A new season - renewal or transformation?

The new season – renewal or transformation?

My goodness. I didn’t really expect to still be thinking about welcoming the new season. But clearly, there is more to walk through, to encounter and to make sense of here.

And I suspect I am not the only one.

I hear many people, close friends and others seen from a distance, talk about going through significant change. And it not being what they expected or anticipated.

The process of change itself is somehow ‘different’. And we can either go with the flow or resist. Let it take us where we need to go, or try and control or contain it.

So it was brilliant to hear from our good friend Trooper Jim this morning with a pearl of wisdom from Henri Nouwen

But if we are to grow as persons, we not only need time for reflection but also time for renewal and transformation. from ‘Dare to Journey: with Henri Nouwen’ compiled by Charles Ringma

The question Jim posed to me was: what’s the difference between renewal and transformation, and where you personally?

In understanding the times and seasons we are in – individually and collectively – this is a really good question…

Renewal or transformation?

Seasons by definition, are part of a cycle of renewal. Of repair and restoration, of becoming new. Even though Autumn is a time of shedding and decay, it’s in readiness for new growth – regrowth – in the Spring.

For most of us, new seasons are usually about renewal. We expect to see recovery and release of fruitfulness as a result. A greater expression of whatever this new season is about – work, life, family. It’s not necessarily more in volume, but more mature.

But there are times when it’s not more of what we know, it’s fundamentally different. Transformation isn’t just a faster, shinier version of what went before. Indeed it may mean a significantly different identity. A shift which whilst genetically linked is so radically different as to be almost unrecognisable.

Henri Nouwen himself went through such a transformation when he moved from being a well-respected priest, theologian, writer and academic (including Yale and Harvard) to joining L’Arche Daybreak Community in Ontario. In this community for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, he became assistant to Adam. And it utterly changed him in the process. His description was: “It is I, not Adam, who gets the main benefit from our friendship.”

Like a butterfly emerging from the chrysalis. There had to be a radical change – metamorphosis.

Courage and vulnerability

Yes Jim, I think I am going through a transformation. And it has to be a choice, my choice. No one can do it for me, but friends are certainly great at cheering me on. Diolch yn fawr iawn (thanks very much!)

Like the chrysalis, I’ve had to wait for the turning of the season. This isn’t something you can control or take a shortcut through.

I’ve also had to be prepared to leave things behind.

Another insightful friend remarked that I appeared to need to ensure that people knew I’d been a CEO. I realised that although I’d left the NHS in 2009, I didn’t have an identity that I was comfortable with or was being affirmed. So I held on to that which enabled me to be understood. To be ‘placed.’

But I don’t want to forever be an ex-chief exec. Even though I am proud to have served in this way.

Also, I’ve had to step out and do things that really stretch me. For example, in starting Quiet Disruptors I had to speak when I didn’t feel ready. I hadn’t got it all sorted out. I’m a fairly thoughtful person and I’m less comfortable experimenting in real-time in public.

So when we finally launched the new blog, two weeks ago, it was definitely on the edge. I chose to use the short daily posts as a way of exploring ideas. Of writing on the day for publication at 11 am. And taking Seth Godin’s advice to ‘just write’ and not wait until it’s perfect.

That is a big one for me. I like beauty and finesse, and love to both read and give well-crafted pieces. But I know I needed to be in that vulnerable place of learning and practising in public. Add to that, on the first day I decided to do simple drawings to illustrate… And believe me, I am not an artist!

Recognising the seed

Crazy. Vulnerable. Exposed… All those things and more.

But over the years I’ve lost my spark of spontaneity (not that it was huge) and the only way I’m going to grow is by going back to the edge.

And there’s more – perhaps for another time…

But the interesting thing is this. Whilst on the outside these are quite big shifts, inside there is a tiny spark, a thread that goes way back. This has now been reignited. Like the butterfly DNA. It has to be expressed, but this can only happen if we’re prepared to take big steps. And transform.

If we hold on to the old in these new seasons, we simply won’t make it. We need to know the times we are in and make our choices well.

Here’s to the butterfly in us all.

PS I’ve done more thinking about this in the Quiet Disruptor Reflection post “Disrupt the Disruptors”. Suggesting the three reasons why we need disruption if we are going to be healthy Quiet Disruptors!

1 thought on “The new season – renewal or transformation?”

  1. Dear Boss. That makes a lot of sense. Thank you for helping me unpack the difference. Henri Nouwen in the same book also said this. And has blessed me greatly. ” our tendency is to overestimate what we can achieve in one year and underestimate what we can achieve in ten years “.
    Every blessing. Trooper Jim.

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