Personal growth and development is not a cakewalk. Whether you have chosen the path—or had it inflicted upon you—embarking on change is complicated, stressful, angst-ridden and uncomfortable. It is the liminal journey come to life, although it doesn’t make it any easier to accept or process. For all the theoretical merits of changing, you are going to feel adrift, challenged and very likely incompetent. The desire to retreat to a safe and familiar place is going to be tempting. Nonetheless, there are strategies to make it through to the other side.
Liminality—the idea of in-between spaces as a source of growth and transformation—is a simple construct that’s difficult to live through. The art of storytelling is a complex, rich mine of insight with a similarly simple construct beneath it. The traditional of three-act narrative owes a lot to liminality, because it borrows a great deal from how to navigate the places in-between. Story is what shows us how to live, to imagine and to consider what’s possible. The same structure is what allows us to grow and succeed.
I’ve been exploring liminality and in-between spaces in a few posts. And while the structure is simple, and the ideas it offers are profound and meaningful, actual living in and transitioning through liminal spaces is often anything but clear, ordered or certain. There can be a great deal of fuzziness, frustration and even fear. I thought it would be helpful to explore what it’s like to actually live in the in-between spaces.
The idea of liminality is a simple one. It describes a progress by which significant transformation can occur. But within a simply presented model, there are a lot of moving parts. Attempting to navigate through in-between spaces takes work and effort. Knowing what to look for and what to expect helps make that a little bit easier.
The space in-between where we have been and where we are going is where change and transformation occur. The challenge is that while navigating liminal spaces is challenging enough on an individual basis, it gets exponentially more difficult when we try to do this in groups. Whether planning navigating change or planning strategy, facilitating the creation of an in-between space that genuinely allows for creative exploration is a significant undertaking. Liminality provides some insight into how to make that happen.
Change is a process. And while it is a difficult one, it doesn’t need to be quite so painful and messy as what we often experience. Better navigating change requires recognizing that most of the transition happens in the space between what was and what will become. We need to let go, and be guided through that transition. That requires rethinking some of what we know and believe about projects and change.