Transitions are never easy, but recently some of my clients have been navigating especially choppy waters. As a coach, I try to be a lighthouse that helps my clients steer their ships away from rocks on which they may wreck. Sometimes the danger actually lies on shores that seem safe because they are familiar.
During our coaching sessions, my clients articulate what they want to become in the next phase of their life or career and how they are taking steps towards that goal. Inevitably, when we are in these moments of transition we begin to hit roadblocks, and we start to wonder whether we should persist. The “same old, same old” is calling us back to the ledge we left behind as we leapt, and the “new and scary” does not seem ready to embrace us with open arms on the other side. We end up stuck in the middle of the void, in the uncomfortable position that William Bridges calls “the Neutral Zone,” where the old You doesn’t fit anymore, and the new You has yet to manifest.
In The Neutral Zone
The Neutral Zone is a place of confusion, uncertainty, chaos, false starts and contradictions. It can feel like a free-fall, and many of us actually experience memory blanks, lost wallets and phones, illnesses, near misses and even accidents.
As individuals see the ledge receding behind them, they come up with statements like:
- But I actually love my job, my house, etc.—and yet opportunities are drying up, the nest is now empty and too much to maintain, etc.
- I am really good at what I do—and yet the errors you make are multiplying
- I just need a holiday—and yet the last holidays you took weren’t reenergizing
- We just need some time to work it out—and yet your relationship is faltering
In my experience, we can rationalize all we want, but we also know deep down when we have reached the end of a particular road.
The good news is that once we have truly let go, we start our metamorphosis towards the new. We may not see clearly what lies ahead, but we now know we are moving towards a new phase in our life.
3 Ways To Make Transitions Easier
After experiencing many such transitions in my own life, I know three things that have made it easier for my clients who are travelling through the Neutral Zone:
1. Say “no” to what no longer seems right.
My clients offer wonderful examples of determination when they say “No, Not anymore!” They also demonstrate the value of patience when they say “Maybe one more time” or “Maybe next month.” And that’s all right too. No transition can be rushed.
But remember: when your energy or soul isn’t in the work that you do or the life you are living and you continue on the same path, you are not honouring who you are becoming and will lose more in the end.
When we hang on to what we know, we increase the risk of failure. What used to be fail proof no longer is. We trip over ourselves and miss all the cues because we have changed and are no longer who we used to be.
2. Saying “yes” to new opportunities even when you are not 100% sure.
For many of us, the impostor syndrome is real. We don’t feel prepared enough, good enough, sure enough to step into unfamiliar territory. Even those who exude confidence can sometimes be faking it ‘til they make it!
In my life, I have realized that I have never been 100% ready for opportunities. I have prepared as best I can and said “yes” when they came my way. The vast majority of clients I have coached have opened their eyes to realize the opportunity was right there for the taking, once they had put on new lenses.
It would be easier to say “yes” if we were able to see the opening when we jumped and where we are going to land, but it seems change and transition means that we must don our brand new superhero suit and leaping into the opening.
3. Being Patient.
During transitions, you may simply not know which way is up or down, or whether to say Yes or No. You are simply a ball of confusion bouncing around the Neutral Zone. With patience, we can sit with the uncertainty and turmoil, knowing that this too shall pass. By following our internal compass when the fog is the thickest, we will find our way. One decision, one step, one day at a time.
Looking forward to reading about your experiences!