In this farewell to the CompassPoint community, Project Director Nelson Layag shares some lessons learned about the importance of embracing change and discomfort.
Okay, let me get this part out of the way. After 24 wonderful years I’ve decided to leave CompassPoint. It’s been several weeks since I officially announced to my colleagues of my plans for leaving and since then it’s been a daily mixed bag of all kinds of emotions—from joy to sadness to anger to excitement to fear and all the way back to joy. I think the one common feeling that has been pretty consistent across the several weeks since announcing my departure to staff has been discomfort.
If you’ve been in any one of my workshops in the past two decades you’ve probably heard me invite you to be okay with being uncomfortable or feeling off-balance when you’re trying to learn and apply something new. I like to show this image of my son learning how to roller blade for first time—awkward, uncomfortable, and off-balance (with a big smile on his face).
As adult learners, sometimes we’re so hard on ourselves thinking that we’ll take a one day workshop, read a book, or watch a 10-minute TED Talk and somehow we will ease into becoming some kind of expert. That discomfort is what many call the “learning edge” and where we are most open to expanding our views and knowledge—even if there are feelings of anxiousness, confusion, joy, and even anger.
Recently I’ve also been reflecting on other ways discomfort shows up—in particular, for me.
Discomfort as a sign that something needs to change—or “I’m feeling some kind of way”
“I’m feeling some kind of way”. That expression is one that I often hear my colleague Spring use. I’m not sure if she herself would equate that to “discomfort”—and some folks might call this gut feeling or intuition—but for me that “some kind of way” is often discomfort. Before I even knew that I was considering leaving CompassPoint, I found my self “feeling some kind of way” more and more. I couldn’t put my finger on it. I love the explicit vision that CompassPoint is heading toward. I love the transformation that we’ve started in our public training program. I love the work that I do here—challenging individuals, teams, and organizations to create new and equitable ways to work with each other. And I love the folks I get to work with every day at CompassPoint—the joy and laughter and the way we hold each other through both the fun times and the hard times. Yet, there was a feeling of being uncomfortable that I couldn’t shake. Thanks to some excellent coaching, I realized that the discomfort was because I had not just “an itch I needed to scratch” but because I had many itches to scratch. And it was with that realization that I knew I had to do something different—and that something different was to leave CompassPoint.
Discomfort as part
of change and transition
In the weeks since announcing my departure to staff and board, I’ve had many moments of discomfort. Of course, this doesn’t come as a surprise as we often reference Williams Bridges’ transition model. In the “endings” and “neutral zones” is where we often feel the most uncomfortable. Sometimes, I sit in meetings that are influencing the direction of the organization in significant ways and the questions in my head and heart start showing up—often feeling confused and doubting my role in the organization as I begin to plan my departure. I go through so many emotions in a single day (or sometimes in a single meeting) that it really is uncomfortable. Much of it is centered on letting go and committing to a new beginning.
We all need to embrace discomfort
for this world to change
Most of us, intuitively, have tried to avoid being uncomfortable. But that avoidance doesn’t serve us. I’m not saying we should actively try to make things uncomfortable, but if we are faced with discomfort let’s embrace, explore and learn from it instead of running away. Most of the important conversations we need to have will be uncomfortable. Undoing racism in our community, in our own families, and in ourselves requires discomfort. Tackling the root causes of sexual abuse and why they continue to thrive in our world requires discomfort. Facing our own privileges and the harm we have caused others because we didn’t acknowledge those privileges requires discomfort. So, if you’re like me and you want to change this world, your better settle in and get uncomfortable.
I’m excited about CompassPoint’s commitment to a vision of peace, justice, and equity. I grew up at CompassPoint—I was the youngest person at the organization when I first joined in 1995. So much of who I am I owe to my experiences at this organization. I’m equally excited for the new chapter in my work and my life. I hope many of you stay connected with me. I’m looking forward to being not just partners, but co-conspirators ready to shake things up. And to all the folks in my 24 years that made me feel unconformable at CompassPoint, thank you. ;-)