Playing with Polarities

When you’re asked an either/or question, do you answer automatically or stop to consider more options? It’s easy to fall into the habit of thinking there is just one answer. Old stories tell of us of one path through the darkening woods, one wise leader to point the way forward, one key that will unlock the treasure at the end of the quest. Given a black-or-white option, we often choose one and hope for the best. By playing with polarities, we can fine-tune both our response to situations and how we want to show up in the moment.

Experimenting with a range of energy

Imagine that you are given a sophisticated stereo system. When you turn it on for the first time, you might only use the volume control. Later on, you return to tinker with it. Not only can you tune into various frequencies, you can adjust the treble, bass and balance in response to what is playing and all that is happening around you.

We can also make adjustments in considering our options. Our choices vary according to circumstances, and more than one answer exists. Leaning into possibilities that include both/and as well as either/or helps us to add nuance. A scorching July day and the padded silence of a January night are both valuable and necessary. Light is not better than darkness. Both simply exist.

In playing with polarity, we push through hard-edged dualities and open to a flow of creative possibilities. This is why the polarity mapping model features an infinity loop: polarity is a continuum of energy, and so are we at any given moment.

Fine-tuning polarities

The energy of each pole also contains upsides and downsides. When we slip into reaction, we may find ourselves swinging toward the downside of a pole. By noticing where we are and paying attention to this fine balance, we can shift the energy upward. The idea is to be aware of the poles and their impact, and intentional in our response.

As you look at the examples of polarities below, consider:

  • Which of these pairings speaks to you right now, and why?
  • Do you find yourself wanting to be on one side of the spectrum? Why?
  • How might context affect your balance in the dance between polarities?
  • What polarities are you working with right now – in yourself, as a change leader, and in the change work you are leading?

Examples of polarities

  • Separation < > Connection
  • Stillness < > Motion
  • Support < > Challenge
  • Action < > Reflection
  • Prediction < > Response
  • Planned < > Emergent
  • Consultative < > Directive
  • Inquiring/Understanding < > Advocating/Explaining
  • Being < > Doing
  • Compassion < > Wisdom
  • Certainty < > Ambiguity
  • Daily Functioning < > VIsion and Mission
  • Mastery < > Mystery
  • Both/and < > Either/or

At Novalda, we hold the contrasting polarities of courageous authenticity and compassionate wisdom in supporting our clients. To work with these polarities, imagine that you are tuning into the balancing point at the centre of an infinite loop. Your intention is to draw on the upsides of both poles, while minimizing the downside. 

Infinity loop of light; upsides and downsides of the polarities of courage and compassion

Working with polarity means to surf a wave of energy, balancing and responding to the cues you receive in the moment. Like all that we do at Novalda, this approach is a way to challenge and support you as a leader of change.

If you’re interested in exploring polarities or any of our other change leadership services, we invite you toschedule a no-obligation meeting to discuss possibilities.

As director of Novalda,Kerry Woodcockdevelops core, collective and change leadership capacity in leaders, teams and organizations, coaching pioneers and influencers to amplify the power of relationship and lead over the edge of change. 

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