and let life’s ups and downs shape us for the better. As I once heard from a Buddhist teacher: “Let everything be your teacher and transform you.” So far this has been for me the most useful approach in the face of life’s uncertainties, ongoing change and transitions. I guess it’s about finding meaning in what seems random.
What to read:
William Bridges, Managing Transitions: Making The Most Of Change