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Friday, March 24, 2023

Culturs Magazine, Tech and Trends Column, Who Moved My Future

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Change is everywhere.

Raise your hand if, in early 2020, you worried that the COVID-19 global pandemic would last for . . . months! Fast forward to today (over two years later), and most of us realize the “before times” are forever gone and, like it or not, there is no going back to what was.

Everything has changed. Everything.

The old rules no longer apply and our past playbooks are useless. Nothing can be assumed or taken for granted — careers, commerce, public health, education, financial markets, climate, societal norms, families, technology, political systems, food systems . . . it’s all shifting under our feet.

So, what do we do now?

Perhaps a better question to ask is “Who do we want to be now?”

In other words, as a unique individual with many layers of experiences, skills, identities, interests and passions, how can you show up and thrive in an ever-changing future, with grace and resilience?

If you’ve been asking yourself this question — “Who do I want to be now?” — then I invite you to check out the work of two incredible women who are helping people to create new frameworks for thriving into this rapidly changing future.

What’s my mindset around change?

When April Rinne was a junior in college and studying in the UK, she received a phone call from her sister. “April, are you sitting down?” she asked. “I need you to sit down.” Then she broke the news. “Mom and dad were killed in a car accident. You need to come home.”

“Whatever I thought my future was going to be, vanished,” Rinne explained from the TEDxFrankfurt stage. “My entire world became flux. I had to let go of the future I had in mind, and the future my parents wanted for me. Little did I know that in the process I was planting the seed of a superpower.”

Rinne defines this, and other superpowers, in her new book “Flux: 8 Superpowers for Thriving in Constant Change.” The book captures several decades of lessons she gleaned from her travel to over 100 countries as well as her history as a futurist, advisor, global development executive, microfinance lawyer, investor, mental health advocate, certified yoga teacher and (as she highlights), an insatiable handstander. 

“’Flux’ is not about change management. It’s about understanding our relationship to change, from the inside out, and how it shapes and colors every decision we make. Do you come to change from a place of hope or fear? Do you see uncertainty as dangerous or as an adventure for your curiosity? What were you taught about change when you were growing up? We need to examine and reshape our relationship to change to be fit for a world in flux.”

Change and a ‘Flux Mindset’

Rinne shows us that the best way to prepare for the future is to develop a “flux mindset,” a critical skill for thriving in an ever-accelerating world.

“The pace of change has never been as fast as it is today, and yet it is likely to never again be this slow,” Rinne points out. “Just pause for a moment and take that in.”

For many, the thought of a world that will never slow down again is overwhelming.

“There is a lot of anxiety — both latent and overt. We worry about today and fear the future. Rather than letting that fester, a flux mindset is how you turn that anxiety into action. You can’t control the future, but you can control how you contribute to the future you’d like to see.” 

The pace of change has never been as fast as it is today, and yet it is likely to never again be this slow.

April Rinne

Not all change is ‘bad’

Rinne points out that not all change is “bad” or something to be avoided. In fact, most of us who feel at home in a globalized world are used to uncertainty and often welcome change — but, not always.

“We love change that we opt in to. We resist the change we can’t control — the kind that blindsides us, that goes against our expectations, that changes our plans (or disrupts them entirely),” she says. In today’s world “there is no steady state. There is no end game. There is just more change. So, if we think of our mindset as a kind of muscle, we realize it’s something that we can (and need to) strengthen through daily practice.”

So, how can you develop a Flux Mindset? Rinne shares three key pieces of advice:

  1. Look to other cultures — they can teach us a lot about impermanence, change, and flux. For example, most of the population of Mongolia are nomadic, moving and rebuilding their homes three times a year, in harmony with the seasons. Rather than making them fearful or anxious, this makes them strong and resilient.
  2. Expand your peripheral vision — literally and figuratively. Rinne calls peripheral vision the awareness of everything you’re not looking at. Expanding this view can help you notice things you didn’t see before, and even reduce your anxiety.
  3. Learn to let go — not of the past, but of the future. This is the central difference between those who can thrive in a world of constant flux and those who crumble. Letting go isn’t about giving up. It’s about non-attachment and non-grasping (or the yogic principle of “aparigraha”).
8 Superpowers of a Flux Mindset, Courtesy of April Rinne

Flux: 8 Superpowers for Thriving in Constant Change is exactly the book we need right now in order to come out of hiding and move with confidence along with a world that is emerging into being. The future is something we can never predict, but with the right mindset we can help to shape it.

Find tools and resources to develop your Flux Mindset, plus travel and handstand inspiration, at https://fluxmindset.com.

Who am I, professionally?

For those of us that identify as “in between” — straddling culture, ethnicity, race, or place — we may already see ourselves as “hybrid” in our personal identity. Yet, chances are many of us are still stuck in old professional paradigms that tell us we must niche ourselves into a narrow career field or define ourselves by our job titles. 

“COVID-19 has sent a wave of professional identity crises across the country and around the world,” explains Dr. Sarabeth Berk. “It is something millions of people are going through, but lack the language to communicate it because professional hybridity often defies language and categorization.”

Now, Dr. Berk is helping people to clearly define and leverage their professional hybridity through her book, “More Than My Title: The Power of Hybrid Professionals in a Workforce of Experts and Generalists.”

‘Not a pipe’

Dr. Sarabeth Berk's "More Than My Title: The Power of Hybrid Professionals in a Workforce of Experts and Generalists"
Dr. Sarabeth Berk’s ‘More Than My Title: The Power of Hybrid Professionals in a Workforce of Experts and Generalists’

Earlier in her own career, Dr. Berk experienced her own professional identity crisis. As an artist, researcher, educator, and designer, she had a rich and varied experience. Yet, it was hard to know what to call herself on a resume or job application. It seemed there was always a pressure to adopt standardized titles to appear marketable. This meant sacrificing or hiding parts of her skills and talents and watering down her unique value proposition. Then she noticed something.

“I was looking at an art book and noticed a painting by surrealist René Magrite [“The Treachery of Images”]. The picture shows a tobacco pipe, and below it he painted, ‘This is not a pipe.’ What he was inferring is that the painting is a representation of the thing, it’s not the thing itself. When we label things, we say, ‘Oh, that’s a pipe.’ But, it’s not a pipe.”

“That’s what’s happening with our professional identity. I call myself a teacher, but that’s not really who I am – I am so much more than this title. So, what if we give ourselves the power and permission to decide what we want to be named instead of accepting an arbitrary title? If I want to call myself a Creative Disruptor, no one can tell me that I’m wrong. But, this title has to be something that truly resonates with me – if it feels weird, I’m not going to use it.”

‘Creative disruptor’

Dr. Berk began using the title of “Creative Disruptor,” which made it possible for her to not only incorporate all of her skills, talents, and experiences but also allowed her to truly stand out in the employment marketplace.

Dr. Sarabeth Berk, author of 'More Than My Title: The Power of Hybrid Professionals in a Workforce of Experts and Generalists'
Dr. Sarabeth Berk

“Up until now we’ve only had two ways to describe our professional identity,” Berk explained from the TEDxBoulder stage. “The first way is singularity — you’re a specialist or expert. The second way is multiplicity — people who ‘wear a lot of hats.’ Hybridity gives us permission to integrate — blending and combining professional identities together and working at the intersections. For a hybrid professional, the intersections are where their unique value lies; it’s their ‘secret sauce.’ From this vantage point, you can do and see things no one else can.”

“It’s not about going back to the drawing board, but identifying values, passion, and purpose,” she continued. “What do you care about, what do you love to do, and what do you call yourself when you’re doing it?”

‘Great reinvention’

Today, Dr. Berk’s early insights on trends in professional identities has turned out to be exactly what we need in this so-called “Great Resignation.” Although instead, Berk refers to this as the era of the “Great Reinvention.” Rather than relying on old models to define ourselves and our careers, Dr. Berk believes it is time to explore new ways to think about our skills, passions, experience, and the value we bring to the world. And, ideally, Berk recommends we leverage the power of intentional community to maximize our insights.

It’s not about going back to the drawing board, but identifying values, passion, and purpose. What do you care about, what do you love to do, and what do you call yourself when you’re doing it?

Dr. Sarabeth Berk

“There is a power and synergy that is available to participants of cohort-style workshops,” she said. “I’ve witnessed it many times: People are reflecting off each other and seeing one another’s identities in new ways. The things we take for granted are usually signs of our hybridity — they are the things that come naturally and feel effortless.”

Fortunately, Dr. Berk offers a number of cohort-based workshops, resources and tools through her website MoreThanMyTitle.com. If you are ready to deconstruct your professional identity and be part of the Great Reinvention, this is the perfect place to start.

Moving Confidently Into Uncertainty

Everything changes — it is the nature of reality, and always has been. Once we can fully accept this, we can start to embrace a flux mindset, claim our own unique professional identity, and move confidently and joyfully into an uncertain future.

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