Finishing Strong

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Can you believe it is almost the end of 2017? For so many of us, this year marked a change, a fundamental shift in our lives that was either expected or not, welcomed (or not), and maybe the shift has even shaken the deep roots of who we are in our own environment. As the year draws to a close, amidst the swirling chaos of the holiday season, some of us like to reflect on the year past, and “gear up” for the future. But what if the past year has been painful? Or challenging, personally or professionally? How do we finish strong, and prepare a positive way forward?

As I reflect upon 2017, I am struck by huge changes in not only my life, but in the lives of family, friends, and colleagues. Several of my friends have recently lost parents, and are struggling to process a mixed bag of grief and fond remembrances. Personal and professional upheavals – relocating (sometimes more than once, or across the country), elderly or ill parents, new work situations (with unanticipated and uncomfortable responsibilities), health or injury issues – can magnify the change that is a constant part of our VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) environment.

Change is inevitable. FEAR of change is not. Our challenge, personally AND professionally, is to be positive leaders that drive positive change for a better world. We will encounter fear and resistance along the way. But if we want to finish the year strong, and continue on an upward trajectory into 2018, we must learn not to FEAR change, because without change, we will never experience “new.”

I once heard Will Smith (yes, the famous actor) tell a story about skydiving. He described how TERRIFIED he was … in bed the night before, during the safety brief, riding in the plane, and even as he stood at the threshold of the open door of a “perfectly good airplane,” preparing to step out. Heart-stopping, breath-stealing, mind-numbing fear overwhelmed him. And yet … once he stepped out, he experienced what he describes as absolute bliss. In an instant, the fear evaporated, and he found himself literally flying on maximum joy.

Not many of us can experience skydiving in Dubai as a metaphor for stepping over the threshold of fear (or sorrow, or disappointment, or stress) into a blissful experience of maximum joy. But this story resonates for me because it means that joy is accessible to me, if I open myself up to it completely. It will take courage … it will take determination … and it will take learning from others who are better at it than I am. But if I can pass through the fear, and work toward positive change, I think I can find that maximum joy, just on the other side of the door.

Jennifer Schneider

A founding member of pLink Leadership, Jennifer is the Director of Design and Product Development. Overseeing the creation of pLink’s ever-expanding product line, she has developed a signature style of tools, graphics, visuals, and concept models for the company. She spends her spare time doing volunteer work for her daughter’s musical theater group, engaging in her church community, and cheering on the Chicago Cubs. She lives in the Chicago area, with her husband, daughter, and cat.