The Thin Place


"Heaven and earth are only three feet apart, but in the thin places that distance is even smaller." –Celtic Saying

We are at the thin place of the calendar, where two years meet. As 2010 passes and 2011 is born, Transformational Leaders take stock of the lessons of the passing year.

They recognize endings and beginnings are an unparalleled opportunity for breaking with the status quo and making positive changes.

Cultural anthropologist Angeles Arrien reminds us that there are four ways to end something well – an experience, a phase of relationship, even a year. They are: expressing gratitude, acknowledging positive impact, recognizing challenges met, and making reparations.


Expressing Gratitude

    At the thin place of the year, we are called to reflect on all that we are grateful for...the people, events and opportunities that made our personal and business lives more meaningful and abundant.

    • Who helped you this year, taught you something new, filled you with optimism and inspired you to grow?
    • What events and opportunities made you stronger, more creative and more productive?
    • What were the blessings of relationship that made the year more meaningful?

    Gratitude opens the heart and supports generosity. Beginning the New Year with gratitude and generosity can make a positive difference in our ability to meet the unfolding future with optimism and confidence.

    "We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures" wrote Thornton Wilder.


    Acknowledging Positive Impact

    Transformational Leaders pay attention to the positive impact of experience because they recognize that it is an agent of knowledge, skills, insights, discoveries and realizations that empower us for the journey ahead.

    Every experience leaves its mark upon us and contributes to our originality. Experience is always singular and sensual. No two people ever have an identical set of experiences during their lifetime, although we all benefit and grow from experiences and events we share in common.

    At year's end, it is important to take stock of who and what has made a positive impact on our lives:

    • What people or events impacted you for the better this year? How?
    • What activities made you happy or supported your growth and development?
    • What world figures and events inspired you to dream or enlarged your vision?


    Recognizing Challenges Met

      The third practice at the thin place is to acknowledge the people and situations that challenged you to grow this past year.

      A challenge is the stimulation that comes from a test of the heart, intellect or will. The purpose of a challenge is four-fold: to call forward our personal power; to fund new resources; to teach us how to apply these powers and resources; and to expose that which requires strengthening.

      When we meet a challenge and overcome it, we have empirical evidence of our empowerment, skills and growth.

      When we fall short of our goals or expectations, we discover what needs strengthening or what changes are required for forward progress. The knowledge that comes from failure, applied to the next attempt, creates progress.

      Successes and failures that come from challenges are part of the Transformational Leader's way. As such, we honor the gift of learning and growth by recognizing these lessons daily.

      At the thin place of the year, we have a unique opportunity to reflect on the role of challenges in our lives:

      • Who or what has challenged you to grow in 2010?
      • Where did a breakthrough occur?
      • How did you respond to breakdown or failure?
      • To whom do you owe a debt of thanks for helping you grow into your best self?

      As we face the challenges of leadership, we begin to see that the idea of what a human being can achieve and the reality of what is possible are often far apart. We are far more creatively potent than we know, a truth revealed through a challenge.


      Making Reparations

        The fourth practice at the thin place is to repair damage done to relationships either because a task has been mishandled or an injury has been caused through our words or actions.

        Endings, including year-end, are a natural time to examine our impact on others, both positive and negative.

        • Have you hurt anyone this past year through your words or actions?
        • Have you disappointed others by what you have done or not done?
        • Have you been negative or cynical and had a negative impact on other people?
        • Have you misused power in some way, bullied another person, or used fear as a tactic to get your way?

        We all make mistakes. It takes a strong heart to take responsibility for a mistake or an injury to others.

        Personal responsibility, courage, and truth telling are required for reparation. That... and a good apology.

        An apology is an expression of regret that seeks to repair damage done to a relationship. Angeles Arrien reminds us that an apology is empty when there is no promise to change the behavior that caused the damage in the first place.



        Transformational Leaders seek to enter a New Year with no regrets, no baggage, and empowered by the past for the year ahead. That is why they are careful to give gratitude, express positive impact, recognize challenges met and make reparations.

        Use these four practices at the thin place. They are catalysts for a breakthrough.

        Happy New Year!

        Posted on December 1, 2010 .