If there’s one theme that’s followed all of my professional career, it’s this — transitions are trying.
Why Transitions are Trying
In reality, the best use of change management skills were surprisingly — or not so surprisingly — during the 15 years I worked as a real estate agent. Change stinks!
What I witnessed first-hand while working with hundreds of families is what William Bridges mapped out in his famous model that describes why transitions are so hard. A huge stressor in life is when you sit between two places — the way it was, and the way it will be.
The shift between the past and the future is a slow, shifty, unsettled place Bridges calls the ‘Neutral Zone’. Transition happens as Bridges describes it, in the process of letting go during your time in the Neutral Zone.
Tricky Transitions in the Time of Pandemic
In December I wrote for the Insight Timer blog about how the year 2020 engulfed us, without a moment to transition, and why that leaves an emotional challenge.
Now as spring begins, the days are getting longer, the daffodils are starting to grow, the vaccines have arrived. Hope is on the horizon again! But even a New Beginning full of positive things can be a challenging transition. Think about the bittersweet moments that come with huge milestones like becoming a parent or getting married or retiring. Benefits and excitement, absolutely. But also a lot of adjustments, and apprehension and the insecurity that comes with trying new things.
How To Ease Into Transition
In my 20s I lived in Chicago and played in a group tennis league with a great group of friends. The first season started in March, but I didn’t show up until May. Chicago is famous for its ‘cooler by the lake’ weather patterns which creates natural air conditioning in August, but makes for miserable spring tennis! The next season I showed up in March. I let go of my expectations of when summer starts. And to this day I still remind myself, ‘If you wait for the weather to show up in order to enjoy summer, you’ll miss the whole season!”
The incredibly taxing social, health, wellness, political and medical phenomena of the COVID-19 pandemic will take years for us to fully put it behind. But here are some ideas to help you start seeing what’s Ending, as we all begin to live in the New Beginning. These are ideas as we live right now in the Neutral Zone:
- The obvious first — write in your journal. Keep the prompts simple, like:
What’s going on?
Or my internal weather report right now is…
- Always end in reflection. Remember, transitions are not easy. Reflection Writing is a really simple way for self-care, self-soothing and self-growth in whatever combo you need those!
- Watch for patterns. You don’t want to wait for the warm, perfect weather of summer before you start enjoying the summer! After a while, using simple prompts like the ones above on a regular basis will help you see the movement happening in your world. Like a daffodil sprouting you’ll witness and learn from your own transition as it unfolds.
- Be patient. Transitions do not move in a logical line. As we shift into a post-pandemic world, some days will be full of hope and excitement, others will be stressful or discouraging. Be present to whatever is happening, remind yourself that the Neutral Zone is constantly shifting and keep a focus on what you are learning about yourself and your own resiliency.
- Try. We’re all waiting for the all-clear from the CDC and other health experts that the time for safety measures is complete. We’re getting closer, but not there yet. In the meantime, it’s OK to start thinking about a wishlist for ‘normal’ experiences, or to start figuring out how to get back to some old activities again that work most easily within the safety protocols.
Assessing Where You Are
As you think about the Neutral Zone, here’s a way to consider where you are at right now.
Picture your favorite pair of ‘evening out’ jeans. Where are they right now? How weird would it feel to pull them out again? To try them on? To wear them out in public?
Isn’t that crazy how a simple pair of jeans can carry so much baggage right now?
Sorting through that sort of experience is what the Neutral Zone is all about.
The Cool Thing about Letting Go
What I remember most from my days selling real estate is that moment when I saw a client finally let go. Happens in a split-second. But then there is JOY!
The process was always something along the lines of starting with apprehension about finding a place that was ‘just right’. And then apprehension about packing, finding a new grocery store, meeting the neighbors, saying goodbye to cherished memories. And finally whether it was before a contract was even signed, or after settling in for a while, that moment of Letting Go, of taking more steps in the world of the New Beginning than in the Ending. And from that point, more and more steps into the New Beginning each time.
It won’t be easy, but the New Beginning is starting. The last year has aged us, but we’ve learned so much about being resilient. Be patient in the Neutral Zone. Use it for the springboard that it is. See you in the New Beginning, let’s shoot for sooner rather than later!
More Tools for Transition
I teach Insight Writing as a method for journaling that is inspired, efficient and insightful. Whether for general self-care or in a time of transition, Insight Writing is an amazing way to tap the wisdom within you. For more information, find free samples, free mini-podcasts or a list of available workshops on my website. Or find me on Dabble where you can sign up for mini-workshops or drop-in for a free class! My featured class on Dabble is called, “Transition Time | Leaving 2020 in the Rearview Mirror!”