Clean slate, blank canvas

This morning I was contemplating joyfully and with some curiosity the blank canvas that is the next chapter of my work life. It feels like a fresh start, that opportunity to re-invent my daily rituals, hone my purpose, and choose the colors for the palette.

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Photo credit link

Though I am not a visual artist, and only dabble with colors and fun materials now and then, I can appreciate that excitement of a blank canvas. As a writer, it is a little like the blank page, that space of infinite possibility before the words start spilling out. I face it with excitement, and a little unknowing. Where will this go? What am I trying to say?

Since I generally write to understand any new concept, or even myself, there is always an air of mystery about it. As a blogger, I have learned to embrace the empty page as a sacred space where I am invited to create.  It is our greatest privilege as humans, our creative energy, and I think it is where we meet our divinity.

I find that I want to experiment a bit, not to rush into splashing color onto the page, but to spend some time preparing the colors, feeling what wants to emerge. I greatly appreciated my solitude yesterday and the ability to respect the rhythm of my body, working and resting in a ratio that felt right. My coach and I decided on some “homework” for the next week, and I was able to accomplish the items on my list.

If I were an artist, I would run my hands along the blank canvas, noting its texture and honoring this gift. I shall have to resist a trip to the art store to do this, but maybe it is time to get out my colors and sketch pad.

Do you have a ritual for honoring the “blank canvas” times in your life?

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

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The final countdown!

I woke up this morning with the song in my head by Europe: the Final Countdown!

For a video from YouTube:

the final countdown.JPG
Link to the YouTube video

I love the 80’s hair and the head-banging musicians. I had to re-read the lyrics of the song because I guess I really never knew them.

With only 5 days to go, I feel excited with a little nervous trepidation. There are a lot of things I want to complete this week, and yet I know I have time for what really matters. Anything that is forgotten or does not occur is probably not important.

I will make sure to have my contacts secured on my new phone/computer. I will have lunches with people and one dinner with a project team that is still developing a product that came from our Innovation Jam efforts. I will make sure to transfer any final information to my team that they might need in order to get things done.

I will clean out my desk and take home any personal items. I guess I will turn in my work laptop and phone, so probably good to have any personal things cleared off there as well.

Since this change has not happened overnight, and I have been intentional since March about readying my team for this eventuality (even while they did not know my specifc plan) I feel ready.

I slept well last night. I am ready for this. I will savor these last days with gratitude.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Curtain call

Today I will tell my team about my career decision news. My director scheduled a mandatory conference call so I could tell them in my own words what I intend to do, and that I will leave the company in early August.

It is interesting that my subconscious was working on this task as I slept last night. I had a “naked dream” last night. I was the only one without clothing, but somehow I did not feel at all self-conscious. I am choosing to interpret this to mean that, though I am making a somewhat vulnerable choice and I am totally exposing my goals, dreams and plans before they are fully baked, I am ready.

curtain call
Photo credit link

In reflecting this morning in my journal about the message I hope to deliver, I started realizing that it boils down to this: I want to reinforce the idea that they are a “small and mighty” team. But I also want to model courageous change. Instead of leaving them feeling abandoned, I want them to realize how strong they are and how resilient. While I worried plenty about who would “protect them” if I left, I now know everything will be fine.

Sometimes our fears of being who we are get in the way of taking our next steps for development. Speaking personally, I know how vulnerable it is to admit a dream to someone else, knowing they may not understand. They may tell us: you’re crazy! They may induce doubt that are dreams are worth pursuing, or fear that we may fail.

But being who we are, and exposing that truth about what we desire is fundamental to our longing as human beings. I think Glennon Melton Doyle said this in a conversation to Liz Gilbert during a podcast. Her desire was to be known for herself, for the truth of who she is.

My dream this morning helped me realize that I am the one who needs to accept myself as I am. Whether others do or not is really irrelevant. But at the same time, it is being my best, brave, true self that may help them do the same.

May you feel free to be who you are and live your dreams and desires.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

Commitment honored

I am really proud to say I delivered on a commitment to myself that I had made back on June 8th, just before my vacation. My deadline to communicate was July 3rd, and I made it happen a day earlier.

I took a deep breath, scheduled the conversation yesterday with my boss in the morning and completed the conversation in the afternoon. I explained my plan to leave the company as of August 3rd and my intention to do independent consulting work after a break to pursue some family time and personal projects. He told me that he will always support any decision that I know is right for me, even if he does not like it (which of course, he did not, and he admitted that).

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I had written the points of the conversation ahead of time, and was able to convey 3/4 of what I had drafted. For me it was not critical to say all of it, but I wanted to have my explanations “in the bag” so I would not be dissuaded. He could tell by my tone of voice and the fact that I titled the meeting “decision” that I had already made up my mind. He did not try to change it.

He did want to talk with me later this week so we could map out a communications plan, to be sure that team members understand this was my decision, not related to company decisions or the budget we were allocated. I understand his concern: last year, there were a couple of non-voluntary transitions (which resulted in other positions within the company for the two people affected). People get nervous if they perceive that their jobs are at risk.

For now I am breathing a sigh of relief. I am grateful for his response, and for all the opportunities I have been given here. But I also realize that this is a strong signal of my commitment to the next venture, and now I have declared (to the universe effectively) that I will make this work. No matter what.

Do you honor commitments you make to yourself? What do you do when you are scared by the commitment required to move yourself forward toward a goal?

 

 

 

Heading back in

sleeping cat with tongue out
Calvin all tuckered out and laying on his Dad’s foot.

After a lovely two weeks of vacation, on Monday I am “heading back in” to work mode. My husband took a picture of our cat Calvin, who was lolling about on his foot on Sunday, enjoying the sensation of connection. I thought it illustrated my sentiment fairly well.

Going back to work sometimes makes me feel like that, but I guess that’s one way to know I am not aligned with the work I do now.  The School of Life has an excellent video about that “Sunday Night Feeling” which I encourage you to check out if you sometimes suffer from the Sunday blues.

I am so grateful for the time off. It gave me some perspective on the situation and on what my intentions are for the coming weeks. I completed some coaching homework, including a timeline and plan for my 1-year goals. I had a good conversation with my husband about what we are prepared to do in order to go from two regular incomes to one for a few months during the transition. My intention is to leave my current job behind in August, and to try to work on my own as a consultant.

I plan to offer my skills in facilitation, strategic planning, human-centered design and change management to companies and departments where I can add value. While my last few years have been primarily focused on clinical research project management in the medical device field, my skills are transferable.

I really enjoy organizing and leading multi-disciplinary problem-solving sessions for leaders or individual contributors that allow people to think big and dream differently about their work. I have a lot of experience in change management efforts, having co-led several of these efforts in the past few years. Most were successful and some less so, but I learned some valuable lessons about what factors are critically-necessary, especially in international and multi-cultural organizations.

Effective organizational change can be achieved when the following exist: 1) shared understanding of why and what changes are necessary; 2) buy-in and ownership of the change(s) at all levels; 3) effective communication and pacing of changes; 4) ongoing conversation and engagement of those affected by and asked to embrace the change; 5) evaluation and re-evaluation if the changes are effective and achieving the desired outcome.

Changes so often fail because they try to address a problem without understanding the root causes. I believe the most successful change efforts often arise from the “on the ground” and customer-focused employees, the people who do the work and see the gaps in the system. Leaders can facilitate these changes by being open to hearing the problems and issues, soliciting and supporting ideas from their front line employees, and adding the appropriate resources to address the challenges. It is important not to make assumptions or jump to conclusions without fully understanding the dynamics of the situation.

I am fortunate to be connected to other consultants doing this kind of work and anticipate I will begin by apprenticing and learning from them, partnering where I can add value. Many years ago I consulted in the nonprofit field, helping leaders with strategic planning and grant development efforts. I particularly enjoy adding an outside perspective to an organization or department that is struggling. It is fascinating to learn and understand the “ecosystem” of an organization and problem, and then begin to apply design processes and engage the right people to solve that problem. Indeed that is the most rewarding work I have done throughout my career.

In about 6 weeks, I will say goodbye to the corporate role, and begin a new phase of my work life. I am ready. Wish me luck!

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Hours fall off the clock

I may need to reinforce some limits around my writing time, allowing myself just an hour each day. At least while I am still working full time in clinical research. I can lose literally hours off the clock when I am researching or writing on a topic that interests me, and I get to play with words, ideas and stories.

This week I am at a regional work meeting in Belgium and I am called upon social with my colleagues. I enjoy the opportunity to meet 1:1 or in small groups and have face-to-face conversations with those I usually interact with via phone or email. However all of the initial small-talk required when meeting so many new people drains my energy.

It occurs to me that maybe my soul is asking for a more minimalist approach to work networking and people-time, and this is another reason I am bringing this current phase of work to a close by September.

melting clocks
One of my favorite Salvador Dali pieces – photo credit link

I feel at my best when I am doing “deep work” which involves thinking, reading, writing and synthesizing research. I still intend to make time for teaching, offering workshops and facilitating small group meetings. But my best ideas and most productive periods seem to emerge after periods of luxurious solitude and reflection.

This summer I am planning for 4-6 weeks off starting in August/September, if I can make it work between work “ventures.” Let’s see if I can honor that and keep the personal and family budget discipline it will require to make this break happen without undue stress.

I know if I declare this intention in writing, there is a higher likelihood I can make it happen. I am not as good at having accountability to others (it can sometimes cause me to rebel), but I tend to be better at honoring my word to myself.

What makes you lose hours off the clock? Do you have a creative practice or hobby that, when you start working on it, causes you to lose all track of time? 

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

Liminality

I have been thinking a lot lately about where I have been, and where I am going next. It feels a little unsettling, this sensation of knowing I am done with a certain phase of my work life but not yet identifying a clear direction for the next phase.

It reminds me of a concept that was introduced to me nearly half my life ago (22 years, as I am nearly 44) during my college graduation, the notion of liminal space, the place where all transformation takes place. Author and Theologian Richard Rohr describes this space as:

where we are betwixt and between the familiar and the completely unknown. There alone is our old world left behind, while we are not yet sure of the new existence. That’s a good space where genuine newness can begin. Get there often and stay as long as you can by whatever means possible…This is the sacred space where the old world is able to fall apart, and a bigger world is revealed.

I am very much there now.

Some people arrive at this threshold state due to a change in their external world, and I suppose there are circumstantial factors that pushed me here. But my own transformation feels very internally driven, these nudges from my soul making themselves known in a fuller way.

As an anthropological phenomenon, liminality is typically marked in some way with ritual because there is a certain rite of passage the individual must traverse. Teenagers are “liminal beings” for example, as neither children nor adults.

liminality
Photo credit link – the liminal mind map

I also find it fascinating that liminality can apply to spatial or temporal dimensions, can be applied to a variety of subjects: individuals, larger groups (cohorts or villages), whole societies, and possibly even entire civilizations. Wikipedia cites examples of groups of people who live betwixt and between, such as immigrant groups, or racial or sexual minorities, often living at the periphery of dominant culture.

As a multi-ethnic person myself, I experience the world in a sort of liminal way. I often see certain intersections in a way that possibly would not occur to someone living within the dominant culture. I now see this capacity as a gift, rather than another way I do not “fit in” to most groups.

The ambiguity of such liminal periods in our lives is best met with creativity and openness. Being in community with others facing big transitions seems to help. I believe getting in tune with what our souls are calling forth is how we must ground ourselves during this time. Maybe these liminal periods are what clear away the “junk” of domesticated normalcy and wake us to the potential we had not seen before.

In some ways, I see the culture around me undergoing a transition as well. Absurd things are happening in our world. We cannot see these in the same way we always have, and yet, we struggle to know what this new thing will become. But rather than fear this ambiguity, I believe we must embrace it. We must find ways to exist with our contradictions, and realize this is a part of a transformation of consciousness that requires us to evolve as humans.

The sooner we understand that we are all in this together, that separation is the illusion, the better we can move forward and embrace new ways of being. In the meantime, we are in a process of becoming conscious, neither asleep nor fully awake. We are on the threshold of change, and it is time to mindfully awaken to a new reality.