woman looking troubled
Image by Stefan Keller

“When does it end?” I am on the receiving end of this question all the time in my work. I get it. Growth is invigorating, enlivening, hopeful, and optimistic. It can also be demanding, confusing, isolating, and emotionally charged. Who would not want to get through it as quickly as possible?

I often hesitate in answering the question, fearful over how it might land. Once we begin a cycle of transformative growth, our progression never ends.

What do you mean it never ends?

Let’s agree. This answer can feel overwhelming.

Here is the good news in all of this. Once we initiate a growth cycle, the connectedness it establishes between us and our truth remains a constant.

Our gaze is forever changed by growth. There may be times when the cycle is less active, but its imprint is unwavering. Those who have walked this way in advance of us credit the journey with delivering joy, peace, exhilaration, and enduring strength to their lives. There are many gifts available to those willing to embark on such a growth journey. 

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An Invaluable Gift

Disruption occurs continuously throughout our lives. Those disrup­tions that influence our sense of self and/or impact our functioning offer us something extraordinary: an opportunity to make a choice that can positively influence the trajectory of our lives. I know this is a strong claim. I make it carefully as I have witnessed time and again the many gifts that accrue to those who journey this way.

The gifts express themselves in tangible ways, like new jobs or new apartments, but more importantly in intangible ways, like greater self- knowledge, improved self- confidence, increased positivity, an updated definition of success, and a higher comfort level with uncertainty.

Lakshmi, when she left academic medi­cine, joined me to talk about the gifts she realized thanks to her coura­geous steps along a transformational path. We met at a little coffee shop near her home on Chicago’s Near North Side.

“I think our inner voice is both our most profound and enduring critical success factor,” she says, and then adds philosophically, “Once we are aware of our inner voice, we are really perpetually in states of growth.

“I don’t mean that we are always actively disengaging from some­thing because so often we can’t,” continues Lakshmi. “We can’t afford to disengage economically, psychologically, spiritually, whatever. I think transformation activates a part of our nature, and I actually think it is part of our brain chemistry, which is continually bridging us from one state to something more. Once it started for me, there was a whole new level of consciousness,” Lakshmi adds smiling. “I would never have gotten here without the many steps that led me away from pain and toward possibility.”

Lakshmi’s beliefs about growth confirmed what I observed through the many conversations I have been fortunate enough to have had through my research. Once we initiate a cycle of transformative growth, we open ourselves up to an ever- broadening path of moving closer and closer to our fullness. This increased proximity to our voices bestows upon us an unbridled energy that plays out in every corner of our lives. We never step away from who we are once we activate our voices. We can learn to turn up the volume, but we are never muted.

“We still have to adapt to our culture, the people around us,” offers Lakshmi, “and their demands.” She reflects a moment and adds, “I am now so aware of my new assumptions. I bring them to all situations. My growth is a ritual, in a way. Coming into my truth and allowing it to be present changes everything.”

A Simple Truth

Lakshmi’s words remind me of a simple truth. Through transfor­mational growth, we establish an unbreakable bond between ourselves and our own voices. Through it, we greet ourselves and the world differently.

Lakshmi smiles and hands me a little gift as our conversation draws to a close. It looks as if it is a large piece of paper she has folded into an impossibly small square, about the size of a 3×3 Post-It note. I feel so touched by this gesture. I’m reminded of our first interview years earlier, when I had asked her to name a gift she would give to someone starting out on their journey.

I unfold Lakshmi’s treat carefully. A map of the world emerges. “Thank you,” she says to me in a near whisper as I take in the beauty of this ornately colored map.

Lakshmi had her map. She was gifting this one to me for others.

Disruptions and Possibility

Disruptions occur all around us. Some disruptions impact our abil­ity to function and/or influence our thinking about our sense of self. Those that do represent an unlikely invitation, one that invites us to connect with ourselves and the world in new ways. These disruptions serve as a gateway to unforeseen possibilities in our lives.

I will never forget how it felt to experience such a disruption with­out the understanding of what was happening. It was frightening and chaotic in ways I had never experienced before. Even more striking, I never heard the word “growth” from any of the many colleagues, advi­sors, peers, and neighbors to whom I had reached out to help me get my bearings at that time. Not one.

In hindsight, I am not surprised. Societal norms reward us for look­ing through, tamping down, or running at full speed in the other direc­tion at such times. In fact, individuals who honor such disruptions are often ridiculed, shunned, or led to believe that they carry some type of irreparable flaw. My research contradicts these societal norms and underscores the fact that these gateway disruptions offer unprecedented opportunities to access the untapped capacity that lives within each of us.

Responding to Disruptions

If we pursue change, we leave intact our assumptions about who we are, a choice that favors stability in our self-concept. If we pursue transition, we re-examine the assumptions upon which our sense of self relies, a choice that welcomes instability in our self-concept for a time. This choice, the choice of transition, enables transformational growth. While demanding, this type of growth is enlivening and draws forward the unique, resplendent qualities that constitute the fullness of who we are.

Transformational growth involves updating the inputs upon which we rely to set our expectations for and definition of who we are. At the outset of such a process, our sense of self is typically built upon external influences and mirrors the beliefs of others, including—but not limited to—the beliefs held by our families, the schools we attend, the occupations we choose, and those we love.

As we update our self-concept, we replace those external influences with self-defined beliefs, those that more accurately reflect that which holds value and meaning to us. We discover more about our unique inner voice and disengage from the expectations of others we uncritically adopted along the way. If we continue to grow beyond this point, we can add additional inputs upon which our sense of self can rely; those we add put us on a transcendent path and reflect an embrace of the interconnectedness of all humanity.

Emotions Play A Starring Role

Our emotions play a starring role in our experience of disruption and throughout our growth journey. Emotions mobilize to keep us safe as we disengage from familiar expressions of who we are. When we move away from familiar identity markers, like a relationship or a hometown, our emotions read this break from the familiar as unsafe.

I always imagine this response as our emotions acting like a caring friend who asks, “Are you sure?” before we disengage from familiar expressions of ourselves in favor of something new and unknown. The great news, of course, is that we need not be stopped by these emotions. We can learn to reframe them such that we can be successful in light of their presence.

Through transformative growth, we learn to lead with who we are.

Copyright ©2023. All Rights Reserved.
Adapted with permission of the publisher,
Rowman and Littlefield.

Article Source:

Dancing with Disruption: A New Approach to Navigating Life’s Biggest Changes
by Linda Rossetti.

book cover of: Dancing with Disruption by Linda Rossetti.Dancing with Disruption transforms your understanding of upheaval in your life and guides you through a proven toolkit that ensures your personal and career success. Linda Rossetti engages readers with her own experience of disruption along with the stories of many others from a variety of ages, occupations, and circumstances. Readers learn to reframe emotions, restore confidence, and realize possibilities once thought unimaginable. An essential, thought-provoking, and truly empowering roadmap for succeeding at the crossroads of your life.

Click here for more info and/or to order this hardback book. Also available as an Audiobook and a Kindle edition.

About the Author

photo of Linda RossettiLinda Rossetti is a business leader, Harvard MBA, and pioneering researcher who has dedicated her career to advancing our understanding of individual and organizational transformation. Her work has been featured on NPR, NECN, NBC/WBZ, Money Magazine, Next Avenue, SmartBrief, The Huffington Post, and other outlets. Previously she served as EVP of HR and Administration at Iron Mountain, a Fortune 500 Company with 21,000 employees in 37 countries, and as CEO of EMaven, Inc., a venture capital-backed technology company that was acquired by Perot Systems, now owned by Dell EMC.

Visit her website at LindaRossetti.com

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