Order ➔ Disorder ➔ Reorder

On a recent On Being podcast, Krista Tippett interviewed Fr. Richard Rohr, founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque. In it, Rohr named three phases of transformation: order, disorder, and reorder. I love this model because it is both simple and expansive. It captures many kinds of change, from personal transformations, to organizational transitions, to social movements. And, by naming disorder, it honors not only the before and after, but also the gnarly, non-linear, uncomfortable in-between.

A classic metaphor for this is the chrysalis.

Even as scientists learn more, a basic mystery remains: What does the caterpillar experience in that tiny womb? What of it reemerges as butterfly, and what dissolves forever? That mystery — the disorder of the chrysalis — is inseparable from the caterpillar’s transformation. 

The chrysalis metaphor illuminates why so many of us experience fear around change. For, what will happen to us between order and reorder? Are the things we hold dear — things we don’t want to change — resilient enough to survive? Are we? Often, we don’t know.

Uncertainty demands courage.

Take a moment to consider a change that you are experiencing right now.

When you are ready, sit with the uncertainty. Let yourself feel it. Acknowledge that you don’t know how X will go, or how you will cope with losing Y, or whether you will be happy with Z. Observe and accept the emotions that surface.

In light of those feelings, study the butterfly. What do you hope for, and why is it good? Does the promise of reorder merit the likely discomfort of disorder? Assuming yes, it’s time to get brave and ride the wave. 

Don’t confuse courage with simple daring.

Some folks are quick to take leaps. They are blessed with a large capacity for what I call the “Fuck It Factor.” I love that energy. However, courage is something different.

Courage is patient with fear and resistance. These responses are understandable, yet frustrating. They slow things down, and they resurface at inconvenient times. You may want to ignore or bulldoze them, but don’t. Instead, become a compassionate listener who acknowledges and integrates vulnerability into a fuller vision. 

In addition to this emotional work, of course, you must be flexible in action, constantly realigning your plans with shifting realities and new information. If you are a change leader, be ready also to manage diverse needs, values, and goals — with A+ communication, again and again. 

By embracing these virtues, you will come to trust yourself and your resilience. You will also earn trust, thereby making it safer for others to hope — and brave disorder — with you.

The only way around is through.

For the meaningful change you seek, I wish you great courage, many kindred spirits, and compassionate support from those who love you.