Last week I wrote about a pattern of change in my life – four year cycles of education, exploration, and employment. I recognize in reviewing these cycles that during each one I was gathering critical information to successfully transition into the next phase. In small and large doses I was picking up knowledge, wisdom, emotional intelligence, self-awareness, confidence and purpose with each pass I made. And now, as I’m confronted with the end of yet another trip around the cycle, I am asking a new question: what if I don’t continue this pattern? What if, instead of a change of scenery, I embrace constancy – the recognition that in this time and place there is more to be made out of the bits and pieces I have cobbled together into this thing I call my vocation?
These questions got me thinking about the artist, Andy Goldsworthy, and the themes he introduces in the book, “Time”, a collection of photographs of his work. He says the following:
“Whenever possible, I make a work every day. Each work joins the next in a line that defines the passage of my life, marking and accounting for my time and creating a momentum which gives me a strong sense of anticipation for the future. Each piece is individual, but I also see the line combined as a single work.”
I take reassurance from this that all of my cycles are connected. I am creating my own line of work and my own unique momentum toward the future. But then he goes on to say this:
“Time and change are connected to place. Real change is best understood by staying in one place.”
His point here is that you can’t fully appreciate the passage of time and the changes that take place where you are if you don’t stay put and participate in it. Is four years enough to figure that out? In plenty of cases, sure it is. In others, no chance. My thought is this: the more you learn about a place the more you can impact it and, over time, appreciate, adjust and nuance your relationship with it. That there is a reward inherent with local knowledge – an intimacy that rewards us with the opportunity to offer and satisfy more of our best selves.
Finally, Goldsworthy says this: “I have tried to pitch my life so that I make the best use of my time and energy. Perfection in every work is not the aim. I prefer works that are fashioned by the compromises forced upon me by nature, whether it be an incoming tide, the end of a day, thawing snow, shrivelling leaves or the deadline of my own lifetime.”
His acknowledgement of the compromises that are present in all endeavors is so significant. There is no perfect. There is only the best possible “right here, right now.” I happen to practice my vocation inside an organization and we all know that organizations are wrought with compromise. The best ones are led by people who make the right compromises work for the most people to get some important work done. David Whyte has written that “there is no organization large enough for even one human soul” and yet it is within organizations that so much of human progress has been made possible. Go figure.
There is a powerful “and” emerging in all of this. A sweet spot that is about both constancy and change. After all, cycles wouldn’t be cycles if we didn’t know they’d be coming around again.