In a previous post I outlined a proven process for embracing change while at the same time making a positive impact in the world – http://pamela-thompson.com/strengthen-impact-world-dance-change/. In this article we will take a deep dive into the second step in this 5-step process: Choose Your Dance.
Many of us often feel like we are corks bobbing on the sea of life, particularly when challenges keep coming up in our personal and/or professional lives, and it seems like we keep repeating the same patterns again, and again and again and getting the same results. Believe it or not, we all have choice. When you realize this and become aware of patterns that are no longer serving you, you can examine those parts of yourself and make changes, whether it be in the type of partner you choose, or in the career or business direction you pursue.
In step two of the Art of Change Framework, you identify the transition or change you want to work on and where you are on your transition journey.
What do I mean by a transition journey?
Based on over 30 years of working with people and organizations, William Bridges identified a 3 – phase process that helps you understand, get unstuck and move forward regardless of the transition you are going through whether it be in your career, relationship, health … . The 3 phases are:
- An Ending
- The Neutral Zone
- A New Beginning
In each phase there are opportunities to learn and grow. There are emotions associated with each phase that need to be acknowledged and released, and there is key work that needs to be done to get unstuck so that you can move forward.
An Ending is the end of a job/relationship/ career. The main work of this phase is to “let go” of the old job/relationship/career and to celebrate the positive aspects and lessons learned from it. Think about a transition you are current experiencing or one in the past that you still hold strong emotions around. What words and feelings come up for you? It could be anger, guilt, relief …
“Letting go” is easier said than done. In an upcoming post I will share some proven strategies for “letting go”.
In Phase 2, the Neutral Zone, you may feel stuck, angry, confused and uncertain of what to do next. This is the phase when we often second guess ourselves and question our actions. You may tell yourself things like “maybe that relationship wasn’t so bad”, “maybe I shouldn’t have left my job and started a business” … . You may even return to the old job or relationship. The main work of this phase is “getting clear”. It is important during this phase to reconnect with yourself and clarify who you are and what is really important to you. It provides an opportunity to envision the job, career or relationship of your dreams. In an upcoming post I will share some strategies on how to envision the relationship, career, life of your dreams.
In Phase 3, the New Beginning, you take action on the vision you created during the “Neutral Zone”. This can be a time of real transformation if you’ve taken the time to learn and grow in the “Neutral Zone”. Think about how you felt when you launched your new business, were selected for that dream job, met the man or woman of your dreams. These are the feelings associated with the New Beginning such as excitement, happiness, confidence, clarity and fulfillment.
I invite you to take a moment to reflect and ask yourself Am I on a transition journey? If so, what phase of the journey are you on? When you do this you may notice that you are in more than one transition. For example, if you recently separated, changed your job, moved to a new city and downsized, these are four transitions you are currently experiencing. It is important to choose one to focus on at a time and go through the transition journey process noticing the insights and feelings that come up for you. You may also be holding onto emotions associated with a past transition; for example anger at an old partner. If you haven’t processed a previous transition, you may be carrying negative emotions and perceptions around it that are important to release. Otherwise you you may bring those emotions and perceptions into future relationships.
Stay tuned for my next post where I’ll share the third step in the Art of Change Framework designed to help you embrace change and create the life of your dreams – one of clarity, confidence, radiant health, happiness, fulfillment and inner peace.
I’d love to hear from you. Please share your comments below. Did you find the transition journey process helpful? Did you glean any new insights from the process? I invite you to take my complimentary Transition Journey Quiz and receive tips on how to successfully navigate any life transition – http://pamela-thompson.com/about/
 Bridges, William, TRANSITIONS Making Sense of Life’s Changes, 2004.
In a previous post I outlined a proven process for embracing change while at the same time being a force for good in the world – http://pamela-thompson.com/strengthen-impact-world-dance-change/. In this article we will take a deep dive into the first step in this 5-step process: Shine the Light.
In step one of the Art of Change Framework we explore how you respond to change and why.
Reflecting on how you’ve responded to previous changes in your life will provide you with clues as to how you will respond to integrating new beliefs and behaviors into your life, and changing old beliefs, attitudes and behaviors.
A good place to start is to answer the question How do I typically respond to change on a scale from 1 to 10; 1 being “I thrive on it” and 10 being “It scares me to death”?
Another useful exercise is to reflect on past experiences with life changes and answer the question What have I learned that supports me to adapt and move forward when faced with change?
Barriers to Change/Moving Forward
A number of barriers to change have been identified in the literature including: becoming paralyzed by fear, procrastinating, blaming others, believing we can’t do something or are not worthy, always focusing on problems rather than solutions, getting stuck in old habits or denying change is happening, and not being willing to put in the effort required to make a change. It’s helpful to think about a change that has been recently imposed on you or was in the past. How do you feel about this change? What barriers do you have to embracing it? I invite you to take a few minutes to jot down your responses to these questions.
Overcoming Resistance to Change
M.J. Ryan in her book “Adaptability – How to Survive Change You Didn’t Ask for” (2009) notes that the ability to adapt is “the key indicator of success in these turbulent times. It’s the capacity to be flexible and resourceful in the face of ever-changing conditions.”
Aikido masters say that to be successful in life three types of mastery are needed: i) mastery with self; ii) mastery with others; and iii) mastery with change; meaning “the capacity to adapt easily without losing our center – our values, talents and sense of purpose” (Ryan, 2009). How can we learn to be change masters?
How can we learn to recover quickly from change and be adaptable so that when changes are “forced upon us” (e.g. a job loss) or we choose to make a change, we view it as an opportunity rather than a challenge?
There are a number of studies and tools in the literature that provide us with a better understanding of change and how to navigate it successfully.
Maddi and Kobassa (2005) in their book Resilience at Work: How to Succeed No Matter What Life Throws You analyzed data from 400 studies on organizational change and also conducted their own study of AT & T executives during reorganization. They found that those who thrived the most while undergoing organizational change displayed 3Cs: i) Challenge; ii) Control; and iii) Commitment. Challenge – meaning they saw change as an opportunity to learn and grow and were optimistic about the future. Control – meaning they believed that they had choices and could influence their lives and events around them. Rather than worrying about things they could not control, they focused on identifying what they could control and took action on those things. Commitment – meaning they lived their lives passionately and stayed connected to people even when times got tough.
Tips for Overcoming Resistance to Change and Moving Forward
- Change your perspective – View change as an opportunity for self-growth and learning; an opportunity to explore new solutions and ways of doing things; to put on a new “pair of glasses” and see the world differently.
- Slow down and go inside yourself – create some time and space for yourself rather than keeping yourself busy. Set aside time in your schedule for you. Spend at least 30 minutes a day meditating, journaling, walking in nature.
- Get in touch with and acknowledge your feelings rather that pushing them down and not experiencing them; this is important to begin the process of healing from the inside out.
- Express those feelings through drawing, journaling, painting, dancing, etc.
- Express Gratitude regularly – Create a gratitude journal or write down at least 5 things you are grateful for each morning or evening. Research shows that people who express appreciation and gratitude on a regular basis are more optimistic and lead happier lives.
- Believe in Yourself – think of all the positive things you’ve done and accomplished in the past. Recall a particular time you felt really proud of what you’d done and reconnect with the positive feelings you felt at that time.
- Nurture and Take Care of Yourself – make sure you are eating well, getting enough sleep, exercising regularly; do something special for yourself such as going for a massage, having a bubble bath, buying a new outfit.
- Reach out for support – to a friend, coach or counsellor; surround yourself with people who believe in you and are not judgmental.
- Identify the things you can control when you’re going through change such as your thoughts, stories, and language. (from Ariane de Bonvoisin, The First 30 days)
The more you understand change and the more self-aware you are about how and why you respond to it, the more easily you can embrace and move through it. This has a huge positive impact on both your personal and professional life and your ability to positively influence others.
I invite you to share your thoughts and perspectives below on any part of this article. Feel free to share it with others.
We are hard-wired to perceive change as a threat. Our primitive brain likes to keep us safe and has enabled humans to survive through time. When our amygdala (part of the brain) detects fear, it sends messages to our bodies to go into fight, flight or freeze mode. This explains why some of us become angry as a result of a change being imposed on us, fearful and wanting to run away from a situation rather than face it, or paralyzed and unable to think clearly or to move forward.
So, how can we reduce our fear of change given this biological reality? Norman Doidge in The Brain that Changes Itself provides powerful evidence that our thoughts and perceptions have the power to change the structure of our brains. In other words, if we create new beliefs around change and internalize them, we also create new neural pathways that enable us to respond positively to change rather than view it as a threat. Candace Pert in her landmark book Molecules of Emotion provides strong evidence that our thoughts and emotions affect our bodies.
Given these facts, how can we reduce our fear of change? Here are some proven strategies. We can:
- Understand how we respond to change and why – A simple exercise is to rate yourself on a scale from 1 to 10 related to how you respond to change: “1” being it scares me to death and “10” being I thrive on it. Another way is to spend some time reflecting on the barriers you have towards change and writing them down. A number of barriers to change have been identified in the literature including: becoming paralyzed by fear, procrastinating, blaming others, believing we can’t do something or are not worthy, always focusing on problems rather than solutions, getting stuck in old habits or denying change is happening, and not being willing to put in the effort required to make a change. Ask yourself, What barriers do I have to embracing change in general, and in this particular situation? E.g. changing jobs, leaving an unsatisfying relationship, accepting a new leader in my organization. Notice past patterns in your life.
- Become aware of our beliefs around change – Close your eyes and think about a recent change; one that you didn’t choose but was imposed on you. Examples include: lay-off, separation, relocation. Notice what words come up for you. Write them down. Begin with the stem “Change is”_______ and fill in the blank. Do a brain dump and write down all the words that come up to define what change means to you. Examples are “Change is scary”; “Change is to be avoided at all costs” …
- Try on some new beliefs about change; such as “Change opens me up to new possibilities”, “Embracing change is a creative process”, “Change provides me with an opportunity to learn and grow”. Post one of these positive beliefs where you will see it at least 3 times a day – on your computer, bathroom mirror…and say this belief aloud each time you see it. Do this for 21 to 30 days and observe what you notice.
- Become aware of how we perceive change and replace our negative feelings and emotions with positive and empowering ones. Ariane de Bonvoisin in “The First 30 Days – Your Guide to Making Any Change Easier” identifies six “change demons” and their antidotes. The six change demons are: fear, doubt, blame, guilt, shame and impatience. She explains that the change demons “help us navigate through change by alerting us if we are off course and encouraging us to choose a different emotion to help us get where we want to go.” Being aware of which emotion you are feeling and replacing each one with positive and empowering emotions and antidotes are key to learning from and navigating change and dealing with uncertainty. The six change demons and their antidotes are:
||surrender (to not knowing)
||honesty (taking responsibility for our role in situations)
||honor (your dark or shadow side)
- Introduce small changes into your daily routine. Take a different route to work. Eat something different for breakfast. Walk or cycle to work instead of driving. Do this for a month and observe what you notice. Change is like a muscle. The more change you choose in your life, the more flexible you tend to become.
What change demons are your facing? How do you typically respond to change? What strategies will you begin integrating into your life to reduce your fear of change?
I welcome your comments below. Feel free to share this post with others.
Two nights ago we pulled out of our driveway leaving the home where we had shared many happy moments over the past 8 years. I had felt overwhelming sadness when I returned to ready our house for the new owners. I let the sadness wash over me rather than pushing it away, and realized this was part of the process of letting go of the home and life I had enjoyed.
Over the past week, we had sold and given away furniture and belongings, keeping in mind what would fit into the two-bedroom apartment we had rented. The last night in our home, my Sweetie and I shared our last romantic dinner on the deck, our last hot tub, the last night together in our home. We celebrated the ending of special times in this place and also the beginning of our new simpler and “down-sized” life.
When we left our home, bereft of all our furniture and belongings, I realized it was no longer our home, but rather a house for the new owners to make their own. I noticed that I had no sadness as we left, but rather a new sense of freedom and adventure. I also realized that I can make a home wherever I choose. By surrounding myself with a few possessions that bring me joy, choosing to connect with new people and places, and creating positive experiences with people I care about, that is what home is truly all about.
If you’ve experienced a similar situation I invite you to reflect on and share your thoughts and feelings below. Perhaps there is a relationship, a position, a place you haven’t completely let go of. Reflect on this. Here are some strategies to help you to finally let go.
1) Reflect on the end of a job, relationship, place you’ve lived in the past. Notice if any sadness or strong feelings come up for you. If they do, let them wash over you rather than resisting or pushing them away. You may also wish to journal about the situation or experience.
2) Forgive yourself or a person for a way you or they acted in the past. One way to do this is Suze Casey’s forgiveness process: Say the following aloud …
- “I forgive myself for believing that I have to beat myself up what I said. I wish I could take it back, but I can’t.
- I give myself permission to be kinder to myself – beating myself up doesn’t make it better.
- I choose to kind to myself by learning what I can from the situation and focus on the positive opposite.
- I can beat myself up, or I can learn and move forward. I choose to learn and move forward.
- I’m free to learn to be more in the positive vibration – it feels like me.
- The kinder I am to myself, the easier it is to learn and move forward.
- I use every situation as an opportunity to learn and move forward.” (http://suzecasey.com/)
3) Celebrate the ending and new beginning.
4) Surround yourself with people and possessions that bring you joy.
I look forward to reading your thoughts below. Feel free to share this post with others who you think might enjoy it.