Can you embrace the ‘isness’ of now?

In Zoom workshops I’ve held with leaders from education and business in the last few months, I’ve asked them this question: “Do you believe we will come out of the COVID-19 situation better than we went into it?’ Across all the leaders – nearly 200 in total – 97% said ‘Yes’.

There is opportunity for us create something new that serves us, and the world, better. If we choose to embrace the ‘isness’ of now.

Embracing the opportunities

Ekhart Tolle speaks of the ‘isness’ of life in his book Stillness Speaks. He suggests it is the acceptance of this moment as it is; not fighting it or trying to change it. And that by doing so we create space and peace. I believe that it is in that space and peace that the opportunity of creating new ways of being, doing and working together exist.

By embracing the isness of now, we also embrace its opportunity and possibility.

It is an appealing illusion that we can control life, ourselves, and others through fixed structures, detailed planning, and the promise of rewards, or threat of reprimands. But it is just that: an illusion.

As our experiences with COVID have shown us, trying to predict – let alone control – disruption and what comes from it is a fool’s errand. So, as we look to navigate the uncertainty of the coming weeks and months, we need to truly take that on board. No. Really. I mean it.

We need to truly take on board that we cannot control disruption and what comes from it.  Once our mindset shifts to accept the inherent mess and magic in the natural way of life, it’s easier to let go of what’s not effective and embrace the things that can help us, and others, take on new perspectives and ways of doing things. And this is the opportunity that we have right now – to embrace the isness of this time to create new possibilities for the future.

Ring the bells that still can ring, forget your perfect offering. There is a crack, a crack in everything. There’s a crack in everything, but that’s how the light gets in.” Leoard Cohen

It is the cracks that create opportunity and possibility. 

So how can we let the ‘light get in’ to the cracks that COVID has created for us?

Leadership and organisational development researcher Gervase Bushe has spent over three decades transforming organisational structures, cultures, and processes away from command and control, towards more collaborative work systems. He suggests that instead of trying to ‘manage change’ as a response to disruption, we should instead look for ways to coach people to create positive changes.

We can do this by ‘tracking’ – actively looking for the things we want more of and recognising where and why they are occurring– and ‘fanning’ – adding resources and support, as well as acknowledging and appreciating people’s efforts in order to heighten energy, momentum, and commitment. 

This ‘tracking’ of the desired future possibility and ‘fanning’ the flames of energy is one of the key principles in Becoming AntiFragile. It means that we let go of the illusion of control, honour people’s energy, and give them the autonomy and opportunities to self-organise around actions that matter to them.

In Becoming AntiFragile, we let go of the illusion of control, honour people’s energy, and give them the autonomy and opportunities to self-organise around actions that matter to them.

Letting the light in: co-creating the future

Crisis brings with it opportunities for innovation, reinvention and the creation of new team and workplace cultures.  Ones in which people feel valued, connected and included; where there is greater hope and agency towards a shared purpose; where there is trust and a safe space to share learning and be vulnerable.

I know as leaders, it can be hard for us to imagine how we can embrace the ‘isness’ of the uncertainty and the suffering being experienced right now and to hold the space to bring people together. But it is the scale of the current disruption that invites the best in each of us to step forward.

Now more than ever, we need to help our teams, workplaces and communities uncover what gives them life when they are at their best. And this can’t be done through telling and selling or even consultation, it requires a genuine and open invitation to co-create the future together.

So, wherever you are in this transition phase of COVID, questions can be a wonderful tool to help you embrace the ‘isness’ of now.

Four questions to use with your team to co-create a future you all want to be part of:

  • What has been my (your) best experience of our team working together during the past few months? What strengths were being shown at that time?
  • What could I/we take forward from this experience to create a new way of being and leading (working together)?
  • What might I (we) need to let go of to make that happen? What might I (we) need to begin to make that happen?
  • What action am I (we) going to take to make this a reality?

Leadership resources

I was involved in a wonderful example of co-creation a few weeks ago when I joined nearly 500 people from across the globe in an online gathering with Prof. David Cooperrider, hosted by the Change Lab. Our purpose was to explore how we could co-create a new cultural norm that deepens social connection while maintaining physical distance as we work virtually and begin to return to shared workspaces. Drawing on the collective wisdom of the group, we explored our best experiences of helping to co-create ways to grow social connection at work and what might be possible if workplaces invited their people to co-create the answers to the challenge of growing social connection while maintaining physical distance. What practical actions could we take to co-create a safe space for workers to explore how they can grow connection in the new normal-for-now of physically distanced workplaces a reality?

The creative ideas from this gathering were quite amazing. For David’s full article click here.

Virtual Co-Creation Conversations 

Do you want to help your team or workplace have an action-oriented conversation to spark positive change? I can design and deliver an engaging and energising virtual experience to help your people and teams discover what’s working well, dream of ways to build upon their strengths, design the next steps forward, and deploy the actions they are committed to delivering through a tailored conversation that meets the needs and hopes of your group. Let’s talk.

Dr Paige Williams

Dr Paige Williams

International Speaker, Author, Mentor


Determined to help leaders move beyond just the need for resilience, Paige provides practical, evidence-based strategies for leaders to become antifragile, lead themselves and their teams to thrive and succeed in the Decade of Disruption.

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