Ready to leave the old but not sure what the new is? In that painful in-between place? Ahhhhhh transitions — the sometimes tricky challenge of moving from one world or way of being into another. When life kicks us out of our comfort zone so we are forced to Become Our Next Self.
There is a terrific author named Bill Bridges, who has done a lot of research on the topic of transition. I particularly like his book The Way of Transition. In it (and in his other books) he explains the typical stages of transition. That we tend to do through three big ‘Ds’: disenchantment, disidentification and disorientation (the neutral zone) before we pop out the other side and stabilize into our Next Self.
1. Disenchantment Phase:
Disenchantment is the phase where I often meet my clients. They come for coaching or my specialized graphics training because they are looking for something different – the same ol’ same ol’ just doesn’t cut it and they want a life that will work better for them. Disenchantment is the same as the first stage in my SHIFT-IT process: Satisfaction Interrupted.
Might be an entrepreneur who wants to change the nature or pace of her or his business. A skilled professional who is good at but bored by their status quo. Or, a corporate employee who is faced with a career change after a downsizing or layoff. Whatever the circumstances, they are disenchanted with the phase they are now in and are searching for something better.
2. Dis-identification Phase:
After or during the disenchantment phase a person in transition enters into dis-identification. In this phase they either voluntarily dis-identify themselves from their old life, or something happens to that causes a separation. Their old identity starts to break up.
For myself, this happened many years ago when I was no longer satisfied with being a Graphic Recorder and went through the stages of becoming a Graphic Facilitator and then developing my own unique Graphic Coaching niche. The proverbial s#it hit the fan as a core relationship also broke up during this time and I moved countries (sometimes transitions happen in clusters). I had to drop identification with one identity in order for a new one to emerge.
3. Wandering in the Neutral Zone (Disorientation):
What happens next is a disorientation phase, where one can feel really lost and confused and alone. Where you have let go of the old on an emotional level (maybe not physical) but the new hasn’t come into focus yet. A limbo land. Like letting go of one trapeze and hoping the other one will emerge in time for you to grab it.
Bridges has coined the phrase ‘the neutral zone’ to eloquently describe this experience. Like wandering in the desert or being on your own personal pilgrimage. It is a kind of spiritual experience to get through your neutral zone and emerge out the other side. Difficult to hang in there when you don’t really know what you are doing or where you are going. Or how things will somehow stabilize into a new reality.
It is fitting to be writing about transitions as we go into a new season. When you are in it, the neutral zone can seem like it goes on forever with no end in sight. However that is not the case. It is ‘not terminal’ as Bridges reassures. The signs of a new season will eventually reveal themselves.
Things You Can Do to Ease Your Transition:
Draw Your Life Map: To get a sense of these cycles it is often very helpful to map out your life journey to date. So you can SEE your own cycle of transition and change and view how things really do morph and shift, like a stream finding its way through the landscape. Creating your Life Map will help you appreciate that. To sense that a New Story is brewing, even if you don’t yet know all the particulars of what and how.
Get a Coach: A good coach will not only help you appreciate your past and the natural ebb and flow of transitions, she can help you define and claim your New Story, build it into a tangible and inspiring vision and get your next steps and actions into order. And help you deal with the mental and emotional challenges of ‘not knowing’ until you do so you become a cooperative component in your own change.
Join a Mastermind: Another excellent option is to find or create a coaching group (sometimes called a Mastermind) that brings other people in transition together. Not only will you receive your own individual coaching but you’ll benefit from hearing and witnessing what other members of your cohort are going through and receive support, encouragement, ideas and resources from them. See my SHIFT-IT Virtual Group and Merkley’s Manifestation Mastermind as examples.
Learn Self-Soothing Skills: While in a transition, it helps to learn how to soothe and soften your negative thoughts and feelings. Tell yourself that ‘this too shall pass’ and ‘clarity will emerge’ and ‘its normal to go through shifts like this’. When you are in a transition its an excellent time to improve your self nurturance and self-support skills. You need increased support during this time, not increased criticism and judgment.
Discovery and Solidify Your New Story
Eventually you emerge from your neutral zone. Something pops (either subtly or obviously). Things begin to make more sense. The right actions become more apparent. Seemingly disparate interests and skills come together. Certain events and happenings reveal themselves as catalysts and your path unfolds.
You find yourself inhabiting a new world, different from the old – created by your actions but also from your faith, perseverance and trust. A marriage of doing and being. You have popped out to the other side. And you marvel at how it all did come together … after all! Might sound Pollyanna, but its been my pleasure to witness it time and time again – not only in the lives of my clients but in my own life too. You will Become Your Next Self and that is a very cool thing!
© 2009 Christina L. Merkley
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Christina Merkley, "The SHIFT-IT Coach" and creator of the SHIFT-IT Method® is a Visioning and Strategic Planning Expert specializing in Graphic Facilitation and Law of Attraction techniques. Based in charming Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, she works deeply with individuals, partners and groups in defining and getting what they really, really want. For more information visit: www.shift-it-coach.com
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