You Can’t Climb a Mountain until You Can Climb a Ladder

There’s no doubt that we live in a VUCA World (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) and that brings with it all sorts of challenges. Whether it’s for managers who are trying to deal with the demands for certainty from staff or us as individuals faced with risks and challenges that may present us with opportunities if we are prepared to take the risk and leap into the unknown.

A lot of people get stuck in a rut and are content to do the same things over and over again, day in and day out. They have carved a groove for themselves and making any sort of change requires a great deal of mental and physical effort to grasp why change might even be needed.

The saddest thing about this common scenario is that those who are the most stuck are often the most in need of change. They are often miserable, with a job they aren’t enjoying, lower wages than they feel they need, and perhaps difficult relationships at work and/or at home. They feel like they have the weight of the world on their shoulders. And yet if you ask them to take a risk that can make things better, they refuse. The familiar, however bad it is, is less scary than something new.

Fear of Failure in Our VUCA World

A lot of people hold back from risk-taking for fear of failure. They don’t want to lose time, money or effort, or change their job or place they live and then realize they can’t return to the way things were. They don’t think the rewards are worth trying for, or they label themselves a “loser.” And this is often what happens; their negative thinking leads to a negative result.

Fear of Success in our VUCA World

They might also be terrified of becoming successful. This may sound strange, until we stop to consider just how many expectations are placed upon people who are in the top of their field. Tiger Woods the golfer was at the top of his sport for many years; now all most sports commentators can do is comment on how good he used to be, even though most of them could never play as well as he is doing at present.

Not everyone wants to be an Olympic athlete or a top CEO of a Fortune 500 company. They can see the rewards, but everything is a balancing act.

Growth through Risk

However, you will never be able to move forward and grow unless you are prepared to take some risk in your life. Learning how to walk, ride a bike or swim all had risks involved, but they certainly were fun.

They also usually involved observation and even instruction, from your parent or coach, for example. Your parents might have stood on opposite sides of the room and encouraged you to totter towards them. One of your parents put the training wheels on your bike and took you out to the park or up and down the drive. You might have had swimming lessons before trying to swim on your own.

Educated Risk-Taking

If you are still struggling with taking risks, have fun with them. Go left, not right, try a new restaurant, order a dish you’ve never tried before. Getting used to taking these smaller risks, with no huge issue about failure or success, can help broaden your horizons and open your mind to a range of possibilities. As you start to have fun and picture what a better life looks like, you can move on to greater challenges and better rewards.

One thing is for sure: you will never know until you try. And if you get hung up on the idea of failure, just remember – each setback can be a teaching moment that will enable you to learn valuable lessons and do better next time. In this VUCA World we need to climb the ladder of success one rung at a time, and you can soon climb a mountain.

Endings, Transitions and New Beginnings

There have to be endings for there to be new beginnings. As an old year ends so obviously a New Year begins which we have a tendency to think of as full of promise of changes and new experiences. As Mitch Albom, wrote in The Five People You Meet in Heaven, “All endings are also beginnings. We just don’t know it at the time.”

It’s a great way to look at endings in our lives. If you are familiar with the work of William Bridges around Transitions (read more at Transitions) then this will be something that you will recognise. There are some endings, such as the death of a loved one, which leave us deeply saddened, however if we can accept the loss then we will in time start to dwell more on the good memories than the loss. Eventually, we will start to focus on what the new beginnings which the loss has created will have in store for us.

Each step in our life is necessary for us to continue growing. For example for many of us the end of school or college signifies the beginning of an adult lifestyle and possibly a career that you’ve studied for.

Every New Year is an opportunity for you to sit down and figure out what you want to do differently this year. Do you want to lose weight, quit smoking, move on to another job? As I wrote on LinkedIn the other day now is the time to rethink and reset your goals and make the necessary changes in your life – perhaps one at a time rather than in one almighty go.

An ending can only come when you let go of thinking about them. When negative things get to be beyond your control, you’ve got to distance yourself and begin to make a space for the positive. Otherwise, it will interfere with the future you want to have and keep you from making the changes you need to make.

We each need to recognise the reality of endings. We don’t have to like all of them, but we do need to accept the reality of what they are. If you don’t learn to accept endings you close your mind to allowing the new beginnings.

Think about things in a new way. You may think of yourself as “set in your ways,” about certain things, but you have the right to change your mind if something occurs (such as more knowledge) to tilt your thinking another way. Sometimes it helps to gain a fresh perspective on life and let go of old beliefs.

Remember, if you don’t take chances, then change isn’t possible. You can hold on to the good things in your life, but if a new idea triggers excitement and fulfillment in your life, try it. If you don’t, you may regret it.