The original idea behind this blog was as a place to mull over the things I’m left thinking about after sessions with my clients. The things that stick with me, gnaw at me, and make me curious. I’ve wandered a little more broadly than that, but at it’s core, it’s meant to be an avenue for me to get to explore big ideas.
Here’s something that came up this week – How do you know if you are done?
I have a client who I’ve been working with for almost a year, and the goals we set out to address when we started our work together are met. It’s glorious. She’s seen real transformation in her life, and arrived in a place that was only a dream when we first started coaching. So the question arose between us, are we complete in our work together (Is this an ending?) or have we simply reached our first port, and are now ready to set off on the next leg of our journey (Is this a new beginning?).
We seem to live our lives in chapters. We categorize periods of time by relationships, jobs, schooling, cities, life cycle events, any major life transition marks a new chapter. As a new chapter begins, there is anticipation of what is coming next, and sometimes a pause to say to goodbye to what came before, to have what people call closure.
I’ve seen two main kinds of reactions to the close of chapters in my clients. One, I’ve seen folks want a break. They want a moment of downtime in between, before turning their sights to what’s next. They want to wrap up, let go, and go have a beer or take a vacation. The other is folks who don’t even notice the end of the last chapter because they’re already in the beginning of the next chapter. They swing from thing to thing without looking back, using momentum to drive them forward.
But here’s what I rarely see. Folks who let themselves have a culmination. It’s a little different than closure, and there’s probably a better word for it, but what I mean is give themselves time to review the last chapter, absorb and reflect on the lessons from it, appreciate their accomplishments during it, note what they’ve gained and what they’ve let go of, and take stock of where they are now and how that is different than where they started. Valedictorians get the chance to do this kind of thinking, yearly job reviews can offer this if they’re done very well, as can wedding anniversaries and birthdays, also only if they are done very well. But generally I don’t see this response to chapter transitions often.
It got me thinking about life chapters. We have these other kind of chapters in our lives not marked by external changes, but marked by internal changes. We can look back and see how we’ve grown, where we’ve shifted, stretched and evolved, but it’s harder to see them happening in real time. We’re so close to our own lives, it’s hard to see the big picture of them. How then, can you tell if you’ve completed this kind of chapter, not in retrospect but in the moment?
For me, I think it has something to do with this practice of completion and review. Not just how was the day, not just letting go of the day, but how did the day change you, influence you, guide you? What did it teach you? Imagine what you’d learn reflecting on that every evening. How it would influence your path. How much clarity you might have. Every ending is a new beginning, that’s a deep truth, but I think every ending is an ending too. So maybe the question isn’t how do you know when you are at the end of a chapter, but how do you choose to end a chapter? What do you let the closing of each chapter offer you?
Monday Musing (posted on Tuesday)