Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 5, Issue 1;   January 5, 2005: On Beginnings

On Beginnings

by

A new year has begun, and I'm contemplating beginnings. Beginnings can inspire, and sometimes lead to letdown when our hopes or expectations aren't met. How can we handle beginnings more powerfully?

It's early winter in Boston, the very beginning of the year, and I set out before dawn for my morning circuit of the Charles River's lower basin. The city is waking, preparing for the coming day, but the basin is still quiet.

Winter dawn in Boston

Winter dawn in Boston as seen from the Cambridge bank of the Charles River. Photo by Tara Bithia. Courtesy Cambridge Fire Department.

Normally, I don't see the dawn, but I'm a little earlier than usual, and at this time of year, the sunrise is as late as it gets. As I come around the turn in the path below the Longfellow Bridge, I see a pink tinge in the clouds to my left. I realize that on this morning the view of the sunrise from the Cambridge bank will be striking. So I decide to follow my usual path, but in the opposite of my usual direction.

I cross the Longfellow Bridge, walking backwards much of the way, to face the sunrise. The sky in the East brightens steadily, and the clouds change from pink to red to a glorious orange. Walking upstream on the Cambridge side, I notice sunlight in the treetops, gradually working its way down to ground level. And then the sun falls directly on me. The beginning of the new day.

Beginnings can be filled with possibility — inspiring and exciting. And then letdown can follow, when our aspirations don't come to pass, or when we encounter obstacles that trip us up in frustratingly familiar ways.

Here are some tips for handling beginnings.

You can't change the past
At least one element from the past is always with us — ourselves. Life is repertoire — new efforts often involve many of the same people, who bring with them not only their experiences, but also the problems of the past. Fresh starts usually aren't really fresh.
See things as they really are
Beginnings can be filled
with possibility —
inspiring and exciting
Events, like sunrises or new years, can seem more significant than they really are. When the sun rose over the Charles, the world didn't change — the city's birds kept singing and the river's waves kept waving. The flow of events is often more continuous than we recognize.
Seek inspiration in the real
When a transition of true significance arrives, it might not be marked by dramatic shifts in Nature, or astronomy, or the calendar. When we depend on the newness of the effort, or a new year, or a sunrise, to indicate significant transitions, we might let other important transitions pass unnoticed. Find inspiration in what's really happening, where the opportunity really lies.
Focus on the truly new
What is new is the chance to try again, this time with a memory of past experience. Maybe we've learned something. Maybe we can make different choices this time.

Helen Keller once said that when one door closes, another opens. But sometimes doors open all by themselves, often without our noticing them. Is a door opening for you? When did you last check? Go to top Top  Next issue: Emergency Problem Solving  Next Issue

101 Tips for Managing ChangeIs your organization embroiled in Change? Are you managing a change effort that faces rampant cynicism, passive non-cooperation, or maybe even outright revolt? Read 101 Tips for Managing Change to learn how to survive, how to plan and how to execute change efforts to inspire real, passionate support. Order Now!

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See also Organizational Change and Problem Solving and Creativity for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

Old books, the standard symbol of knowledgeComing April 17: How to Answer When You Don't Know How to Answer
People engaged in knowledge work must often respond to questions that test the limits of their knowledge, or the limits of everyone's knowledge. Responding effectively to such questions advances us all. Available here and by RSS on April 17.
Three gears in a configuration that's inherently locked upAnd on April 24: Antipatterns for Time-Constrained Communication: 1
Knowing how to recognize just a few patterns that can lead to miscommunication can be helpful in reducing the incidence of problems. Here is Part 1 of a collection of communication antipatterns that arise in technical communication under time pressure. Available here and by RSS on April 24.

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