Transitions come with their fair share of discontent, discomfort and frustration. For today’s episode, the intention is to help shed some light on what you might be experiencing if you are currently going through a transition or help prepare you for future transitions.
As a coach, many of my clients have recently been through a transition or going through one at the moment or sense that one is on the horizon. I myself have been on a few transitions over the past few years – leaving the industry that I had worked so hard within for so many years, soon after getting married, then becoming a mom, setting up my own business and moving countries in between.
One of the most useful resources on the topic of Transitions I believe is William Bridges who has written a book called Transitions – Making sense of life changes.
Bridges makes a fundamental distinction between transition and change. Change is something that happens outside of us. It’s external, it’s situational. For example, you move to a new city, you change job, it’s the birth of a baby or perhaps a death of a relative or a close friend and it’s happening externally. Transition, on the other hand is how you deal with those events. It’s the internal process, it’s the internal reorientation and perhaps self redefinition that you have to go through as a consequence of the changes that have happened.
In today’s episode I do draw on insights and stories as it relates to career change, but really these can be made relevant to any change and move from a to B.
As we enter into a transition very often it feels like something is falling apart. A deeper part of you is letting you know that there’s something else that needs to happen. There’s a different direction or approach needed to move forward. The feeling of discontent is almost like a symptom, a piece of information. When I sit in front of clients who are in a period of transition, they sometimes feel a little broken, but they’re not broken. They’re receiving information to look at something in order to move forward or to grow or to move through something in order to get to the other side.
Very often when we think of our career, for example, we think of it as this linear progression, but career is not a ladder. It’s a winding road. Sometimes we get these little prompts in life that something is not working and the level of fulfilment that comes from listening to those prompts makes it very worthwhile.
We don’t always hear people talking or sharing their experience of transitions and perhaps it’s because we don’t always know when we are going through a transition. If I look back at some of the transitions that I went through, I haven’t really shared too much of the detail or the feelings that I experienced throughout that time. If I recall, my first year of being a mom, I remember going from this career woman who had all this freedom and independence to throw myself into my career, to live a very independent life, to now being a mom who had decided to leave the industry that she had worked so hard to grow within, to now not knowing what my future career looked like.
William Bridges has identified the three stages of any transition stage one being the ending, stage two being the neutral zone and stage three, the new beginning.
I’ll draw on each of these throughout the episode. As I think about and recall the transitions that I’ve been through, I can safely say I bypassed the first stage, which was the ending. Very often we want to jump straight into the new beginning. We want to celebrate, we want to move into action without considering or taking time out to think about what we’re leaving behind, what has ended, what we need to let go.
I started to think about why we perhaps struggle to reflect on letting go or why letting go was so difficult or that reflection process.
And then there is the neutral stage. Definitely the stage that most people, myself included, struggle with the most with. It’s boredom, the restlessness. It feels like there is a high degree of uncertainty. It requires a lot of patience. There is a lot of waiting. I have wanted to skip over this period. I’ve wanted to know the answers. I’ve wanted to become more fulfilled immediately.
If I draw on the time I had left my career in marketing, one year in and I was beginning to feel frustrated that I had no answers. I was done exploring! I wanted answers.
The neutral zone is almost like a holding pattern. A phase of life between an ending and a new beginning. It is easy to feel frustrated, impatient, restless, angry, sometimes frustrated, wanting to know. But it’s a huge part of the process. A lot is going on inside even though sometimes it looks like there’s very little happening to the outside.
I think this is a time whereby people dread that question of what it is you’re doing. Society very often rewards action, doing, knowing, titles and roles. And when we feel like we’re in a space where we can’t answer those questions and we don’t have those answers ourselves, it can be quite a struggle. But hang tight, this is not a time to jump into something or to make too many quick decisions.
There is something happening here. Even though the nature of the neutral zone and the inaction of the neutral zone makes it a little bit more difficult to see any progress or any growth, seek support.
Then there is the final stage, which is the beginning. After doing the tough work of sitting through that period of neutrality, sitting through that discomfort of not knowing, the new way starts to feel right. The new beginning has been made or is unfolding and we start to see that the fear and the uncertainty that we had, particularly in that neutral zone, begins to dissolve a little.
For today’s episode, the intention is to help shed some light on what you might be experiencing if you are currently going through a transition. And perhaps ask yourself what stage you’re in. If you haven’t yet gone through each of these stages, can you begin to work through them, if you haven’t yet, for example, focused on stage one, which is the ending, which is the letting go, perhaps you can begin to start here and look at what that letting go can bring you as it relates to your transition. Of course, if you’re not currently going through a transition, hopefully this can help you in the future. None of us can bypass change. And with change comes transition.
Thank you so much for listening. If there is something that you’ve heard in this episode that has resonated with you or perhaps you think it could benefit someone else, then please do share this link or start the conversation. If you haven’t done so already, click on the subscribe button in your listening app.