As coaches and consultants, we’re often invited into people’s lives and their organizations when their worlds are rocking. There are many things that cause worlds to rock in both good and difficult ways. World rocking events can include:
- working for someone who isn’t effective as a leader
- being passed over for a promotion that you’d wanted for months or years
- getting a huge contract, beyond anything your organization has ever had before
- the death of a loved one
- a new baby
- the resignation of a key employee
What each of these have in common is that they rock your world because there is so much new that needs to be integrated into your ongoing life.
In November, I (Linda) lost my older, and only, brother, Joe. As I was dealing with my world rocking, I found myself sad and angry and ready to be done with all these feelings. Then I got back to daily life only to be shocked again as I realized that my brother was really dead. Then sad again and missing him. Then back in my routine again and then spotting a picture of the two of us as children and crumbling into tears. My world has been rocked.
Integrating large amounts of new information or new truths is challenging both because of the extent of the new and because it isn’t a one and done. New truths are integrated in small amounts over time.
For those of us who are capable and results oriented, this process of integration can be challenging—we want to do it and move on—and yet it’s the way our brains and psyche’s work.
Here is my simple framework for understanding this process and helping clients do the same:
We’re all tapestries of our experiences, with threads of many colors representing the people in our lives, experiences we’ve had, skills we’ve learned, pain we are dealing with, etc.
All of our threads of experiences
are woven together in ways that we’re used to
and that hold us together.
When something significant happens, like Joe’s death, there are hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of threads that need to come out of the tapestry, and a big bundle of new threads that need to be woven in.
If, at the point of Joe’s death, all of the threads in my tapestry that were experiences of Joe alive were to come out at once, my tapestry would fall apart.
Our brains and psyche’s do this amazing thing to allow us to let go of some of the threads, without falling apart, and let us weave in the new threads without jamming them in willy nilly (yes, I really said that!).
So within hours, there are threads being pulled out; Joe is alive, what should I get Joe for Christmas, it will be great to see Joe in the spring, Joe would love this book, etc.
At the same time, new threads are filling in; Joe is dead, my big brother isn’t here anymore, everyone in my family (my parents and brother) are gone, etc.
Then I got busy, supporting his family, telling my children, looking for photos, rereading his emails and getting back to work. As I got busier, life felt pretty much normal, and then I got a text from my sister-in-law and I felt shocked—it was almost like hearing my brother had died for the first time.
More threads came out and new threads got woven in.
This process happens over and over again when we’re integrating new information into the tapestry of who we are. While grieving is one of the most striking times this happens, it happens in all those situations where we are integrating new truths.
New parents have to do this as they lose the threads that say, “I can go away for the weekend without thought,” and weave in, “I have a wonderful new baby and need to be home with her.”
It takes time to reweave threads—
and that’s healthy.
Businesses that get huge new contracts go through similar processes. If all the threads that say, “We’re a small business always in pursuit of work to keep our heads above water” were to be taken out at once, the business tapestry would unravel.
Learning to become a big business
means changing the look
and feel of your tapestry.
This week, use the tapestry model to think about times when your world has been rocked, and see if you find it as useful as I do.
Normalizing how challenging a rocking world can be will help you to be patient as the threads come out and new ones are added. But, in time, your tapestry will look different as the new truth of your life is woven in.
We’re here for you!