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Personal Change | Organisational Change | Learning and Growth

Conversations about leadership, learning, coaching and change.

Ending or beginning.  How do you see change?

Ending or beginning. How do you see change?

by Moyra Mackie on July 26, 2013

 “What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.” ~ T.S Eliot

And this is the end where I start from

At the age of 10 I helped my family to sell everything we owned and almost everything we treasured.

It took hours for me, my brother and sister and my mum and dad, to carry the contents of our house outside and arrange them neatly on the lawn.

I remember seeing the dinner service my parents had been given as a wedding gift, my mum’s wedding dress and assortment of hats, handbags and shoes.  I remember the beautiful walnut drinks cabinet with mirrored inlay and our wooden trunk of toys.

I can still see the people from Victoria Falls (pop. 16,000) coming to wander round our garden; inspecting those things which had so little monetary value, but meant so much to the five of us who named the price and took the Rhodesian dollars.

Then we packed up our lives in eight metal trunks and began the journey south by rail to Cape Town and north by sea to Southampton.

Our family began our new life in England on July 4th 1977

My parents had four children under the age of 11, one thousand Rhodesian dollars, no work and no credit history.

It was quite a beginning

Or was it an ending?

Each change in our lives is both an ending and a beginning.  The weight we put on each side of that change coin will influence how easily we cope with change and adapt to new circumstances.

The difference between change and transition

William Bridges, in his book Transitions, believes:

“It isn’t the changes that do you in, it’s the transitions. Change is situational, transition is the psychological process people go through to come to terms with the new situation.  Change is external, transition is internal.”

As a coach and consultant, I am confronted daily with clients who have to deal with organisational and personal change; who must cope with both change and transition.

Like that 10 year old on that lawn, my clients feel stuck in the middle of a transition they may not have chosen or even anticipated.

The three stages of dealing with change

Bridges says both individuals and organisations need to accept and deal with:

  • Endings
  • The middle ground
  • Beginnings

This process can evoke strong emotions: anxiety, rejection, curiosity, excitement, anticipation, fear, even anger and loss.

We all navigate endings in our own way

This can be anything from outright denial (ending, what ending?) to enthusiastically diving into the uncertainty of the middle ground. It can only benefit you – both personally and professionally – to know where on this continuum you find your comfort zone.

Look to your past for clues so that you are change ready

The feelings you can recall as you started school or entered high school, as you moved house or changed neighbourhood, fell in or out of love, dealt with company shake-ups or re-organisations, tell you what you will likely feel about future change.

Then you need to let go

Before we can move on to the future, we need to let go of the past, including its implications about who we are and what we make of the world.

Failing to let go or modify parts of ourselves that really belong in the past can make the messy process of transition even messier. And yet we can’t completely change our identity just because of a transition.

Choose what to carry forward and what to leave behind

This is where the greatest opportunity for growth lies.

I didn’t know it in 1977, but packing light allows all of us to discard emotional and psychological baggage that we may have been unknowingly carrying around for a long time.

Ideas about ourselves and the world that are outdated, based on faulty assumptions, or tied up with messages that other people have passed onto us.

What I learnt

I lost the year-round sunshine, but I gained four seasons and a view of the sea.

I lost the comfort of fixed mindsets about colonial superiority and gained a multi-cultural, diverse view of the world.

I learnt that losing friends made it easier to make friends. That moving to the other side of the globe made the world a smaller and more exciting place, not a bigger, scarier one.

External change leads to personal growth

As a coach I have experienced and witnessed  the challenge presented by endings. Personal growth is about making a conscious choice between who you were and who you would like to be.

A complete transformation is not possible

But it is the process of reflecting that is important. You are equipping yourself with important self-knowledge that is sure to help you through the current transition — and the next, and the next, and the next.

How do you reflect on the endings and beginnings in your life?  How do you think this connects with the changes and transitions you are faced with now?

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie helps leaders and teams to work with courage, compassion and creativity. She is an executive coach and consultant and the founder of Mackie Consulting.

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