Creating change? Parent your new life. Give it what it needs to keep growing.
Creating change can be invigorating; integrating it can be a new kind of difficult. Much like giving birth is one thing and parenting is another. A shift in thinking is required. As a leadership coach, I partner with people creating change every day (like making the professional more personal, or the business of being oneself). My son's birth this summer has reminded me of the critical importance of the "fourth trimester" of any change: the integration phase.
We spend so much time getting ready to make a change (like give birth) but the real work happens once we have. When you’ve started a new job, moved to a new city, or the consultants have gone and your restructured team must make it work. The greatest opportunity for leadership lies in steadily nurturing. Yet, it often doesn’t feel in our nature to nurture our own newness. Change alters your identity, causing discomfort and doubt which can make you want to revert back. Support for change integration can make all the difference.
Whether you have children or not, any life change requires of us - boldness, grit, wisdom, choice - as it teaches us. Who you are becoming matters. Cherish your change the way you'd love a new baby: with patience, care, and most of all, commitment.
Growing change in your life? Keep in mind some lessons from pregnancy, birth and beyond:
Change will come. Daily. Be available to it. You’re never as stuck as you think you are.
In fact, you’re a naturally dynamic creative force. You are always in some stage of change. The first trimester is personal and internal. You may want to barf. That’s ok! It means you’re doing more than just thinking about change (though that’s where it all starts). Destabilizing as it may be, remind yourself that as long as you’re aware, you are safe. You can do this. Embrace your ability to create, reinvent, be flexible, and grow.
Every goal or vision, like every birth story and baby, is unique and right. Find things to love about your situation, experience, path, passion. Find the humour in it. There is no best way. Many will have “advice”. You don't have to be the same kind of parent (or employee, or person) your parents were or peers are. Research, but choose what feels true for you. Choose how you want to be with your new life.
Let go and trust yourself. Notice what you’re expecting – it’s the key to empowerment. You don’t need to know exactly how everything will unfold (surprises happen), but try trusting that it will go well. Be clear about what you want while being open to whatever comes. As your new life grows, your energy will build and your confidence will deepen. When you choose something new, something old may go away. Let it go.
Be grateful for what shows up. Let yourself learn. A key to healthily integrating change is meeting it thankfully, openly, and consciously. Savour where you are. Let yourself feel gratitude in each phase. Empower yourself to choose, adjust, repeat. The second trimester - when your change becomes obvious to others - is when you’ll likely start feeling you can really do this (because you are!).
Be present. Be aware of how you’re choosing to think, behave, feel, and be with this new life of yours. Unconscious reaction and resistance can create issues. Honour your mind and your senses to best integrate change. Borrowing from the Bourne Identity - use your central intelligence and agency to discover who you are.
Change is not one big moment but daily small ones. It may feel as though not much is happening and then you’ll look back a few weeks from now and realize you’re somewhere quite new. Your new life will become more important to you every day.
Get the help you need. Trust yourself to know the help you need and be brave enough to ask for and receive it. Being vulnerable is key for connection, growth, and greatness but you need not be alone. Consider a coach. Like a midwife for change, a coach is a source of knowledgeable, caring support for capable people growing new life. Coaches aren't supposed to have all the answers but they can help you find them yourself as you grow what matters most to you.
Handle with care. How are you holding your new life? With care and attention? That’s what babies – and lasting personal and professional change – require. Carry your new life until it can walk on its own. Help it grow and let it grow you.
Don’t give up or check out. Keep going. Especially when it’s hard. Resilience is the name of the growth game, whether at work or in your personal life. Laugh along the way. Even if you feel like giving up today, give in to trying again tomorrow.
Be gentle with your new life and yourself. Show your new life some love. Be patient. Recognize change infancy for what it is and celebrate it. Cherish the fragility of newness rather than rushing towards a falsely fixed finish line. The best part? When your new life smiles back at you.