The Crucible of Change

November 2003

This past month, I came across a quote from Maya Angelou that touched me: “I can be changed by what happens to me. I refuse to be reduced by it.” In our work each day, we encounter many situations that impact us. We are all living in a world that is constantly presenting new situations for us to deal with: some good, some bad, some we choose, some we just run into. Whether we realize it or not, most situations do color how we feel, act, or believe in some way.

Much of the time, the changes that we undergo as a result of what happens to us are very subtle. We can change, or be changed, almost without realizing it at the time. That is why I believe it is important to give ourselves the time and space (and permission) to regularly reflect on how we are responding (or just reacting) to the world around us. This process, this acknowledgement and understanding of how we are changing, is an important part of how we learn and grow. I think of it as coming into integrity, as I align how my inner self is developing and changing with the person that I long to become.

As Ms. Angelou reminds us, sometimes there are things in our lives that threaten to diminish us or cause us to react in ways that are not conductive to our growth. In the workplace, this can be an overly-critical boss; a competitive co-worker or teammate; a corporate culture that dampens creativity or initiative. It can be something in the environment, like a fear of layoffs or change in your job duties or a dreary work space. All of those things can cause us to react in ways that diminish us.

When I encounter difficult situations it helps me to think of who I am, and who I am becoming. Can I use the situation as something that moves me towards greater understanding, perspective, or strength? If I look back at the situation in six months, what learning opportunities will I recognize? What tools or support do I need in order to grow from this experience today? Thank you for allowing me to share in your professional journey, and serve you as you change and grow.

Sharon Keys Seal

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