One of the ways I know I have reached a threshold, whether clear or not, is that I feel an inner struggle. Geraldine Brooks, in the afterword of People of the Book, articulates it well:
There is great intelligence in an inner struggle; it is instruction from self to self. It is often inconvenient or painful to explore because that means acknowledging the status quo is not good enough. The inner struggle is a sign that there is improvement needed, and sometimes it is hard to admit that what I have, or what I am doing, or done, is not good enough.
I get caught in a trap of my own creation when I allow myself to be threatened by what could be, allowing myself to believe that what I have been doing is bad. Instead, I can focus on the potential of what could be, if I make the choice. I can recognize that much of what I have done was appropriate for the context of the time. I can be honest with myself about what could have been better, for this is healthy reflection, but I don’t need to beat myself up. I need to learn and improve.
My aim is to constantly, endlessly, shift and adjust and improve. To do this, I have to consciously explore my inner struggles to see how I undermine improvement, how I sabotage myself and my dreams. When I move into a mindset of being threatened, I choose to sabotage myself by defending my earlier actions, blaming anything else for why something didn’t work. It is hard to admit that I could have made a different choice, but I have a choice about how to handle that very choice.
The inner struggle can happen at any scale of time, over a few minutes, hours, years or a lifetime. As awful as it feels, for Bruce Grierson, it is what powers our way over a threshold into a new way of being:
To have reached that spot is to be standing over the proverbial frozen sea with an ax… It’s genuinely wanting something different for yourself… The internal struggle that will ultimately power the turnaround has been set in motion… there is no struggle…
The struggle as I approach a threshold can be huge, just as I imaging approaching a cliff, and taking a first look at the chasm in front of me. As the need to leap grows, I will find the inner strength to cross and one I have made that choice, the struggle disappears.
This inner struggle takes place in each of us as individuals, and also as collectives. As families, neighbourhoods, organizations, cities, nations and as a species, we struggle with how to deliver health care, organize economic systems, feed and shelter everyone, and ensure our planet habitat is healthy for us to live on. For our cities to be well, we need to deeply explore our struggles as individuals and as collectives. When we do, we will see what we really need to do to improve the quality of life of citizens and cities.
The struggles we feel individually and collectively are powering us up to be better citizens to create better cities.
What are you struggling with?
What is your city struggling with?
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This post forms part of Chapter 6 – Emerging Thresholds, of Nest City: The Human Drive to Thrive in Cities. Click here for an overview of Chapters 4-7 (Part 2 – Organizing for Emergence). Click here for an overview of the three parts of Nest City.
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Geraldine Brooks, People of the Book, p. 310 (Afterword – reference to Mira Papo, a young Jewish Partisan in Sarajevo and which is in the collection of Yad Vashem.)
Bruce Grierson, U-Turn: What if you woke up one morning and realized you were living the wrong life?, p. 118
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