Ernest Terry, one of my old Exxon bosses and a savvy corporate player, once said, “The problem with rebels is they either die in the fight or are shoved put aside when it’s over. New regimes need builders and not destroyers.”
Ernest's wisdom has stayed with me a decade or so later because It's. Absolutely. True.
As “they” say, change is the only constant in life. Another truism is change is always stressful, even when it’s welcome, because change always, always requires some form of sacrifice. The magnitude of stress escalates, though, when change is imposed.
If you're like me and are a natural change agent, then how do you handle yourself to avoid the fallout of being a rebel while still being true to your nature? Let's talk strategies to be welcomed as an awakening change agent.
Revisiting nuclear energy
It took me a long time to realize there’s a difference between being a change agent who awakens others and being a rebel. They’re polar opposites along the same spectrum and they achieve different results.
I recently wrote about the Control versus Creativity polarity being a type of nuclear energy, where Control’s fission energy is used for “evil” while Creativity’s fusion energy, the energy of the stars, was used for good.
Well, there’s a similar sort of continuum between Rebellion and Awakening -- and corresponding relationship with nuclear power too. In this case,
Fission energy = Rebellion = Destructive or divisive
Fusion energy = Awakening = Creative.
Let me guess the coming argument. Some folks are probably already thinking of the American Revolution and how coolio it was for the good old US of A. And it was. Not so much for England, though.
I’m not saying there isn’t a place for rebellion. There is, and sometimes the only way to break through an impossible situation is a good revolt. However, consider how different it might have been for the US and Merry Old if we’d succeeded in evolving to independence rather than used war to attain it.
If you want the counter example of not-so-good rebellion, consider the French Revolution, which resulted in much chopping off of heads and an unstable political structure that lasted for decades.
The Rebel yell
Rebels demand to tear down the status quo and their actions are divisive. The source of the divide is that one party loses in a rebellion and is faced with enforced change that can lead to alienation or dissatisfaction.
Winners and losers can eventually coalesce but it’s an up hill battle as the aftermath of our own Civil War amply demonstrates.
Additionally, the Rebel pays a price for imposing change on others. Revisit my opening paragraph of rebels either dying during the battle or being push aside in the aftermath.
An Awakener is an individual seeking more progressive change by working within the system to change the system. On a personal level, an Awakener is someone who equally recognizes the need for progressive personal change.
Another word for progressive change is evolution.
The Awakener may hold similar original and clear ideas for incorporating change as a Rebel but her approach would lack the latter’s virulent vigor. Instead, the Awakener is a creative force who embraces personal similarities while celebrating the strength of diversity.
A Practical strategy for embracing the Awakener
Some of us live our lives as Change Agents. Count me as one. The truth is, though, we all have arenas in our lives where we lead change and where we choose which role we’ll adopt.
I know the Rebel because I used to be one. While I succeeded at affecting change in my personal relationships and work environment, it came at a personal cost.
I don’t play the Rebel anymore, though, because a good friend gave me a strategy to transition to Awakener. She said, “Just stop it.”
Huh. As simplistic as that may sound, it holds profound wisdom.
When you feel ready to roar the rebel yell, ask yourself what you want to accomplish. Do you just want to have fun stirring the pot? Do you enjoy alienation from your social group? Then go for the Rebel and relish the role – and be willing to pay the attending cost.
However, if you want to be a creative force, then embrace the Awakener’s evolutionary approach to change. Speaking for me, there's a whole lot less head-bashing as an Awakener and that's a good thing.
Living as an Awakener
I’ve seen significant changes in the way I approach the world since I transitioned to an Awakener and in the way the world relates back to me.
Now instead of trying to impose change, I offer up options for it – but only if the other person is open to the feedback. If they’re not, then I let it go.
In my work environment that’s easy to manage because I’m a consultant so it’s a given that clients want me to influence change through my strategic or technical advice. Even then, though, I outline options, with pros and cons and the expected outcomes of change, and then let it go.
I trust my client to make his own best decision for his company or work group. Additionally, I feel satisfied providing the insight needed to help him make the decision -- and that’s enough for me.
When a client elects to take on a project working with my partner and me, then affecting change through the project’s objectives and activities becomes a collaboration. There can still be stress of change but it’s much lower and expectations are better managed.
In personal relationships, I do a variation on what I do in the corporate environment. If someone has a “situation” I try to determine if they simply want to vent or problem solve. If the former, then I sit and listen. If the latter then I ask if they want feedback and respond or stay silent depending on their choice.
I leave the person to make their own life decisions or to stay stuck – and I feel fine with whatever they choose because I’ve been there to help them in the way they want.
In effect, it’s made me a better listener and a much more compassionate person.
Being an Awakener is an important role to play, whether it’s occasional for you or a life purpose. We each have a choice in how we affect change in ourselves or others.
If we take on the role of Rebel, we’ll act to incite divisiveness. If we elect the role of Awakener, the we can embrace creative change. Additionally, the irony is that change can occur at a deeper and more sustainable level, ultimately making the Awakener the more effective Change Agent.
That’s my 2 cents. You’ve been a change agent somewhere in your life at some time. What are you’re thoughts? Inquiring minds….