At the end of each day, I contemplate my to-do list. I have never had a day when everything is checked off of the list. And yet, on the next day I’m often starting new tasks and engaging in activities that weren’t even on the list from the day before. From time-to-time, I reflect on the list and delete things for my “stop doing list“. I have books stacked by my chair, always several in progress. I have far away friends and family that I’d like to go and spend a week visiting. I have places I dream of going and others I long to return to for further adventures.
Today I’m reflecting and reminding myself that life is a process, not an accomplishment – a journey, not a destination. Work, chores, and activities are better represented by a tapestry that each of us is weaving. The threads are our work, hobbies, friendships, travels, and families. While checking off tasks – finishing part of the design – is a good thing, beginning new relationships and activities – discovering new threads – is just as important. Weaving the varied threads together and adding new ones are the stuff of life.
Unfinished business is part of who we are. We each weave, rest, and weave throughout the times and seasons of our lives. None of us will complete our tapestries. When I’m gone, perhaps someone will pick up some of my threads and begin weaving them into their own tapestry. In the meanwhile, I don’t have to get everything done perfectly. I need to keep weaving and discovering threads, flowing through the seasons of life. A life well-lived will leave a lot of hanging threads – a lot of unfinished business.
What does walking in the woods have to do with Organization Development? Stress is necessary for life and work. To-do lists keep us organized, Blackberries and iPhones keep us in communication, and performance goals keep us focused on the big picture. It’s when we become distressed that our work and organizaiton performance decreases as our bodies react as though there were a tiger just behind the wall. Whether we are overwhelmed gradually or suddenly by the circumstances around us, each person needs to find ways of regaining equilibrium – recharging their batteries.
We’ve all heard the experts talk about how to manage stress and distress successfully: exercise, eat a healthy diet, spend 10 minutes in meditation or prayer, get enough sleep, and spend time with people you care about and who care about you. Yet, too often I find myself making excuses, putting off the necessary action. I hear others doing the same.
Outdoors it is the fall season. The light comes late and fades early. Brilliant red leaves cover the ground under dormant trees. Green wheat covers the ground like a fuzzy blanket, waiting for the gift of snow and spring warmth. Fall – Spring. Light – Dark. Life – Death. Stress – Distress. As Parker Palmer says, “We want light without darkness, the glories of spring and summer without the demands of autumn and winter, and the Faustian bargains we make fail to sustain our lives.”
The challenge for each of us is to take action, to find a way to live the paradox that is stress and distress. Take a walk; each lunch with a friend; read a good book; enjoy a movie; spend some time sitting quietly and connecting with the world around you; sleep well. When we intentionally act to care for our physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being, our organizations and communities can thrive as we engage productively with the energy and innovation that come from well-being.
Action precedes transformation – for individuals and organizations. It is not enough to know what to do; we must do it. “You must be the change you with to see in the world.”