Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Riding the Wave

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I frequently refer to surfing as a metaphor for managing change, even though I am not a surfer. My husband however, surfs and each time he explains one of the principles of riding the waves, I am struck by the parallels to life itself! Yesterday he explained ‘pearling’, which occurs when you don’t reposition yourself to compensate for transitioning from the downhill slope of the wave to flat water. As a result, the surfboard digs vertically down into the bottom of the ocean, and you get pitched into the water! As you come up for air, you may find yourself floundering, anxiously trying to get back up on the board and, if you manage to, paddling furiously in order to catch the next wave that you know is due imminently! This is often called “The Impact Zone”, a ‘zone’ where time is of the essence! If fear and anxiety are allowed to take over, your much-needed focus will be gone with the waves and your next experience will likely be a wipe-out!

As we move through the second month of 2009, more and more people are finding themselves in that ‘Impact Zone’, experiencing the effects of our global economic crisis, firsthand. And for those of us lucky enough not to, we see neighbors, family, friends or colleagues who are. Potentially, we can all quite easily move into a state of anxiety!

Two questions emerge for me:

1.Have we / are we flexible enough to reposition ourselves to compensate for the transition we are going through? In other words, are we willing to be adaptable, try something new, stretch our thinking till it surfaces out of the box we have hitherto made ourselves so comfortable in? Can we transcend old behaviors and ride the waves of change with flexibility, or are we sticking with long-established, customary measures that will inevitably pitch us back into the water?

2.Are we anxiously and furiously flailing about, grasping at sea-foam, our fear of the possibilities ahead paralyzing us and keeping us just treading water until the next wave wipes us out?

I only pose these questions in the hope that they will cause reflection. One thing I do know for sure is that managing our emotions is paramount if we are going to be successful at ‘riding these waves’. Although it is natural to feel anxiety and even fear, our chances of successfully navigating this time will be in direct proportion to our ability to process and move through these feelings, keeping our ‘emotional brain’ calm and managed, and our ‘thinking brain’ switched on: The two ‘brains’ can never be active simultaneously! When we are in fear, our ‘emotional’ brain takes over and puts us into defense mode, causing panic, inflexibility, and resistance to change. Short-term thinking and bad decisions are made in this state. Conversely, smart, innovative thinking that will create the new ways of doing things that we so sorely need, comes from a switched on ‘thinking brain’, which can only happen when we are in an emotional state of centeredness; focused yet flexible, willing to reposition, and open to transcendence. ‘Riding the waves’ in this state will minimalize the chances of ‘pearling’ or ‘wiping out’, in fact we may eventually find the ride quite exhilarating!