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Leadership Q&A: The Journey of Change


This week, I found out that three friends lost their jobs. They join others that I know who also have been forced into the journey of change. To see change as a journey is not so unusual. The journey motif has a rich tradition in the literature and legends of all cultures. We only need to turn to Homer’s Ulysses’ Odyssey or Cervantes’ Don Quixote’s quest or Frank Baum’s Dorothy journey through Oz to find her way home to see that journey and change go hand in glove.

In the history of every nation there are stories of journey. The story of Cabeza de Vaca’s journey across the southern United States long before any European settlers came is a stirring tale of cleverness and determination. My own favorite, the Lewis & Clark Expedition, represents to me an example of what a team of people can do as they journey through an unknown territory.

Just as change can come randomly or intentionally, so too, these journeys did so.

To lose one’s job and to see this as a waypoint along life’s journey is to understand the value of the journey metaphor. The choice is not to adopt journey as a way of understanding, but rather as a strategy for proceeding through our lives.

How can the loss of employment, be understood as a journey? How can people turn a dramatic crisis of lost work and income into an opportunity that the journey metaphor suggests?

First, we need to see change as not simply an interruption, but rather as a transition point along our journey’s path. When we lose employment, that loss may have nothing to do with the quality of our work. Who we are and how we we perform our jobs may be incidental to the reasons for the termination. We are still the same people, with the same skills and experience.

Second, to see life as a journey, then, is to recognize that no destination is ever the final one. We pass through stages in our life. Our present job may not last, nor be our last. We move on to the next destination with our resources of experience.

Third, we can approach change as a journey of exploration and discovery. We do not have to wander aimlessly. We do not have to feel lost. However, in order to embrace a journey of learning, we must realize that our inner resources of strength and resilience are more important that the external supports of a job.

Fourth, to travel a journey is to travel opportunistically. We look for new experiences, new opportunities to learn and to serve. As we do so, we are better prepared to adapt to those changes that are more disruptive and disorienting.

Finally, to treat one’s life as a journey requires that we are constantly preparing ourselves for change. Even while in one place, we are learning, growing, preparing ourselves for the next opportunity, the next transition, the next destination.

What many of us are learning is that we cannot depend on the external realities of our lives to remain constant in order for us to feel safe and secure. We must look within ourselves for the strength and resilience to adapt to the changes that affect us.

Also, none of us should travel this journey alone. We need companions and fellow travelers to help us find the way to our next destination. To embrace the journey is to begin a process of personal change that enables to discover new possibilities for our lives.

If you have recently lost your job, there are three things you can do right to get yourself back on track.

1. Decide what you want from this next segment in life. Don’t think – “Got get a job! Got get a job! Got get a job! Got get a job!”  Think rather, “I want to learn X and I want to create impact Y.”  To think this way is to open up your mind to new possibilities and opportunities.

2.  Ask three friends their honest assessment of what you are best at doing. Here is where you should feel your greatest confidence, and discover where your greatest impact can be achieved. It is important that you ask people you respect, and who will be honest with you.

3. In three short sentences, state who you are, what you want and the impact that you have had in the past.  Share this with your network asking them to connect you to those people, “Who do you know that would be interested in this?”

When we go through these life transitions, we stop doing some of the things that were comfortable for us in the past, and we learn to do new things.  This is the nature of the journey we are on. Embrace it and discover just how much you can do to make a difference for others.

About the author

Dr. Ed Brenegar I'm a leadership speaker, writer and consultant who is a mentor and catalyst for change. I assist leaders and their teams in the transitions required to succeed in today's complex organizational environment. I live in Western North Carolina. I'm involved the Boy Scouts, a charitable leadership training group called Lessons In Leadership, an ordained Presbyterian Church USA minister, and am the host of the Say Thanks Every Day social network.

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Posted in General Leadership, Leadership Q + A, Work Life Lead.

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