This week I’ve been inspired by several different ideas.

Listening to the latest episode of Learning Leader (#299 with Kyle Maynard) one of the things struck me is the question when we have ‘arrived’.

‘Arrived’ in this context means about reaching a point or end goal, and recognising that moment as significant.

I have also just finished Priya Parker’s book on The Art of Gathering (podcast episode #395 in Coaching for Leaders).

In the final chapters she talks about “re-entry” and transitioning from a specific journey  (e.g. conference or workshop) back to our normal lives.

It means marking an end point, recognising the lessons we have learned, and transitioning towards a new phase where we carry these new perspectives with us.

Turns out both of these ideas really zero in on identifying what such points are in our lives but also in the world and career wise.


Identifying when something has changed

In many ways this is similar to the on-going scientific discussion on climate change and observations of trends where many are asking the question about “new normal” and whether we now have ‘arrived’ to new climatic conditions.

For example, recent scientific data points us to the fact that all around the world we are seeing drastic changes in the weather and climate conditions we have so far assumed as stable.

Consider Australia where we have just had our hottest summer ever.

In Alaska, the US military is reporting also drastic changes in the climatic and environmental conditions of their radar stations that were built on coastal areas but which are now facing increasing extreme weather and coastal erosion.

Core strategic infrastructure like airstrips are being inundated by rising seas while the stations themselves are facing increasingly difficult operational environments.

Banana growers in Australia are seeing crop damage of the scale they have not seen before, with ex Cyclone Oma devastating the produce, leading to discussions on changing crops or putting in other measures to ensure business viability.

Have we reached a limit or some form of a threshold that means that we now have arrived to a new normal?

All of these put issues like climate adaptation at the core of discussions: how do we change the way we operate and when should we do so?

These are many of the core questions that are being asked by governments, businesses and even communities in trying to understand when a change has occurred and how to deal with an uncertain future.

And this is one of the greatest challenges for adaptation science in trying to provide evidence-based information that is also policy relevant and could enable organisations and people to make better decisions when faced with such changes.


Moments as transition points 

For me, this discussion is timely as ever about observing trends and trying to understand the moment when we transition towards something new.

Priya talks about how endings should be meaningful:

a clear point where we know something has come to an end in a way that leads us to embrace that moment while also realising that a new beginning is around the corner.

Kyle in turn notes that it is an actual fallacy that we have ever ‘arrived’, whether this is in leadership, or career wise, or in personal growth and development.

While we need to recognise the point in our lives (e.g. reaching a summit, winning a race, getting a promotion), such moments are really more transition points into something new rather than the end goals in themselves.

We rarely have actually just ‘arrived’.

When I was doing my PhD, I sometimes got comments that I just needed to get the PhD “out of my system” and then I could become normal and focus on normal things like having a family.

Yet, for me, the PhD was a dream in itself but also a stepping stone: to get my degree, which I could then build on and keep researching and be surrounded by new knowledge and innovation.

These points should be noted and celebrated (or with climate change, recognised and action taken), but they should not distract us from focusing on the journey.

These are many of the things that we have recently pondered with WonderWomen who are doing their PhDs, about to finish or starting their post-doctoral fellowships.

How do you transition from one life phase to another in a way that is meaningful and helpful?

I think in many ways this is about building habits into our current lives and situations so that when we reach a goal, we are already well prepared for the next phase.


Mentors as keys in supporting transition 

What has come to clear to me from listening to these podcasts, reading the latest books on leadership, and also having discussions with friends and colleagues is the role of mentors.

This is not just applicable to career and leadership development but also in the climate adaptation space.

Having great mentors is pushing people to excel, to make better decisions, and to have an increased confidence in their ability to do so.

I had a very personal experience of this recently where I had to make a big decision regarding my research and my research affiliations.

Changing research institutes, even if internally, is a big transition point and one that I have agonised over for months in terms of where I fit, and where I can have a home to start building a group of likeminded individuals that are passionate about adaptation.

It was wonderful to discover how much support my mentors were willing to give me, not telling me exactly what to do, but distilling in me the belief in my own capabilities of decision-making.

Great mentors are more crucial than ever when it comes to decision-making on climate change adaptation, how to identify when a shift has occurred or is about to, and the kinds of adaptation measures that can be put in place.

Creating such relationships is, I believe, more crucial than ever between scientists, policymakers, communities and the private sector, where conversations can be had about how to transition to a new kind of operating space where our norms and assumptions are not necessarily longer valid.


Arriving and going forward

I think the core issue about identifying a point of change, an ending to a phase, and a new beginning is also very much about reflection.

It is also, like Priya writes, about accepting closure: about accepting that a change has occurred, that our context is not what it was before, and that now we need to embrace that change in a meaningful way.

For many of us working in climate change, watching the evidence stacking up on drastic changes worldwide, is a clear reminder of the need to accept that our conditions are changing.

Although we might have passed a threshold in global change, this doesn’t mean that there is nothing we can do.

The hope I have for climate adaptation and also similarly for greater leadership, wherever that is emerging from, is that we all stop and reflect where we are headed, what the core reasons are driving those changes, and what we can do as individuals and as a society.