The world seems to be changing faster than ever. The pandemic sent a stark reminder of something that has always been true: everything is temporary. Some changes affecting our lives are driven by us and some changes seem to be happening to us. Some changes we welcome, others we wish we could have avoided.
Whatever the change is, it forms us, right? Just think of recent changes you encountered in your personal and professional life… Often we think that if we initiated a change, we should be happy, focusing on the new that is replacing the old. But even the most welcome changes, for example, a longed-for addition of a new family member or a new job responsibility start with an ending that wants to be acknowledged.
Changes are the outer circumstances that affect your life and transitions are the internal processes you are going through as your life changes. Each transition starts with an “Ending”, continues with a “Neutral Zone” and ends with a “New Beginning” (Bridges and Bridges, 2019). Acknowledging where we are in this internal process can help us move through it consciously and help us grow as a person and leader.
Especially when external change is welcome (e.g. the desired promotion, new job, new relationship, or a new family member…) we often forget that there is another phase in our life that we needed to let go of. Questions that help acknowledge this are: What thoughts or habits do I need to let go of as they no longer fit the life stage I am currently in? What emotions want to be acknowledged (felt) to help me do that? Especially, when the change was unwelcome, there may be elements of grief, anger, or sadness that want to move through us.
The neutral zoneThis phase is often experienced as unpleasant and confusing. It is hard as we often rather hang on to parts of our old life or are keen to focus on the new beginning. This is a phase of “emptiness”, of “not knowing”. The way to move through it is to stop doing and allowing yourself to just BE. Take time for yourself, sit in stillness, walk in nature, or whatever resonates with you. Often, we believe that we need time to “figure things out” or “think it through”. However, this process cannot be hurried. It is usually out of acceptance and nondoing that we can become empty enough for our self-renewal.
The beginningis the end of our transition. Although we might have heard or seen things many times before they now resonate and register differently with us. Our perspective has changed and new internal and external possibilities open up. Finally, the way we experience the world around us seems to be in greater harmony with our emerging “new self”.
* “Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes” by William Bridges, PhD, and Susan Bridges. William Bridges Associates. 2019.