Most of us can look back and note times in life when our ideas and corresponding actions seemed to shift from one trajectory to another. The religious term “conversion” represents such a change, but there are others such as “falling in love” or the adoption of a cause through personal crisis or simple curiosity.
Whenever a person experiences a paradigm shift to a different level of reality, Metanoia is what occurred. It is what has happened when I literally, “put away childish things”, like treating my spouse in a certain way based on the way I saw my parents behave with one another, or treating my colleagues and employees as I might have treated others in the schoolyard.
As so many companies have lately discovered, real change must come from within. The promise of a rebranding effort may inspire people outside the company. But if the company’s board, leaders, and employees carry on the corrosive personal conduct or exploitive manufacturing process of the “old way”, and do not live the change of heart the new brand suggests, the company is almost guaranteed to be worse off than before it rebranded!
Tolerance for such self-serving dishonesty from corporate citadels is at an all-time low, and the backlash when it is discovered usually reaches crisis state in a timeframe of hours, not months or years. When such debacles occur, PR spin and cover operations to rehab tarnished images are no longer viable means of recovery, because popular opinion favors the authentic.
Today, it is imperative that companies actually are what they say they are and do what they say they do. This, then, is where metanoia becomes crucial in business practice.
Metanoia is the gateway to the hallowed grounds of integrity. [TWEET THAT!]
“A rising tide lifts all boats”
The accumulated impact of a change of heart in one person after another gradually begins to raise the standards for “normal” behavior. And so it begins, by definition, with the non-conformity of one or a few. This requires unusual courage – not of fearlessness, but of conviction.
Some years ago, I became convinced that the profit-only model we assume as bedrock business practice is actually compromising the present and future stability of not just our companies and livelihoods, but the planet itself. Furthermore, I began to think that business was capable of far more “good” than I had seen it deliver, and even dared to imagine that I might have a role (perhaps only a small one) to play in encouraging such outcomes. And quickly, I began to seek more impact for and contribution to others through my profitable consulting business, and my commitment to pure revenue growth shifted and became part of a much greater purpose. It was a paradigm shift – a game changer – and has produced some very meaningful outcomes, among which is my writing on this subject of “Telosity”.
Recently, in examination of this phenomenon in my own life and that of others, I have looked to discover more about the anatomy of this kind of change of heart – this metanoia –and how central it is to the question of “how” a business organization can bring its purpose to life.
Metanoia seems to have seven distinct characteristics which can be summed up in this statement: something boundless and unexpected, beyond reason and mysteriously compelling that sparks non-conformity borne of conviction, a deeper connection to others, and fuller knowledge of our own story and identity, toward a new world.
- Boundless and Unexpected: Metanoia invites us to embrace something – a cause or a new reality that is simply larger, often much, much, larger than we are. Through it, we are drawn beyond our previously understood limits, outside of our comfort zone and into an unexpected domain. We become part of something larger and that “something” often yields a deeper sense of meaning and purpose.
- Beyond Reason: While our minds are often rigorously engaged in reason and thought may dominate the discovery of our new point of view after the metanoia, the experience itself always transcends mere reason and is often intensely, deeply personal. It is not simply that we change our minds or even that they are persuaded to change, but rather that we are ourselves changed.
- Mysteriously Compelling: Like the forest fire that creates its own wind, an experience of metanoia brings with it an energy that lifts us beyond the mere contingencies of our own resources. We find ourselves caught up in something more powerful than any force of will we might generate. Metanoia produces momentum greater than even our own desires, momentum that mysteriously propels our shift in attitude or action.
- Non-conformity Borne of Conviction: The simple phrase, “a change of heart and mind,” implies the fact that metanoia always involves some kind of rejection of the status quo, and for those who have experienced metanoia, to remain in the place of the present becomes intolerable, even impossible. This is usually an outwardly noticeable aspect of metanoia, as it may involve a change in physical factors such as priorities for action, relationships, or even whole career trajectories. Such non-conformity does not result from a lack of fear, but rather arises from deep-seated conviction. At a much deeper and even sub-conscious level, metanoia may involve the rejection of long-ingrained patterns of thought, habit, or action due to things like childhood experiences, adaptation to environments, or response to our own suffering.
- Connection to Others: Through metanoia we are inevitably drawn into deeper relationships with others. We often speak of “joining” a movement – something we cannot manufacture alone. Through metanoia we discover connections to others that deny the myth of our isolated self and bind us in a shared unity not to something else, but to someone
- Knowledge of our own Story and Identity: We may consider ourselves to be “self-made”; we are not. Rather, our self emerges from the complexities of our unique narrative. Metanoia draws us to a better understanding of that narrative, which is why we desire it, and yet are often afraid of the personal consequences that usually result, which for the most part lie beyond our control.
- Toward a New World: As metanoia opens us to broader horizons than those of our own creation and previous understanding, we discover opportunities and paths that were unexpected or even un-imagined. We are opened to new possibilities through which our identity and capabilities are enlarged perhaps even beyond our wildest dreams. We find ourselves in a “bigger world”, compelled to work toward a vision we have been granted of a “better world”. With such enlargement of vision comes an invitation to bring more of ourselves than we may have even known existed with full commitment to a task or role we could not have imagined.
We all have experienced metanoia at one time or another. Many of us may be able to reflect on our stories and locate with ease those remarkable and pivotal moments in our lives when “everything changed”, when we felt almost as if we had become “a different person” – experiences which altered the path of our narrative in fundamental and profoundly influential ways. Often, metanoia can draw us from a trajectory of a diminished self onto a journey into life in all its fullness and through which we will become more fully ourselves.
A few real-life examples of (what appear to us) the effects of metanoia may help unpack this idea further:
- A world leader who ascended to the stratosphere of democracy commits “political suicide” to become an advocate and chief spokesman in support of the politically controversial issue of climate change.
- A doctor leaves the comforts of home, a stable job, and the community she grew up in to serve people who live on the streets of a vast urban center.
- A highly proficient CEO abandons the only success measures his business has ever known and reconstructs a resource-intensive multinational company to set it on a path toward neutral environmental impact.
- A successful young star in the banking industry hops off the corporate ladder to pursue things more meaningful to her than designing and selling credit cards.
- An economist and aspiring businessman denies conventional wisdom and lends his own money to impoverished entrepreneurs in Bangladesh, soon revolutionizing banking and poverty reduction efforts worldwide.
- A veteran employee goes out of her way to spend time after work mentoring a young new hire struggling to find her way within the team and company.
Look around, the signs are everywhere.
For other posts in the Telosity series, click here.