In Support Of New Beginnings
Did you create some goals or a vision for your life in 2019? If you did, you have said yes to change – and launched yourself into a period of transition. Transitions can be challenging – and if we don’t understand the way they unfold, it’s tempting to give up on our goals or vision – and sink back into familiar patterns.
According to Wikipedia, a transition is the “process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another.” But to really understand transition, we need to go deeper than that. In his book, ‘Transitions,” William Bridges describes transition as occurring in three distinct phases. He suggests that every transition begins with an ending, and ends with a new beginning. In between these points lies what he terms ‘the neutral zone’ – a time that is characterized by uncertainty and lack of clarity, typically making it an uncomfortable place to be. So, let’s take a look at the three phases of transition.
Phase 1: Endings
When we choose to begin something new or make a change, it typically requires that we move away from or let go of some aspect of our lives. Even when we are excited and committed about our new path, the process of letting go of old patterns, old actions, or relationships, is often accompanied by a grieving process. Even when we are glad to ‘let go’ of a pattern, we can find ourselves experiencing a sense of loss – along with sadness, anger or fear. This can be an uncomfortable and difficult place to find ourselves. It helps to remind ourselves that this is a ‘normal’ response – but what else might support us in the endings phase of transition?
Supportive strategies for endings phase
- Name the ending or loss, as well as the accompanying emotion. This helps bring what is occurring into focus, allowing you to see it for what it is. It also provides an opportunity to acknowledge the positive contribution of that pattern in your life, along with your readiness to release it.
- Self-compassion. As you experience the emotion that arises with letting go and ending, be kind to yourself: Are you supporting yourself with your words? Are you being a good friend to yourself?
- Self-care. Moving through loss and endings requires energy. Make sure you eat well, get lots of sleep, and make time for whatever feels renewing for you.
- Finding support. Consider who might support you in this change, and then ask them to help you e.g. by checking in on your progress or encouraging you along the way.
Phase 2: the neutral zone.
As we let go of old patterns and ways of being we inevitably move into the neutral zone. Characterized by uncertainty and unknowns, the neutral phase can feel far from ‘neutral’. The endings that have occurred typically result in a loss of familiar life patterns – and that can leave us feeling disoriented.
Until we develop the new skills, information, language or way of being required for the desired change, we can feel a loss of confidence. A range of emotions can occur, including anxiety (What am I even doing?), impatience (Why can’t I just get this figured out?), lack of self-confidence (I’m not sure if I can do this). Second guessing our decision is also common. So, what might support us in the in-between or neutral zone of transition?
Supportive strategies for the neutral phase
- Find an ‘anchor’ that will help you feel grounded during this time. Having a clear purpose of why you have embarked on this change is a life saver if you begin second guessing your decision. Journaling or meditation is also helpful.
- Be curious: Notice the thoughts that are accompanying any emotions you are experiencing. Are those thoughts valid? How can you use what you learn in this inquiry to help you during this phase of transition?
- Self-care: The neutral phase is a time of transformation: we’re trying out new ways of being, gathering new information and building skills that make our vision a reality. This can be exciting, but also stressful. Self-care needs to include finding a balance between moving toward our goal (which may result in feeling more vulnerable) and taking time to rest and recover. Taking care of the basics (food, sleep, exercise etc.) remains important.
- Support: As you move through this period of uncertainty, having a source of support is critical. If you haven’t set up a specific source of support in the endings phase – do this now!
Phase 3: New beginnings.
At some point in our journey, we’ll discover the desired life shift is beginning to take shape. Recognizing this new beginning can be energizing and we might easily assume we’ve ‘arrived’. And we have – sort of – but need to understand that the early stages of new beginnings are like new plant growth: real but tender and fragile.
Changing ways of being and acting takes time. Physiologically, it requires laying down new neurological pathways. This process is somewhat like wearing a new path across grass. Initially our footsteps leave a faint trail. With time and repeated use, the path gets worn and clear. While those new neurological pathways are being worn in, we need to be gentle with ourselves. Our execution of new actions or new ways of being will inevitably feel ‘clunky’ and awkward. Time, practice and patience will help smooth things out. So how can we support ourselves in the phase of new beginning?
Supportive strategies for new beginning phase.
- Celebrate the new beginning. Acknowledge your diligence and work in creating it.
- Be like a toddler learning to walk. Be OK with falling down. Dust yourself off and try again.
- Remember that change is not linear. ‘Relapse’ is not fatal.
- Be patient and kind with yourself. New beginnings take practice.
- Self-care. We always need self-care.
As we reviewed the phases of transition, were you able to recognize your own experience in moving toward 2019 goals? What phase of transition are you in right now? Would it be helpful to add a new strategy to your support?
Before you leave this page, let’s strengthen your support. Choose or think of a supportive strategy. Now, confirm that intention by writing a sentence that links the strategy to your desired change. Here’s an example:
To support myself in the new beginning related to completing my Pilates ‘homework’ at least 3 times/week, I will ask my friend to check in with me every second day.
Got it? Great! Post that sentence somewhere you can see it frequently as a reminder of your commitment to this new beginning (i.e. Bathroom mirror). And acknowledge yourself with a big hug!
Mary Gillespie is an Integral (Life) Coach and Nursing Education Consultant. She is deeply committed to helping people build self-awareness, discover their true potential, and expand into new possibilities for living. She is currently learning more about transitions everyday as she settles into her new home in New Zealand.
For personal communication or for more information about coaching possibilities, message her via MG Coaching or find her on Facebook.