It was late one warm summer’s evening in Marrakesh. We had wandered around the souks and then enjoyed a pleasant dinner in a restaurant just off the main market square in the Medina and it was time to head back to the Riad where we were staying.
The Medina was built around 1122 and is the old town in Marrakesh. It is a twisting labyrinth comprising 19-kilometers of tiny streets with pink walls, and poor lighting and it can feel like a scary place to walk through at night, especially if you don’t know where you are going!
It’s a place where the streets have no name and they all look the same!
Well, strictly speaking, they did have names but they were unintelligible to a westerner.
We made two unintentional blunders in the planning of this trip. The first was that we delegated the selection and booking of the Riad to a friend who knew the Medina and thought it would be fun for us to stay about 3 kilometres away from the centre near the city wall, and the second was that we were not using smartphones with Google Maps.
The walk into the centre undertaken in daylight had been quite pleasant, but walking back in the dark wasn’t an option so we took a taxi.
Unfortunately the taxi driver misunderstood the rather obscure address of our Riad and assumed wrongly that we wanted to go some late night venue on the other side of the Medina! Language difficulties made it impossible to rectify so we set off on foot. That was our third blunder.
In the heart of darkness
We asked a succession of strangers for directions and yet we seemed to be going deeper into what was rapidly beginning to feel like Conrad’s “Heart Of Darkness”. With hindsight I am sure the locals who tried to help us were genuine and had good intentions, but after about an hour or two of this we were totally disoriented and frankly scared.
Lost in transition
To be in an alien North African city, late in the evening, in the dark, completely lost in transition from the main market square back to the obscure location of our Riad, with no tools for navigation, and finding it impossible to communicate with the locals, was frightening.
To cut a long story short we eventually found someone who seemed to understand where we were trying to get to and it was with enormous relief when we recognised the alley (I wouldn’t dignify it by calling it a street) where our Riad was located.
Needless to say, the following day we moved to another Riad in the centre adjacent to the main market square.
The Difference Between Change and Transition
That experience in the Medina illustrates the disorientation we can experience in an unexpected change in circumstances.
At the time of writing, with the world slowly emerging from Covid-19 lockdown, with our economies strangled, business failures and unemployment rising and our national governments flailing around like drowning men clutching at straws I think it is fair to say that many of us are currently experiencing hard times as a direct result of imposed change.
The purpose of this article:
(1) To set out a framework for how you can deal with these hard times.
(2) To offer a range of practical and proven resources to empower you to cope with these hard times.
The first and key point to make is that there is a distinction between the events and situations imposed on us and our inner response to these things.
In the world of change management this is known as "transition".
Transition is a psychological process of inner reorientation and self-redefinition that you have to go through in order to incorporate the effect of external changes into your life.
One of the major causes of the difficulty that you will experience with transition is that it necessarily involves letting go of something.
The process of letting go is often unsettling and unnerving.
Therefore a fundamental element of the transition is acceptance of that letting go. Without that acceptance, you will become stuck in denial, anger or resistance.
The 5 Stages Of "The Grief Cycle" That Lead To Acceptance
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross was a Swiss physician/researcher who pioneered work on mapping and understanding the grief process.
She introduced what has become known as "The Kubler-Ross Grief Cycle" in her 1969 book: "On Death and Dying" in which she sets out five stages of emotional and psychological response to grief, tragedy and catastrophic loss:
Whilst she has been regarded by many as the mother of the modern hospice movement, her work has now reached a far wider audience - including the business world of change management - with the realisation that the grief process is relevant and applies to any significant changes and experience of hard times in people's working and personal lives.
Resources For Letting Go and Entering The Neutral Zone
Both of the models outlined above provide well recognised and attested road maps for what you are likely to be experiencing, or eventually will be experiencing, as you enter the transition phase of your personal experience of hard times.
These model address the cognitive aspect. I do recommend that you follow up on the links included above as there is wealth of useful material there.
Now I want to focus on, and offer you, some practical tools and resources that I have used many times, that will empower you and show you how to cope with tough times.
Are you in a mess and having a really tough time right now?
"It’s 3 am and you have woken up and can’t get back to sleep. You lie in bed tossing and turning and as your brain wakes up a little voice in your head starts nagging you with doubts and fears about money…"