Stepping Into The Fire Of Something New
Life periodically demands more of us. We are asked to do new, bigger things than we have done before, and it requires stepping into the fire of something new, a new bigger system. We start a new job and feel like we don't know how to do what's asked of us. We get assigned to a high performing team and struggle to understand where we fit. We decide to eat at home more and don't know how to cook. These new systems, these new challenges and struggles we are tasked with completing, are everywhere in life.
When we step into these new, larger systems, a shift happens in our lives and a whole new world opens up that challenges us to think and live in new and different ways. A perfect example of this is the school system.
We start out in kindergarten, where the demands placed on us are minimal. Play, have a snack, take a nap, be back home by noon. Then we enter first grade, and the system demands more of us. Stay at school a little longer, keep our things in a cubby. You mean I have to stay past 12:15? Talk about stepping into the fire.
We enter middle school and the demands are upped again; we have our own locker, we move from class to class. Then high school comes and we get to pick some of our classes. We get to leave campus for lunch, we play on a sports team or are in a club.
College comes around and we step into an even bigger system with more demands. We have to sign up for all of our classes. There is no bell for class, books aren't given to you, you have to track your own progress, and if you don't step up the system will exclude you. Life is no longer waiting for you, and the heat gets turned up even more.
Each year we progressed in school threw us into a new system. We were expected to know more and do more, and that process continued once we got out of school, except the transitions rarely happens as structured and neatly as they did before.
We are presented with new challenges and demands that we may not know how to fulfill or live up to, and there may not be a nifty how-to book to offer us direction on stepping up and leaning into the larger system. The potential for stepping into the fire and getting burned increases.
The question becomes, how do we step into the fire, the larger system, and not get burned?
As someone who helps people step into larger systems, I have noticed three main ways we can step into the fire of a new system.
The first way is we can simply get tossed into it; the equivalent of being pushed into a pool without knowing how to swim. Another example is if you are in a catastrophic accident and find yourself in the hospital (I don't wish this on anyone and it happens). Our introduction to the healthcare system and our subsequent health issues are not planned nor welcomed. It just happened; now we have to manage it.
The second way we step into the larger system is with the help of a mentor or a guide; someone who has been there, done that and lights the way forward. The school systems we grew up in were designed to slowly place bigger demands on us – to, hopefully, tenderly lead us into the next system. We had people light the way: older students set examples, teachers set boundaries, and guidance counselors were available if we seemed particularly stuck.
The final way to transition to the larger system - and my personal favorite - is kicking and screaming.
This way involves stepping into the fire - and then staying there. Rolling around in it, stepping on the coals, making it generally as hard as possible to be successful. In my case, that usually involves looking up at the sky, shaking my fist, and yelling, “You can’t make me!” So far, every time, life has made me.
I have noticed this pattern isn't unique to me. Often, when we are tasked with stepping into a larger system, we aren't sure of the path before us.
We maybe a little scared of what it holds for us. Fear and resistance have long been my constant companions on the road to the larger systems. After all, fire is scary for a reason. You can get burned. The reality is, we are probably going to have to step into the fire and the larger system anyway.
I may be a world class kicker and screamer, but I have learned to prefer the smooth transition that accompanies stepping into the larger system with a guide. The key to stepping into the fire new and not getting burned (or at least not as much), is to get the help of someone who has done it before you, who can help show you the way.
I often think back to the words of Carolina Panthers Coach Ron Rivera. As they were preparing to play in the super bowl a few years ago, he said, “If you haven’t been there, don’t draw me a map.”
Kicking and screaming might seem fun, but do yourself a favor. Whatever new system you are stepping into, whatever fire you are stepping into, get someone who has been there before to give you a hand.
May you be surrounded by all the llama llove you can handle,
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