Have you ever heard someone tell you in a moment of frustration that they are becoming just like their parents? I have had coaching clients admit to me that in climbing the corporate ladder they have become someone they didn’t want to be. Relationships will suddenly no longer be what a couple wanted. These realisations seem to sneak up on people. Perhaps a crisis or prolonged disappointment will cause someone to recognise that they are unhappy with who they have become. Unfortunately, by the time they make this realisation, it may feel too late to do anything about it.
A sudden recognition that something is not right with the state of things is not limited to individuals. An organisation may have developed into something different than was originally intended. A little start-up may grow and evolve into something no one expected. The culture in a company suddenly seems much different than its founders had hoped for. It is unlikely that anyone can tell you exactly when things changed although some may want to blame one event or decision. All too often, however, people are asking “How did it come to this?”
Change is the one constant in our lives no matter how we may try to keep some things the same. We are all in an ongoing process of becoming. We set goals and initiate change but where are these goals and this constant change meant to lead us? Individuals, cultures and organisations are constantly in the process of evolving into something new. Who will I be when I achieve my goals? What will my company or organisation be when it has achieved its goals? In his book Reinventing Organisations, Fredrick Laloux also points to this need to understand what organisations are becoming. The same is true for each of us individually.
We remember life-changing events but it is often the small incremental changes that lead to lasting change. The question is: Is this leading to where I want to go? I like to formulate this question for individuals and organisations as follows: who are you becoming? I recommend reflecting on this question often, at least once each year. I am not referring to personal goal setting or company KPIs. It is often in the pursuit of our goals and ambitions that we lose sight of who we are becoming. What sacrifices or compromises are being made? What behaviours can be observed? Are these still in line with my/our values?
The choices we make are part of our becoming. With every compromise, we make to our values, expectations or aspirations we move one step closer to being different from who we hoped or intended to become. This requires living consciously and maintaining a higher level of awareness. If instead you keep your head down and work away or allow yourself to remain distracted you may find yourself looking up one day unhappy with what you find.
There are a few simple questions that I ask to raise my level of awareness. Am I making choices out of fear? Are these choices getting me close to or farther from who I aspire to be? If I continue to live like this where will it lead? These kinds of questions are meant to answer the ultimate question: who am I/are we becoming? This question when asked in our homes, in our organisations and our society, will help us all live happier, healthier and more sustainable lives.