Though I still feel the chaos and change in and around me, I have placed myself in a proverbial protective shell by reducing my digital connections, getting enough rest, and keeping my head clear.
As we approach a new year with new challenges and changes (for me, the welcome and wonderful challenge of playing the role of nana for the first time), I’m using my cocoon to catch my breath, renew, and reflect. When I cultivated my cocoon, I knew It was high time that I acknowledge the resilience I need to move into 2023 as my best self.
To do my work coaching others to lead their lives, their companies, and the issues they care about, I must keep myself sharp and prepared for the task at hand. And you are no different. Cocooning yourself to reflect on how you experience change and how you can better work through (not against) change is the greatest gift you can give yourself this holiday season. Allow me to offer the first threads of your cocoon:
Think of a surgeon scrubbing into a complex case, a teacher in front of his unruly virtual classroom, an HR leader instituting rules for her emerging hybrid workplace plan—their ability to lead depends on their sense of presence, equanimity, and clarity of purpose. And, as we discussed in The Future of Resilient Leadership, our sense of presence, equanimity, and clarity of purpose depends on our relationship with the change going on around us and within us.
Change is almost always part of a continuum, or cycle, of more active uptimes (dreams, plans, accomplishments) and less active downtimes (low energy, existential thinking, being stuck). Another way to envision this cycle is to think of personal growth and change as a two-part journey: an outer journey of external systems, doing/busy-ness, results and evaluation, and an inner journey of feeling, thinking, being renewed.
We tend to think of these stages as unrelated, even compartmentalized, and counterproductive. The up-time is typically considered positive and joyful. In contrast, the downtime, the more challenging journey, is viewed more negatively and seen as anxiety-inducing and even nonproductive. Nothing could be further from the truth. Some of our greatest thinkers and artists describe their struggles as fuel for their creativity and growth.
What if you could step back and look more holistically at the cycle of change itself? Would you recognize that downtime acts a catalyst to re-energize and clarify plans for the uptime? Understanding these predictable components of the change cycle is the very basis of Frederic Hudson’s Cycle of Renewal.
An unforgettable teacher, Frederic, taught that change itself is comprised of four predictable components. Understand the cycle, and you will better understand yourself and others. I have been using this tool for over 25 years, and I’ve found that it enables individuals and teams to identify where they are on this continuum and, therefore, determine their next best steps.
From the Hudson Institute of Coaching and Frederic Hudson's Cycle of Renewal work.
The four phases, as I understand and implement them, are:
Phase 1 is where we all want to live and play. It is an energetic, upbeat phase, and its can-do posture is positively reinforced by cultural messages—think Nike’s “Just Do It” or every self-help mantra. People in the Go For It phase are typically most challenged by finding time to do everything they want to accomplish. Go For It is like summertime in the cycle of seasons, when long days, bright light, and playful high energy prevail.
Inevitably, you must depart Going for It, either because you lose energy, feel ‘done’ with that chapter, or experience an intended or unintended ending—a death, an illness, getting fired, ending a relationship, becoming an empty nester, the list goes on. The Doldrums are typically seen as a dark time of low energy. When I work with clients, one of the hardest things is recognizing that someone is in the Doldrums and knowing they must be there for a while. Only once you accept, feel, and understand this low can you begin to shift to the next quadrant of this cycle of change.
Just like winter makes a journey through spring to summer, The Doldrums can’t lead right back to Go For It. Cocooning is like early spring—a season of nurturing new growth. It is a time when newly-planted gardens need water, warmth, and attention; your inner self needs similar TLC. Cocooning is an excellent time to pursue things that promote growth and stability, including yoga, meditation, reading books, exercise and rest. It is still an inward time but begins to look outward, entertaining new possibilities and new directions.
It is as natural as spring blossoming into summer for you to shift from that internal, experimental phase of cocooning to a new kind of re-entry into the world. Getting Ready is just what it says: exploring, networking, interviewing—all the preparatory steps we take to feel reconnected with the outside world in ways that are purposeful, productive and positive. And yes, because change is cyclical, this Getting Ready phase will lead you back to to Go For it.
When the ground beneath us seems to be dynamic and changing, we must fasten ourselves in the understanding that change itself is comprised of four predictable, cyclical components. By identifying where you are and what your needs are in that predictable cycle of change, you are better poised to show up and lead with resilience and empathy during periods of both tumult and opportunity. The question, then, becomes: how can you seek comfort in your phase while also supporting and celebrating those in different phases? The answer comes down to purpose, and your relationship with purpose.