It has been a tumultuous year in our country. The political conversations, and strong feelings they’ve evoked, have led to family conflicts, friends parting ways and even just plain avoidance of those topics. No matter what your political leanings, this has been a polarizing year the like of which has not been seen, at least in most of our memories, before.
Even today, there is much discussion about the aftermath, about what comes next. My professional publications, in the nonprofit and healthcare worlds, are filled with speculation and anticipation but, of course, we have more questions than answers. None of us can truly predict what lies ahead (isn’t that true about life too?) yet we can’t help trying to anticipate.
What is the predominant emotion in all of this? It is fear — fear of the unknown; fear of change; fear that springs from uncertainty. William Bridges in his powerful book, Managing Transitions, talks about the three phases of change, the first is endings, as we let go of what is familiar; the second is the neutral zone, where we are unsure of what comes next and the third is new beginnings. We are all in the neutral zone right now, knowing that the future will be different yet not at all certain what that means.
When we are in the neutral zone in our lives, both professionally and personally, there is much that we don’t know and little, if anything, that we can control. To counteract that feeling of instability, one action we can take is to find and define something we can control, something we can do. It may not impact the big picture but it may bring clarity to our little corner of the world.
I think of this right now in the spirit of the approaching Chanukah holiday. Each candle that we light represents not only a connection to our past and to our traditions, it also represents hope. Each flame we kindle brightens our lives and our spirits and helps us focus on the future. How do we use the glow of these candles to help us through this time of uncertainty, how do we use it to light our path through the neutral zone?
It seems to me that the best way for each of us to use that light, to be our own flame, is to do something positive for others. Simple or complex, we all have the opportunity to, in our small way, make our world a brighter, better place. Perhaps it is an act of volunteering, of reaching out to help someone in need. Perhaps it is within your own circle of family and friends, connecting with those who are a step apart. Perhaps it is in the act of charity, of giving so that others may benefit.
We all have an inner light, a light that represents the core of who we are as human beings. If we use our inner light as an outer light, a light that helps the world, we have taken one step in the direction of a positive future, one step through the neutral zone and the new beginnings that lie ahead.