Navigating Change

“It is important, if you want to be here, we are looking for a solution to this (points to head) not this (points to ears).” This quote comes from the recent Oscar winning movie Sound of Metal. I was initially drawn to this movie as a percussionist. But I walked away from it inspired by its message of navigating change.

Sound of Metal is a masterful film that confronts the challenges of Reuben Stone, a heavy metal drummer who is going deaf. The focus of the movie is not about music per se, but rather the human response when we are personally impacted by a life altering event. Denial, anger, negotiating and all the other stages of grief that accompany loss are on full display as Reuben rapidly loses his hearing. Yet the plumb line of emotion throughout this journey is his deep desire to return to the way things were.

Political theorist, John Schaar, wrote, “The future is not some place we are going, but one we are creating. The paths are not to be found, but made. And the activity of making them changes both the maker and their destination.”

There have been countless times in my life when I have attempted to navigate unwelcome changes by trying to return to the familiar. I failed every single time. I have learned that regardless of how hard I have tried to recreate the way things used to be, the reality is I cannot go back. Because just like the continuous rotation of the earth, the undeniable truth is that our life is dynamic – forward moving. My choice is to exert energy toward a reality that no longer exists, or to actively participate in creating my evolving reality.

During the pandemic, I’ve worked with a lot of individual leaders and organizations who were confronted by the loss of their previous way of doing business. Each of them, like Reuben and the rest of us, have often sought the “solution” in the familiar, rather than embracing the reality of change and asking what is possible now. Our agency is at the center of our creativity and it is how we build the capacity to walk forward to shape what is to be.

I have found theologian Richard Rohr’s perspective both poignant and helpful. “God puts us in a world of passing things where everything changes and nothing remains the same. The only thing that doesn’t change is change itself. It’s a hard lesson to learn. It helps us appreciate that everything is a gift…It will not last, but while we breathe it in, we can enjoy it, and know that it is another moment of God, another moment of life.”

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