In between … I’m not sure I like these words. They imply a place of discomfort. Like “in between a rock and a hard place”. We really aren’t creatures of discomfort, and I’m really starting to realize that I’ve got a lot of “in betweens” in my life right now, and they leave me with both the attraction of something new and the angst associated with not knowing how things are going to be. A classic dilemma!
What do I mean by in betweens? I’ve chosen to move on from my current role at our organization, but because we’ve decided to take our time at this transition, I’m halfway out of my old role before really being able to put definition to a new one. While I’m doing that I’m also in the midst of a certification program, which leaves me in between a leader and a student, choosing moment by moment how I need to appear. And at a higher level, Kendra and I approach our retirement plans within the next several years, which has me wondering what having something other than full-time work as my day-to-day focus will be like. I could add a number of personal situations that feel like in betweens as well.
Two weeks past in my post Climbing The Ladder, I wrote: “Have you ever noticed the tendency of us humans to choose the certainty of an unsatisfactory situation over the allure of a satisfying but uncertain alternative?” I know that to be a true statement, but what is dawning on me is that perhaps it isn’t the uncertainty of the alluring future that hold us in the uncomfortable present, but the uncertainty of the passage between present and future states.
What I find most interesting about this being in between is the opportunity for growth and energy that is hidden within. I say hidden because it isn’t so natural to look for opportunity in discomfort. We are usually focused solely on the discomfort and making it end. The natural approach is to cling to the old and familiar, but once truly in between, it can sometimes be equally attractive to move swiftly to embrace the new rather than explore other possibilities.
When we relax into the in between, however, it is amazing what appears to us. Here are some of the things that have occurred to me. It just so happens that these things line up into an interesting mnemonic – CALMER.
- Choice. Being in between allows me to choose. Since I haven’t yet embraced the future state, I in fact get to choose whether I want to do that or look for something else.
- Awareness. It is a time for self-awareness. When I am in between it is important to me that I lean into the discomfort and seek out its inner roots. It isn’t enough for me to blame my discomfort on someone else’s action or inaction, as I am responsible for how I feel. It is important that I examine why I feel the way I do about it, and why I am reacting to such things. By understanding these feelings and correlating them over time I might understand and manage my adapted behaviors that much better.
- Learning. The in between state almost by definition requires that we acquire new skills and knowledge. As long as I’m not clinging to the old the opportunity to grow is very appealing!
- Meeting New People. Moving to something new generally will involve new people. Forming bonds with these new people in advance will very likely contribute my future success, so I want to take advantage of this time in between to get to know them.
- Experimenting. I mentioned this in Climbing The Ladder but it bears repeating here. When in between things, we are often afforded the opportunity to try things out with respect to the future state, to feel what it might be like, to shape our approach to our future. This might come in the form of training and development, special assignments, shadowing, etc.
- Renewing. In some instances, in between implies some lessening of formal demand on my time. In those instances, we may be able to take the time for renewing our personal energy. I know this isn’t always true, but as I think about it I believe it is important that we look for these rare times that allow us to recharge.
When I reflect on these items, I do see the essence of something calmer in the words, but that it is up to me to seize this inner calm.
I’m also aware that as a leader, the onus is on me to be aware when a team member is in between.. Sometimes, it might be that I have a direct hand in the creation of this state. At other times, the team member has arrived there of their own accord, but they are in between nonetheless. It might be a family situation that has them contemplating relocation. It might be something fundamentally calling them to a new engagement. It may be an age/stage related situation that is causing that person to rethink how they derive personal value. There might be something more troubling like divorce or illness.
We have an incredible opportunity when our team members are in between. When we show them that we understand the discomfort and then offer them insight into the value of CALMER, we help them grow while we increase that important emotional bond to an organization that shows a high degree of support for them.
I would love to hear in between stories from you. How have you seen this manifest in your life and career?