Pilgrim or Reformer?

This seems an appropriate title for this November reflection, as I sit on my porch still in the time of COVID, in 35 degree weather, testing our new radiant heater. I am not 100% comfortable, but being outside later into the year is a security measure for my health, of that I am certain. Of course, this post has nothing to do with religion, or with turkey-day, or with my porch-sitting.

I’m in a phase of my career when I am trying to determine if I am a pilgrim or a reformer.

View as I sit on my porch, November 15, 2020

Reformer – I have worked for NYS state government for 13 years and I still see so much potential in the work, especially regarding sustainability and creating our beneficial shared future. I feel like I can make a difference. In fact, I was hired to make a difference, which is in itself powerful. Perhaps the way to do this is by continuing to push and prod and lead in shifting the systems that exist. I am very aware that the existing, familiar systems of government hierarchy, career knowledge, and statewide reach can provide a real and sustaining vehicle for change.

And hell, I am comfortable in my job.

Pilgrim – On the other hand, I am from New England and well-versed in the mythology of the passion and potential of pilgrims. I have worked for 13 years to change the systems I work within and I have had significantly less than the impact I thought i would have. I am not saying there is a monarch that is dismissing my cause, or outlawing my ideals, in fact there seems to be a growing will to make the needed changes. Unfortunately there is also a lack of recognition of the complexity and the rigor of the path we must put our feet on. I am not sure if I have underperformed, or merely not performed to the level of my naive, ideal, envisioned performance. If the former, can I increase my impact? If the later, can I accept the lack of result? If none of the above, then what impact could I have by moving outside the systems and presenting my connections, ideas, and experience as a consultant? And how do I make that leap and do my work with no safety net, no system, no structure? Is there value in starting anew when it is, in fact, our system that MUST change?

Sometimes the voice from outside the organization is the voice that is respected and heard.

I pick option number three. I am a Gemini. I want the security of the systems AND the impact of the outside expert voice, so I must find a way to achieve this.

Step one is that I need to reconcile with the idea that I cannot find the “right” approach without likely finding many wrong approaches, or, more accurately, “not-totally-right” approaches. The approaches may actually layer upon each other, and call to us to use many approaches simultaneously to reach many different types of people. I must let go a bit and realize I do not have to do the work myself, all the time. I also have to realize that my ideas are not the only ones of merit.  I am pretty good so far at weighing in, and then letting the project or idea develop without me. I am not very good at being left out of the process from the start and have had some pretty severe push back when I include myself. No matter how appropriate it is from my perspective, I need to find the proper point between making waves and making progress.

Step two is, unfortunately, going to be my acceptance of the lack of speed, and the apparent lack of systemic change. This does not mean nothing is happening. It means people are absorbing tough, new ideas and that processes are slowly changing to include those ideas. In the nature of learning and relearning, this will happen in an exponential curve…all of a sudden, the changes will be visible. This is similar to the climate change hockey stick graph and hopefully our intentional changes will happen soon enough to assist in countering and adapting to the unintended changes we have created.

Step three is working on and focusing my own efficacy. I cannot allow myself to do work that is not impactful, or does not tap into my unique skill set and knowledge. Sustainability is not something that requires attention of only one unit or one aspect of work, so the work of sustainability must be part of everyone’s job.  Even without a structural team there are people I can team with, especially if I can illustrate to them the connection to their work. Above all, I can request assistance. Big learning curve for me. I also can do more to celebrate the changes that I see, so that, perhaps, the re-learning curve can accelerate. Collaboration and celebration are two things I am very good at, and have restricted my activity on in the past, because they are soft skills. Writing this has made me realize it is precisely the soft skills that I must develop and employ.

History has given us the Pilgrim and the Reformer. Our current culture is beginning to recognize that either/or, us/them, and he/she don’t work. Thoughts, preferences, actions, and existence are not limited to binary options. So I need to find the way to encourage and foster knowledge and change from within AND from outside the systems, at all levels, working with people knowledgeable about how things run, and with people ready to see how things should be run. And I should celebrate when those are the same people, as I suspect they often will be.

Open up and reach, 2bgreener,


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