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OTHER ITA SITES:
Rite Of Passage
I am writing from England, where my nephew Sam has just had his barmitzvah. This marks his transition from boy to young man. To assist in his passage, his father and I took Sam on a two-day vision quest in the woods. We agreed not to speak about what occurred. However, the basic elements of what we did are relevant in guiding people and organizations through crucial transitions, and I can speak of that.
To be effective, change has to be self-evident. I doubt if many of us will ever forget what it was like to be thirteen. Our very bodies were altering our experience as new hormones, new clothes and new ways of thinking began to have their way with us. Although more subtly, the same applies for the crucial transitions of later life. For those who are fortunate enough not to be able to deny the process, it becomes abundantly, if painfully, apparent that change is happening.
People don’t move so readily from “bad” to “good,” as if growth requires denigrating where we have been. Yes, it has to be acknowledged that new ingredients beyond the former ways of being and doing need to come on line. But people will move more readily from “good” to “great.” Until the past is honored and seen as a worthy starting point, the person hesitates to go forward. I have seen it so often: change resisted in the nagging sense that there is something to prove or make right about what has gone before. In truth, each person can say that he or she has done well to get here. And we can help let them know that we see that too.
In the case of Sam’s quest experience in the wild, we were in a different environment free of familiar comforts and discomforts. For executives, it is more about recognizing that circumstances have already moved them into new and unfamiliar territory. The human mind is trained to take what worked before and overlay it on new situations. Unless we are convinced otherwise, that is always what we will do. Somehow we have to get viscerally that the old rules no longer apply in the new environment.
Finally, it is hard to move forward without some vision, some sense of excitement about what is ahead. Usually we see some of what is awaiting us but miss the full potential that is there. The gift of a change agent is to make upcoming possibilities visible in a way that makes people eager to go after them.
My thirteen-year-old friend is still young enough to view the prospect of becoming an adult as enticing. His Jewish forefathers were wise to set this rite of passage at such a young age. Later on he will find plenty to reject in the examples of manhood he sees around him. Yet change and growth are not meant to stop at puberty. You are a change agent for the people in your walks of life. When we look, there are countless opportunities to help others see what is waiting to unfurl in them.
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