During our lives we go through many changes and transitions. And at the moment, with the pandemic, many of us are either having unwelcome change foisted upon us or are reconsidering what is important in our lives and careers. Perhaps you are thinking of making positive changes so you can be happier and more fulfilled, but wondering how.
Change can be hard, so it can help to have some ideas for how to navigate it. And the first step to navigating change and transition is to understand the process.
For this blog I have drawn from my work as a coach supporting people through change and transition, from my own experience of changing career in my early 50s, and from a brilliant book called Transitions by William Bridges that I use a lot with clients.
Definitions of change and transition
Change is the external situation: the redundancy, the job change, the new career, the restructure, the change in lifestyle, the new child or partner, the divorce, the move to another part of the country.
Transition is the inner psychological shift that we go through as a result of the change, to come to terms with what it means for us, to ‘make it stick’ and ultimately move forward.
Without properly going through the process of transition, change will only be superficial or may not work at all.
Sally* (not a real person but a familiar situation) has been made redundant from a job that she loves and has poured her heart into. She still identifies herself with this role and her life in this organisation, so that even while she feels the need to look forward and make a change of job or career, she feels lost and stuck. That is because she needs to go through the transition process. She first needs to come to terms with her loss, rediscover who she is and what she really wants now, and only then can she finally move forward as her ‘newly updated self’. If she changes her work but hasn’t dealt with the situation, she won’t manage to rebuild the working life that is right for her.
(By the way, I am not saying here that if Sally needs to get a new job for financial reasons, that she shouldn’t do it, but that she will still need to go through the process of transition at some point before she can truly move forward).
The three stages of transition (according to William Bridges)
Any transition starts with an ending. A loss which is internal. It might be a loss of connection with your work, a feeling that something isn’t right for you anymore. Even a positive change brings about an ending – for example, the couple who have their first child, who are delighted with their new life but also simultaneously might mourn the loss of their freer life. Or the person who has got a great new job, but needs to say goodbye to the feeling of comradeship and ease they had in their old working life.
The neutral zone
This is the uncomfortable, messy bit you have to go through in the middle to get through to the other side. When you no longer feel part of one world but haven’t yet reached the other. The empty bit, full of confusion. It sometimes comes with a feeling of separation and you will feel you need space so you can have time to think about what you need in order to go forward. If you do rush the process, there is a danger of going backwards to the old career, the old you and you will probably need to do it all over again. This period comes with the question ‘who am I now’ and is a time of self-discovery. It takes patience and can’t be rushed. But it is necessary and worth it to get to….
The new beginning
Finally, you have come to terms with what is gone, you have rediscovered yourself in your current situation and you can integrate that learning in your life or career to move forward. You feel rejuvenated, renewed and ready for the next stage of your life.
Does any of this resonate with you?
It certainly did with me when several years ago, my coach Lois recommended William Bridge’s book to me. I was in a successful leadership career in museums and galleries, but in the last five years or so, I felt like it no longer had the same meaning for me and I knew I needed a change. I just didn’t know what. I took me a few years, but since then I have retrained as a coach and set up my business Kim Gowland Coaching. I have never felt happier or more fulfilled and I know I am where I need to be. But I went through the same transition process I have talked about above.
I now support others through change and transition in my online group coaching programme Brilliant Transitions. This programme is about supporting you through the changes in your life and career, helping you to build clarity and confidence, and to take the actions you need to fulfil your personal and professional potential. You will gain inspiration, reassurance and support from a small group of likeminded people.
Contact me for more information on linked on or email me at kim@kimgowlandcoaching.
Join my Brilliant Transitions facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/brilliantransitions