Making transitions from one marital state to another, one business model to another, one career to another or one health condition to another is some of the greatest stress any of us experience. What transition are you facing? All change requires a leap of faith from a comfortable old reality to a new uncertain reality. And that jump can be scary. Don't jump without someone holding your rope.
I got married almost 25 years ago just below the summit block of Mount Hector. My bride and I said our vows on the edge of a cliff band with several hundred meters of dead air below our feet. It was a fitting metaphor for the rest of our lives.
It took eight hours of climbing to get there. In truth it took many years. Most of the journey up was on a heavily crevassed glacier. Most of the slots had easy walk-arounds, short jumps or snow bridges to walk over, but the big impasse was about half way up. It was about 50 feet across and at least as deep. There was no way to cross it, so I turned right and led the wedding party along its lower edge, looking for a spot where the gap narrowed to a point we could all jump.
The glacier at this point was maybe 1000 meters wide. The crevasse cut much of the way across, where is pinched shut near a steep rock and snow slope. At the half way point across, the upper edge was about five feet away. Most of us can jump that far, including some in the wedding party who had no climbing experience. The alternative was to walk further where the jump was shorter but the risk of rockfall and avalanches was much higher. So we chose to take the leap from there.
Jumping a crevasse is often a terrifying venture. Peering into the maw triggers animal terror, even though we were roped up and intellectually understood that none of us were going to fall to our deaths. Everyone jumped. Everyone landed on the upper edge, even though the landing was awkward and wobbly. No one fell in. We proceeded to the summit block and finished the ceremony.
Disruption is stressful. Life and business transitions can trigger the same deathly fear. The old models and the old systems all eventually become obsolete as we begin to glimpse the possibility of something better. This is the crux of any change process: jumping the chasm from the old to the new. The new way is presumably better but unproven and the old way is clearly limited but still paying the bills. The disruption is the stress we feel after we have left one side but not yet landed on the other, as we move from something that was working to something that is not yet working. The gap in between paradigms is why we need leaders and why we become them. Someone always has to go first. This is the scariest role to play. Change is less risky and easier if we all stay connected together on a rope.
Photo credits top to bottom: wikipedia, ramblers.ab.ca, backpacker.com