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Philosophy is not a topic I usually study in depth. However, I recently reconnected with a couple of friends who are into this subject so I added it to my list to know more.
I started with a modern philosopher, Byung-Chul Han. In his book The Scent of Time he talks about how we have lost the intervals or transitions between where we are and where we want to go.
His view is that because events in our lives happen so fast, there is no space in between them, we are missing the value of the interval or the time in-between.
The way I understand it is that we are not taking the time to experience each event and we are very uncomfortable with the lingering that takes place when we are in transition from one occurrence to the next. So, we fill up that transition time with another matter; there is no pause.
I know I am uneasy with transition. When I look back, I now know I did not take advantage of the many major changes I have had. This is the first time that I am truly taking the opportunity to be uncomfortable in my current evolution.
I am in the middle of the bridge. I know where I came from, I am very familiar with that space. I do not know what lies on the other side of the bridge. It can be wonderful or terrible. At this point, in the middle of the bridge, I can either go back to the familiar, or continue forward towards the unknown.
This time is both exciting and scary. Only in the walk on the bridge do I get to know myself. By deciding each day if I will go back or if I will continue forward I discover something new about me. Or an emotion that was shoveled deep down comes back to the surface and now I deal with it.
My only regret is the amount of time and energy wasted in always rushing towards something. During past transitions, I was so restless in the limbo that I turned to doing (always doing) to avoid the emotions (of any kind) and the self-discovery that could bring both pleasant and unpleasant surprises.
After all this time, the doing finally caught up with me leaving me exhausted, lost, and confused. Initially I felt I was being obligated to take a break, to be in the interval.
Very quickly I determined I needed to be in the lull, take the walk across the bridge, and focus on the path and not on the destination. This decision has been extremely liberating. It has completely changed how I approach my career, relationships, and life in general. The road is as beautiful (if not more sometimes) as the destination.
One of my favorite phrases in the book The Scent of Time, is ‘pure orientation towards the goal deprives the in-between space of all meaning, emptying it to become a corridor without any value of its own.’
Our society gives so much importance to the end result (money, position, power, etc.) that it is not surprising we associate the in-between with an uncomfortable feeling similar to the fear of the unknown (which to a certain extent it is exactly that).
Byung-Chul Han explains that because events happen so fast and everything is memorialized (i.e. we can bring almost anything from the past to the present) ‘today’s experience is characterized by the fact that it is very poor in transitions.’
It usually takes a life changing event like job loss, illness, having kids, or losing someone for us to have a forced transition. And what do we do with it? Many of us try to get rid of that in-between as soon as possible usually by going into action.
So, how do we shift our mindset and learn to enjoy the transition, the time and space in-between?
1) Increase awareness
Practicing mindfulness directly increases our awareness. We want to observe our emotions without judging them and equally important without pushing them away.
From experience, I know that the more we fight an emotion, the more it insists on staying and/or coming back.
Increasing consciousness helps us realize when we are turning to the ‘doing’ in order to escape our current reality.
“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” C.G. Jung
2) Learn to embrace the discomfort
Human beings are programmed to get rid of any discomfort as it is associated with stress. It is that wiring that has allowed our species to survive all this time.
Unfortunately, our brain has not evolved enough to distinguish between a truly life-threatening stressor and a manufactured one. Practicing mindfulness helps us make the distinction between these two kinds of stressors.
Once we realize that our stress is fabricated, we can use a number of tools and methods to soothe ourselves and to release the stress faster.
“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” Anaïs Nin
3) Get curious
I frequently see myself now in the middle of the bridge. At this point I can easily go back to the familiar. And at the same time, I keep telling myself ‘you already know that. Let’s see what’s on the other side!’
It is a continuous internal dialogue. One part of me, the curious one, wants to see what is on the other side. The other part, the one that tries to keep me safe says ‘what if we don’t like it there?’ It is a constant negotiation to keep the ‘curious one’ making progress.
At the moment of this writing, I continue to embrace curiosity and to observe my reaction and feelings once the result presents itself.
“Enjoy every step you take. If you’re curious, there is always something new to be discovered in the backdrop of your daily life.” Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart(Video) Rebounding After a Breakup: 7 Things You Can Do | Thrive Global
Every event and every person in our lives are here to help us learn and discover something about the world, our perspective, or our soul.
Most of us miss the lesson over and over because we are so ‘busy’ with doing that we do not take the time to be (i.e., to observe and reflect).
At work and in our careers, we want to provide visible and immediate results – the promotion, more clients, the side gig, and the list goes on.
In relationships with other people, we want to quickly know where we stand with them, what is in it for us, or how fast we want to get rid of them.
I am on the journey of being present for my relationships. Sometimes that presence is five minutes, others is several hours. And I have found that I have connected more deeply with people, I am more relaxed, and I find more meaning and lessons in each interaction.
Of course, not everything is sunshine and rainbows. I go back to old habits and behaviors very frequently. My mind wants to rush all the time. The difference is that now I can have a productive self-dialogue, soothe myself, and learn once again to embrace and enjoy the intervals, the time in-between.
What are your thoughts about the intervals? How do you approach them? Please, let us know in the comments. You can write in English, Spanish, Portuguese, or French.
As a leadership coach, I enable talent to achieve bold goals with high standards. My mission is to help women transition from mid to senior level leadership positions by creating awareness, increasing emotional intelligence, and unveiling the tools and choices available to them, so they can confidently realize and fulfill their potential.
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