Change is unavoidable, much as we would like things to be otherwise. Most of the circumstances of our lives are beyond our control and our comprehension. We seek to make positive changes with specific gaols in mind and then somehow reality intervenes in the shape of the unexpected. Chaos is an inevitable ingredient when we endeavour to make changes. Attempting to control chaos leads to increased chaos and a decreased ability to respond effectively. How well we function during the chaotic times often determines the outcome of a project. Also, how well we appear to function in chaos has a tremendous influence on those we lead.
Watching improvisers, whether seasoned veterans or those discovering the thrill for the first time, I’m always entranced by the quality of spirit that is evoked when we make a choice to take risks. Something magical arrives in the unprepared yet committed moment, factors that seem at odds somehow combine to produce surprising results. An experienced leader has a quality that engages our attention, we watch them respond creatively moment by moment, walking the tightrope and staying upright and poised. Improvisers stand in the paradox of alertness and calm, buzzing with energy and possibilities while returning to stillness and feeling the moment, sensing the impulse and engaging with their fellow actors. There is a combination of flexibility and determination that meets and overcomes obstacles which we access when we respond authentically from within.
Someone I consider to be a true hero is Ernest Shackleton, who battled a seemingly endless series of catastrophes under extreme conditions and managed to triumph through sheer force of will combined with supreme adaptability. I have read and reread his story many times and was fortunate to see in Boston museum the 22 foot lifeboat in which he made an 800 mile journey in winter through the worst sea in the world, the South Atlantic. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and frustrated under the stresses of modern life – and difficult to stay that way when we go within and bring ourselves more fully into the moment. It only takes us one conscious breath to come back to our centre, right here, right now; which is where everything happens.