My grandfather was the foreman for bridge-building crews. And for the last year or so, I have been focused on building conceptual bridges from the old economy into the new. Maybe that is a grandpa gene.
As I have been exploring this work of bridging from the old to the new, one of the things I am becoming certain of is the need to give people who resist change enough ground of the familiar to stand on. What of the old way do they get to keep? When they know what is safe for them, it is easier to allow for specific changes and a degree of uncertainty. The uncertainty is contained.
MindTime really got e thinking about this. It is a mapping process for distinguishing between people who think about the future, people who focus on the present, and those who live in the past. As I have always been so future-focused, it didn’t occur to me that other people would be holding onto the present or the past. Once I walked through what those perspectives experience, I realized how really valuable they are. People who help with continuity of the present give us all a sense of one thing leading to the next, that there is predictability about our work, and they keep the systems running. They stabilize the chaos of the future-focused, which can be living in multiple even contradictory futures. Those who are past focused are like memory keepers. They put our past glory into deep memory. They are often creatures of habits. Their attention is not on how to make what they do better, instead they attend to how fantastic (or terrible) it has been and then play it out.
If we want to build bridges from old ways of being and doing, we need to be sensitive to these different mindsets.
In the past, I have adopted chaotic change. If I changed my relationship, I would also change my appearance, my home, my job, or any other elements of my life that I could, all at once. My mother told me, after my divorce, that I should imagine each of these areas like a leg of a stool I am sitting on. When I change too many of them at once, the stool loses balance easily. This has become a powerful metaphor for me. What is it that I am going to hold stable, while I make these adjustments?
Bridge building is like that. It is about helping people acknowledge that what has been done isn’t working anymore, inviting them to the possibility that there might be something that would work better, and then being clear about what they get to keep that is familiar and stabilizing to them.
If we are helping past-focused people transition, we can call into their minds where the individual or group has made transitions before. If you can use an epic adventure narrative, then it helps even more. If we are helping present focused people transition, it is useful to remind them of parts of their day that will remain the same. By making the change appear smaller than the continuity of the past, it becomes less threatening. Then, once it isn’t as much of a threat, we can focus on the value of the benefits to be gained, and living into what the daily activity of that possibility might be like.