For some time, I have questioned whether we can truly manage change whether it be in our personal, or our professional lives.
I would like to propose that instead of “managing change” we explore a new way of thinking about change. Managing something to me means we have control over it. Do we really have control when something comes at us out of the blue or is imposed on us such as when we get laid off or when our partner says they no longer love us?
What if you made friends with change and talked about embracing change rather than managing it? What might that look and feel like?
I have developed a 5-step Art of Change Framework underpinned by the belief that embracing change is a creative process that opens us up to new possibilities and based on the metaphor that life is a dance.
This framework includes a process where you explore how you typically respond to change and why, and then receive tools and a framework to guide you on your transition journey.
The Art of Change Framework is underpinned by evidence from neuroscience, organizational development, the health-promoting and healing benefits of the arts, and eastern psychology. It is also based on my own journey and work with consulting and coaching clients on 5 continents for over 30 years.
In this process I draw on the work of William Bridges, an organizational theorist. He differentiates between a life change and a life transition. He says that a change is external and situational; something that is tangible that we can see such as a separation agreement or a pink slip. Whereas a transition, is the internal psychological work we do to reorient and readjust ourselves to the new external reality.
Many people make the change but don’t do the transition work. This often results in them repeating the same patterns in their lives and remaining unhappy and unfulfilled. An example is someone who always goes after positions for the money without taking the time between jobs to identify their passions and their core values. Or a woman or man who marries three, four or five times, often choosing a spouse that looks similar to the previous one, and after the honeymoon phase revisiting the same issues as the previous relationships and remaining unhappy and unfulfilled or moving on to the next one. This is because they haven’t taken the time between relationships to find out who they are and what they truly value in a relationship.
We are physiologically hard-wired to fear change. Our amygdala (part of our brain) is continually scanning our environments for things that are different; things that might be perceived as a change. When it perceives a threat, it causes our body to release stress hormones that put us into fight, flight or freeze. In none of these modes are we in a position to make thoughtful decisions.
When we fear change, we tend to resist it and that has negative impacts on our bodies, our minds, our relationships, our workplaces and our bottom lines. If you’d like to learn more about the negative impacts of resisting change and the 5-step Art of Change Framework visit https://pamela-thompson.com.
I welcome your comments below. Do you believe we can manage change?
 Bridges, William, TRANSITIONS Making Sense of Life’s Changes, 2004.
About four years ago a friend told me about a weekend training which was the “way in” to being part of a new Women’s Circle that was forming locally. Being curious and relatively new to the area, I thought this might be a way to make new women friends. I eagerly signed up and on entering the room felt welcome and in the company of like-minded women. The facilitator began the workshop by creating a safe space for us all; one of confidentiality and respect.
At the end of the weekend, we were asked if we wanted for form a new Circle and I jumped in without hesitation. Little did I know the journey I was about to embark on!
After being part of a Women’s Circle I am a changed person. I now am more in touch with my feelings and have learned to trust my intuition and share my thoughts with others in the Circle and beyond. I have experienced each woman growing, stepping into who she is, and creating the life she desires from the inside-out. We have supported several women through separation and divorce, one has retired, and another is contemplating retirement. Women have tapped into their creativity. One is composing music and has started playing regularly at a spiritual center. Another is drawing beautiful mandalas and has recently been asked what price she would ask for them. We now plan social events from time to time to share playful and fun times together. I look forward to our bi-weekly meetings and being in a circle of women who truly love and respect me; women who I know will always share their truths and perspectives if I ask.
Jean Shinoda Bolen in her book The Millionth Circle – How to Change Ourselves and The World, beautifully articulates the power of a Women’s Circle and how to create and maintain one. Dr. Bolen “provides tools and inspiration for women to create new circles or deepen and transform existing circles into vehicles of societal and psychospiritual change.”
Based on my own experience I decided the context for my new book The Exploits of Minerva would be a Woman’s Circle with six women who have been supporting one another in a Circle for more than two decades through a variety of life transitions. Stay tuned for the launch coming soon!
I encourage you to check out Dr. Bolen’s book and google Women’s Circles if you’re interested in learning more. If you have experienced the power of a Women’s Circle, I invite you to share your thoughts in the comments below.
During the pandemic many of us had the opportunity to reflect on our lives and our work. Many realized their work was not meaningful. The loss of some family and friends put us in touch with our own mortality. Many of us realized the importance of “seizing the day” and living in the present moment. You may have decided to start that new business you’d been thinking about for a few years or leave the partner you’ve been with as you realized you were settling. In order to move forward as result of such reflections we need to reinvent ourselves.
What do I mean by “reinvention”? To me, reinvention involves letting go of beliefs, behaviors and fears that are no longer serving us and opening to new possibilities such as living the life of your dreams, starting that business of your dreams, and having the relationship of your dreams.
Based on my own journey and work as a consultant and coach over the past three decades I have discovered that reinventing yourself requires four key ingredients or elements:
- Mindset – Having what Carol Dweck calls a “growth mindset”; believing that you have the capacity to reinvent yourself is key. Being flexible and optimistic are also valuable qualities.
- Support – Having support from family and friends is important.
- Tools and Processes – To help you understand how you respond to change and why, and how to embrace rather than resist change (e.g., my 5-step “Art of Change Framework”)
- Self-care – Having healthy habits such as eating well, exercising regularly, getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night, spending time in nature help to reduce stress and in turn boost resilience.
How do you develop a “growth mindset” if you’ve noticed that you tend to dwell on challenges and tend to be pessimistic and a bit rigid in stressful situations (which is common for us all)?
Stay tuned for future posts. I’d love to hear some strategies you’ve found helpful to overcome challenges and be more open and optimistic when faced with the opportunity to reinvent yourself. I welcome your thoughts and comments below.
What if you could reinvent yourself and live the life of your dreams?
What if you could leave your corporate job and start a business based on what makes your soul sing?
About six months ago I started hearing people use the words “I want to reinvent myself” or “I have reinvented myself.” I got curious and did some research on “reinvention”. I also reflected on my own life and realized how many times I have reinvented myself.
I’d like to share a true story of someone I know who reinvented themselves. Their name has been changed for confidentiality.
I met Donna at a Newcomer’s Club shortly after I moved to Victoria about five years ago. Donna shared that she had moved to Victoria with her husband and within six months of arriving, her husband, the love of her life, died of cancer. She realized she was dealing with a number of life transitions and signed up and attended a one-day retreat I did on “Embracing Life Transitions”. She left with more insight into how she responds to change and why, including a 5-step “Art of Change Framework”, and an action plan for moving forward.
Recently Donna shared with me that she is no longer the woman she was when her husband Ben died. She revealed that he was an extreme extrovert and she lived life “on his coat tails”. She reflected that when she got married, she was quiet and lacking in confidence; and that her confidence built being with Ben, and she counted on him for support.
Since Ben’s death, Donna began to work on herself and getting in shape. She acknowledged that over the past few years, she has felt like a single woman who is finding her new self. When she meets new people, she is Donna only, and that has impacted who she is and how she acts.
Donna and Ben sailed for more than thirty years. Ben was the captain. Donna assisted as crew. Since Ben’s death Donna decided she wanted to learn to be captain, and after a number of sailing courses she now not only captains her boat but participates in local races.
Recently, Donna revealed to me that she is no longer the woman she was when Ben was alive. She has reinvented herself and is now “Lady D”. She even christened her sailboat “Lady D”!
How did Donna reinvent herself and what does it take to let go of fear and reinvent yourself?
Stay tuned for the next installment!
Do you relate to Donna? Have you reinvented yourself? What is the biggest lesson you learned from doing so? I welcome your thoughts and comments below.
To make a life change, moving from one way of being and living to another, requires letting go. What do I mean? And why does it matter?
An example is when we are let go from a corporate position and are faced with the decision of whether to seek a new employer or start our own business. If we consciously choose to become an entrepreneur, our beliefs and emotions around the transition are quite different than if we are given a “pink slip” and are forced to leave a position. In either scenario, we need to let go of; for example, a regular paycheck, status (perhaps), “perks” such as a company car, an expense account …. If we consciously choose to leave, we may have some fear of the unknown and must deal with feelings of uncertainty. However, the emotions we have around the experience are different. In the case of being fired or “right-sized” we may feel anger, sadness, grief, as well as fear of the unknown.
I recall in the early 1990s when I started my first business. I had initially been lured away from a good government job to work with a management consulting group on a handshake. My father thought I was crazy to leave a good job with benefits, but the idea of consulting and being an entrepreneur was exciting. I recall my husband at the time had been encouraging me to strike out on my own for a few years. I noticed fear coming up in me and it took an offer from a consulting group to be the “carrot” that lured me away from a more stable position. That said, I was excited and energized about the new opportunity. In contrast, people I know who’ve been let go and forced to leave their jobs sometimes feel angry, victimized and low in energy. This can over time negatively impact their health, self-confidence, and their relationships with others.
So why is important for us to learn to let go when faced with a life transition be it chosen or imposed on us?
If we don’t learn to let go of certain emotions and beliefs, we may continue to repeat the same patterns in our lives and remain unhappy and unfulfilled. An example is if we keep choosing positions for the money rather than getting in touch with our passions and purpose and choosing positions in alignment with those passions and purpose.
Here are some proven strategies for “letting go”.
- Identify and surface the emotions you have around a current or previous transition; for example, anger at a boss, a previous partner, a friend. The Feeling Wheel by Dr. Gloria Wilcox is a useful tool to help you get in touch with and name your emotions.
- Release those emotions from your body. When you think about a particular emotion notice any tension in your body and where it is located. It is often felt in your gut or your heart. Think of emotions associated with past hurts and transitions as “rocks in a backpack” and visualize and experience releasing them all from that backpack.
- Forgive yourself and others. This is powerful and often keeps us stuck and holds us back from moving forward. A mindfulness tool that facilitates forgiveness (of self and others) is “Forgiveness Meditation”. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PbHKCy4f6Dk for a process developed by Jack Kornfield, a psychologist trained in Eastern and Western Psychology.
- Write a letter to your previous boss, partner, friend from a balanced and empathic perspective. There are always two sides to every story. Reflect on the lessons learned from that experience.
- If you still have anger and strong emotions associated with a past relationship, it is therapeutic to write a letter to that person sharing how they wounded you and what the experience was like from your perspective and then to either burn it ceremoniously or tear it up into small pieces and at the same time commit to releasing the negative emotions associated with the relationship.
We all face a number of transitions throughout our lives. Learning how to let go is the key to moving forward and living a life of health, happiness, fulfillment, and inner peace.
I welcome your thoughts below on your experiences with “letting go” and strategies you have found helpful to “let go” of beliefs, emotions, feelings that are no longer serving you.
COVID-19 has created much upheaval in our personal and professional lives. Those of us who love routine and tend to resist change, were totally knocked off balance. If you are an empath, someone who feels deeply, you may have felt almost incapacitated at times; as if you were carrying all the worries of the world on your shoulders and like you were on an emotional roller coaster, one day up and the other day way down. Others pivoted quickly, their creative juices flowed, and they were able to quickly adapt and adjust to an ever-changing new reality. Why and how is this so?
I believe it is partly due to personality, partly due to previous life experience and partly due to environment and mindset. If you believe that embracing change (and uncertainty – which is change that comes “out of the blue” that you didn’t invite into your life) is a creative process that opens you up to new possibility, the way you feel and act during times of uncertainty is quite different than if you fear and resist change and uncertainty.
If you live in a beautiful natural environment and can easily get out in nature on a regular basis (and at the same time maintain social distance), these past months have not been near as difficult for you as for those who live in densely-populated areas or concrete jungles with little or no access to nature.
If you have had previous life experiences such as living and working in conflict zones and areas with restricted movement, you may have learned some valuable lessons you can apply to your current reality (see previous blog for more details – https://pamela-thompson.com/dealing-with-uncertainty-insights-and-lessons-learned/).
A number of women leaders and colleagues I have spoken with have shared their experiences of what it has been like to live and work during these uncertain times. Many have found it challenging to deal with a number of their direct reports who are stressed and having difficulty dealing with working at home. Previous emotional tensions have been aggravated. Working at home with a spouse in close quarters, while at the same time trying to manage young children, is not easy. Many report having to work more hours than normal and having difficulty separating work from life. A number of women leaders are feeling “burnt out” and are also seeing burnout in their colleagues and employees.
So how can we prevent leadership burnout? Based on my own experiences of almost burning out several times in my career here are a few practical tips.
- Set clear boundaries between home and work. If you used to leave work at 5 pm, turn off your computer at 5 pm and, if possible, go for a walk outdoors.
- Establish clear expectations of your direct reports or colleagues. Let them know your hours of work and model work-life balance for them.
- Take a 5-minute stretch and walk around every hour, if possible, to release the tension in your body and give your eyes a break.
- When fears and worries about the future come up, take 3 deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth and notice how your body responds. When you take such breaths the hormone oxytocin is released which calms your body and your mind. Share this strategy with your colleagues and direct reports.
- Begin meditating daily. There are a number of meditation apps available including:, https://www.headspace.com/, https://www.calm.com/ ,
- and one of my favorites Deepak Chopra and Oprah Winfrey’s 21-day meditation experiences – https://chopracentermeditation.com/
- Spend some time getting clear on what is really important for you in life and in work and then create an action plan to move forward daily in those priority areas. Let go of people and activities that do not nourish you.
- Communicate with others who are close to you. They will then understand how you are feeling and often “cut you some slack”.
- Get lots of sleep. If you’re feeling really tired experiment with going to bed earlier.
- Pamper yourself; have a bubble bath, massage, pedicure, make time to read a favourite author
- Begin integrating mindfulness practices into your life. For additional strategies on how to prevent burnout and thrive in uncertain times, I invite you to check out my #1 best-selling book “Learning to Dance with Life: A Guide for High Achieving Women” (which is also helpful for men) and emerged from my experience of almost burning out.
Over to you, what strategies have you found helpful to prevent burnout during uncertain times? I invite your comments below.
 Mindfulness practices help you “get of your head” and “into your body”. An example is mindfulness walking meditation which can be done indoors but is more powerful when done outdoors in nature. Rather than thinking of our upcoming meeting or the recent argument we had with our partner, we focus on all of our senses. We feel the wind on our cheeks, smell the salt sea air, hear the crunch of leaves underfoot and see the beautiful vistas that surround us.