by Rick Brenner
A new year has begun, and I'm contemplating beginnings. Beginnings can inspire, and sometimes lead to letdown when our hopes or expectations aren't met. How can we handle beginnings more powerfully?
It's early winter in Boston, the very beginning of the year, and I set out before dawn for my morning circuit of the Charles River's lower basin. The city is waking, preparing for the coming day, but the basin is still quiet.
Winter dawn in Boston as seen from the Cambridge bank of the Charles River. Photo by Tara Bithia. Courtesy Cambridge Fire Department
Normally, I don't see the dawn, but I'm a little earlier than usual, and at this time of year, the sunrise is as late as it gets. As I come around the turn in the path below the Longfellow Bridge, I see a pink tinge in the clouds to my left. I realize that on this morning the view of the sunrise from the Cambridge bank will be striking. So I decide to follow my usual path, but in the opposite of my usual direction.
I cross the Longfellow Bridge, walking backwards much of the way, to face the sunrise. The sky in the East brightens steadily, and the clouds change from pink to red to a glorious orange. Walking upstream on the Cambridge side, I notice sunlight in the treetops, gradually working its way down to ground level. And then the sun falls directly on me. The beginning of the new day.
Beginnings can be filled
with possibility —
inspiring and excitingBeginnings can be filled with possibility — inspiring and exciting. And then letdown can follow, when our aspirations don't come to pass, or when we encounter obstacles that trip us up in frustratingly familiar ways.
Here are some tips for handling beginnings.
- You can't change the past
- At least one element from the past is always with us — ourselves. Life is repertoire — new efforts often involve many of the same people, who bring with them not only their experiences, but also the problems of the past. Fresh starts usually aren't really fresh.
- See things as they really are
- Events, like sunrises or new years, can seem more significant than they really are. When the sun rose over the Charles, the world didn't change — the city's birds kept singing and the river's waves kept waving. The flow of events is often more continuous than we recognize.
- Seek inspiration in the real
- When a transition of true significance arrives, it might not be marked by dramatic shifts in Nature, or astronomy, or the calendar. When we depend on the newness of the effort, or a new year, or a sunrise, to indicate significant transitions, we might let other important transitions pass unnoticed. Find inspiration in what's really happening, where the opportunity really lies.
- Focus on the truly new
- What is new is the chance to try again, this time with a memory of past experience. Maybe we've learned something. Maybe we can make different choices this time.
Helen Keller once said that when one door closes, another opens. But sometimes doors open all by themselves, often without our noticing them. Is a door opening for you? When did you last check? Top Next Issue
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More articles on Organizational Change
- Now We're in Chaos
- Among models of Change, the Satir Change Model has been especially useful for me. It describes how people and systems respond to change, and handles well situations like the one that affected us all on September Eleventh.
- Workplace Taboos and Change
- In the workplace, some things can't be discussed — they are taboo. When we're aware of taboos, we can choose when to obey them, and when to be more flexible. When we're unaware of them, they can limit our ability to change.
- He's No Longer Here
- Sometimes we adopt inappropriate technologies, or we deploy unworkable processes, largely because of the political power of their advocates, and despite widespread doubts about the wisdom of the moves. Strangely, though, the decisions often stick long after the advocates move on. Why? And what can we do about it?
- When Change Is Hard: Part I
- Sometimes changing organizations goes smoothly. More often, it doesn't. Whatever methodology we use — and there are many methodologies available — difficulties can arise. When change is hard, what's happening? What makes change hard?
- When Change Is Hard: Part II
- When organizational change is difficult, we sometimes blame poor leadership or "resistance." But even when we believe we have good leadership and the most cooperative populations, we can still encounter trouble. Why is change so hard so often?
See also Organizational Change and Problem Solving and Creativity for more related articles.
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