Mobius Centre

Life in Transition

Posted on: April 5th, 2017 by mobiusleadership No Comments

Transitions are all around at the moment – of course, they are ever present.

Maybe it’s the ease or challenge of them that makes them more or less noticeable. Transitions in business, health, personal self-awareness, relationships and also the ultimate transition – the ending of a life.

One of the books that keeps its spot on my bookshelf to be pulled down at regular intervals is by William Bridges (an appropriate name given the topic of his book). It is titled ‘Transitions- Making Sense of Life’s Changes’. The cover describes it as a book with ‘Strategies for coping with the difficult, painful and confusing times in your life’. I would also add that joyful and very positive transitions can still benefit from a little careful, considered navigation.

As familiar foundations and relied upon experience start to shift and slip away – we are often left scrabbling for a new normality. And therein lies the challenge – we often try to grasp what appears to be a new normal before it’s fully formed only for the ground to shift again, further destabilising us and leading to more confusion.

Transitions don’t follow a pre-determined path no matter how much we might wish that were so. However, Bridges does offer a useful road-map that can be borne in mind. He suggests there are three stages:

Endings. Recognise them as opportunities as well as losses, and even celebrate them with rituals designed to open new doors.

The Neutral Zone. A seemingly unproductive ‘time-out’, we feel disconnected from the past and emotionally unconnected to the present. It can be the most frightening stage of transition, however, it is a really important time for reorientation.

The New Beginning. A successful transition requires more than perseverance; it means launching new priorities. Understand the external and internal signs that point the way to your future.

In our culture of speed, have we lost respect for the importance and significance of rituals, which mark endings and new beginnings. Have they become simply a tick in the box?

I believe we are particularly challenged to stand in The Neutral Zone for whatever time is necessary believing that we have to ‘get on’ often forcing the new to emerge before it’s fully formed – sometimes with negative consequences. Like peeling back the petals on a rose bud trying to bring it into flower – it’s not going to end well.

Like all of us – I’ve navigated a few transitions over the years. Bridges 3 stages have been helpful to me and I’ve also collected few of my own thoughts:

  1. Transitions demand courage; courage to face the loss, courage to stay the course and courage to ask for what you need when you need it.
  2. Give yourself full permission to stay in The Neutral Zone; many well-intentioned people will have plenty to offer by way of advice and suggestions. Listen respectfully, and make your own choices. Use the time to explore and experiment.
  3. Embrace the opportunity for change – it might not feel like it at the time but this could just be what you need in your life at this point.
  4. Transitions come in all sizes and timeframes. Life changing transitions to simply shifting from work mode into family/spouse mode at the end of the day– that walk in the park or journey home is your Neutral Zone.
  5. Lean in! Having a strong sense of self gives you something to lean into when your very identity gets rocked
  6. Be willing to share the load – my transitions wouldn’t have been as successful if I hadn’t been willing to seek and accept help, support and many hugs along the way.

However stable life feels at the moment – there is change just around the corner – it is a given nowadays. How well prepared are you for your next transition? What might you need to do to be ready?

Sarah Matthews is a Director of Mobius Leadership and owner of the Mobius Retreat Centre on Heir Island, West Cork, Ireland.

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