By Danielle Siegel, PCC, LCSW. This past year has been a year of change for most of us, and it’s possible that there are still more changes ahead. Maybe you are going back to an office after getting used to working from home or you are taking on a new job or maybe your first or last child is off to college and you will be an empty nester. Whatever it is, change is not always easy to navigate, but there are ways to move forward from a place of optimism and not being stuck.
William Bridges identifies three phases of transition which are Endings, The Neutral Zone and New Beginnings. Often, our struggle with change is not honoring and spending time in each of these phases. If you are in the process of transition or have an upcoming change in our life, allowing yourself time to explore your state of being in each of these phases can help smooth the transition.
When transitioning from one life experience to another, we are leaving one behind. We can forget to focus on the losses of what we will be leaving. For example, if you are transitioning back to an office (even if you can’t wait to do this), think about what losses you may incur. These could be the loss of free time that the commute takes, loss of more connectedness with family, loss of flexibility in working from home, etc.
Losses may be around control, time, competence or narrative. Once you have identified your losses, Bridges suggests some helpful questions to ask yourself. Now that this change occurred, what old ways of doing things must I give up? What needs do I have that will no longer be met? How can I meet those needs in other ways? How can I grieve these losses and say goodbye?
The Neutral Zone
Bridges defines the “neutral zone” as the time between an ending of the old and the beginning of the new. It’s like a state of limbo because the old is now gone and the new has not yet begun. A metaphor that comes to mind for me is it’s like a tunnel. You look backwards and you see the old, forwards the light of the new, and you are in the space between. This can be a difficult place to be. It can be helpful to shift your mindset to be present in this space rather than missing the past or rushing towards what is next. Give yourself permission to reflect on what it is like to be in this space. Set some short term goals for yourself to give you a focus during this time.
You have arrived at your new beginning! You may have feelings of ambivalence or excitement. You are no longer in the limbo of the neutral zone, as you have now committed to something. This may lead to reminders of the losses that you identified, and you may need to process these losses again. Often times this new beginning is a risk. We don’t know the future and what it will look like. Don’t forget that with this new beginning, you are in a transition process.
How do you want to envision your new reality? For more about transitions, navigating change, and developing your leadership skills, schedule a consultation with Danielle.