Are you feeling adrift? I so relate!
The American Heritage dictionary defines adrift as:
“1. Drifting or floating freely; not anchored
2. Without (clear) direction or purpose.”
Here’s how I’m feeling adrift. I’m sleeping more than 9 hours a night. I feel low energy, particularly in mid-afternoon. I’m feeling overwhelmed by the number of emails in my inbox even though I’ve unsubscribed to many and now have two less email addresses to deal with. I opened up space for more creative projects, and in spite of knowing what my next book in general will be about, I haven’t yet started writing it. Even though my phrase for this year is “Playful Creativity”, I’m being challenged to be playful or creative. My passion and zest for life seems to have gotten up and run away.
I’ve been coaching people going through a variety of life transitions individually and in groups since 2009. My inner critic is saying: “You teach people how to navigate life transitions and have a 5-step Art of Change Framework”, don’t you know how to navigate this transition with ease, grace and playfulness?”
You’ve likely heard the phrase, “we teach what we most need to learn”. As someone whose gone through many personal and professional transitions, I am STILL learning.
I recently handed over the leadership of a national non-profit I founded. It is now led by two amazing women leaders, and I feel like I did a good job handing it over. For example, I facilitated the strategic plan for the next three years with the Board, and the one-year operational plan for this year. I’ve worked collaboratively with my Board since launching the organization and left a very strong Board who work well together. I thought I was clear on the next steps in my personal and professional life, yet I am still feeling adrift.
Is anyone out there feeling similarly or have you in the past? If you are or have in the past, I welcome your thoughts and comments below.
About 7 years ago when we moved and did a massive downsize, I wrote about that journey and shared it in my blog- https://pamela-thompson.com/culling-again-yet-another-learning-experience/.
Would you be interested in me sharing this current transition journey and the lessons learned along the way?
This morning as part of my morning practice, I pulled an oracle card with the message “Embrace the in-between”. That card is so relevant as I am in the midst of yet another transition. As of September 26, I am handing over the reins of a national member-based non-profit I founded on December 7, 2020. It has truly been a labor of love.
Within the last six months I received a strong message that I was done. I shared with my Board in early May at our monthly meeting that as of the end of September I was finished leading the organization. We brainstormed some names of capable women to take over and also decided that a Co-Chair model was a good way to move forward. It also embodies the quality of collaboration which is one of the feminine leadership qualities we speak and teach about at Female Wave of Change’s Women Leading in Change Program and in our programming and monthly gatherings of Female Wave of Change Canada.
I’m happy to report that two extremely capable and gifted women came forward and agreed to take over the leadership. I was over-joyed as I poured a lot of my heart and energy into growing the organization and didn’t want to have to close it down.
Having been through many personal and professional transitions in my life and having coached, written about, and facilitated workshops and retreats on navigating life transitions, I am still learning. The biggest lesson for me right now is learning to embrace the “in-between”; the phase between where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing and the future business, career, life of my dreams.
There is a tendency to rush through this phase as it is filled with uncertainty and often feels uncomfortable. Yet this is the phase where you have the opportunity to create your new reality. How can we embrace the “in-between” in a way that will support us in moving toward that new life, career or business?
Here are a few insights from my own journey:
- Embracing change is an inside job.
- Identify what you need to let go of in your life, career, business, or relationship you are transitioning from. If it was a well-paying position, I invite you to let go of the status, the financial security, and the identity associated with that position. Here are some strategies to support you in “letting go” – https://pamela-thompson.com/letting-go-its-easier-said-than-done/
- The next step is to identify the lessons learned. A helpful exercise is to write down what you do not want; for example, in a future position such as: working 50 plus hours a week on a regular basis, working without a team to support you … then flip these and write down what you do want.
- Focus on how you want to feel in that new position, relationship, life … . Try using the stem I choose the end result (from William Whitecloud’s work) of a life of freedom and adventure; one where I awaken each day with a smile on my face and a song in my heart so happy and grateful to be living a life of joy, connection, fulfillment, prosperity, and abundance.
- Journaling as part of your morning practice is helpful, without any expectation. Set an alarm for 15 minutes and put pen to paper and notice what you notice. I’ve found by doing this it opens up my creativity. An excellent resource is Cynthia Gregory’s Journaling as Sacred Practice: An Act of Extreme Bravery.
- Spend time in nature on a regular basis. Having daily walks by the ocean or to a nearby park is so therapeutic. Notice the beauty that surrounds you. Take a few moments to sit on a park bench and look up at the amazing trees. Nature is calming and grounds us. It helps us to slow down and to not think so much.
- Get clear on your passions is helpful in this “in-between” phase. A useful exercise is:
My unique Strengths and Talents
- Draw a chart with two columns. In the first column, write down all the things that you are good at, or things that come easily and naturally to you. They could be things such as athletics, mathematics, writing, whatever you feel fits.
- In the second column, write down the things you enjoy doing. They could include being in nature, teaching others, using your body, playing piano….
If you feel challenged by this, think back to what you enjoyed doing as a child.
Insights and Observations on My unique Strengths and Talents
- Now look at both lists and circle the items that are similar or identical. Then review the circled items. Go inside and get in touch with the feeling each one evokes inside you. Does it excite you? Does it have little or no effect on you?
- Rate each item on a scale from 1 to 10 according to the level of passion you have around it (1 being “no interest at all” and 10 being “red hot”).
I encourage you to finish this exercise. Sharing your findings with others has additional impact as you may gain insights and support from them.
Keep in mind that even though you are good at something it doesn’t mean that you are passionate about it.
- I urge you to not rush in this phase or listen to others and what they say you should be doing. Practice going inside and asking yourself, what do I really desire?
There is so much to be learned from the “in-between” phase of a transition.
I welcome your shares below based on what you have found helpful to embrace the “in-between” when you are in a personal or professional transition. It is valuable to learn from one another and to realize we are not alone.
 Card from Colleen Baron-Reid’s Spirit Animal oracle deck
 excerpted from pages 108 & 109 of “Learning to Dance with Life: A Guide for High Achieving Women”
“I invite you to join me on the journey back in time where I share key life transitions and lessons learned along the way. It is my hope that you will glean some new insights, better understand yourself and others, and realize you are not alone.”(The Exploits of Minerva: Reflections of a Sixty-Something Woman, p. 4 – https://pamela-thompson.com/books)
Minerva is a playful and sensitive woman in her mid-sixties. She believes that life is an adventure to be lived to the fullest and lives her life according to that mantra. Minerva has experienced numerous life transitions including divorce, finding the love of her life, burnout, living and working on five continents … . She learns valuable lessons and gains support from her women’s circle that she meets with every two weeks. The five women in the Circle have been supporting each other through a variety of life transitions for over two decades. They share their raw and real stories in this part-memoir, part self-help guide.
To help you reflect on your own journey and those of other women in your life, I’ve created a series of questions. They are intended for discussion in a book club. That said you may also use them to learn more about yourself and other women in your life who are similar to the characters in this story.
Potential Book Club Questions:
- What characteristics draw you to Minerva, if any?
- Which experience or experiences of Minerva do you most relate to and why?
- What is Minerva’s main struggle? What does she have to learn to overcome and deal with internally?
- Of the other women in the Women’s Circle, which ones are you drawn to and why?
- Do you feel you have a better understanding of certain life transitions after reading this book? If so, which ones and why?
- Reading “The Exploits of Minerva” has … ?
- Would you recommend this book to others? If yes, who and why?
I welcome your comments and responses to these questions below.
In the northern hemisphere where I live, spring is a time of reawakening and rebirth. After a long cold winter where the flowers are deep in the ground and the bears are hibernating, spring encourages us to pause, reflect and reawaken to new possibilities. It is a time when buds start to appear on trees, and beautiful daffodils and tulips burst forth to remind us to notice the beauty in our lives and to celebrate new beginnings.
What new beginnings are you celebrating? What new project do you feel brewing within and how are you wanting to share it with the world? Is it a new book, a new offering, a new partnership? How does it make you feel? Get in touch with those feelings and express them in your own way. That could be putting on your best tunes and dancing in your living room, going out for a walk by the ocean or in a nearby park. It could be painting, drawing, or journalling about what’s in your heart. It could be meeting a friend for lunch or a beverage and sharing the new project or partnership you’re excited about.
When you reawaken to new possibilities, how do you feel? You may be noticing you are low energy, and you need to take some time to refill your tank after a long, cold winter. You may be feeling something like a small shoot starting to grow within your heart that you’re not yet ready to share as it is still growing and taking shape.
I encourage you to take some time for you. Go for a walk in nature and notice the beauty that surrounds you. Listen to the birds and notice various signs of spring. Identify five things you are grateful for and really feel that gratefulness in your body. Another activity that is therapeutic and helpful to do at this time of year is to cull – go through your closet and identify clothes that no longer fit or suit your style. Donate these clothes to a charity you care about. If you’re a paper person like me, go through your filing cabinet and shred or burn documents you no longer need.
Perhaps imagine yourself as one of the spring flowers you most appreciate. For me that is the daffodils who remind me of fun, playfulness, and dancing with life.
How are you choosing to dance with life and reawaken to the new possibilities and magic of spring? I welcome your thoughts and comments below.
What is the difference between a life change and a life transition? A life change is external and situational; something tangible such as a separation agreement or a “pink slip” when you lose a job. Whereas a life transition is internal and psychological. It is the internal work we do to reorient and readjust ourselves to our new external reality.
Many of us do the life change but do not do what I call the “transition journey work”. When we only do the life change, we often keep repeating the same patterns in our lives and become frustrated and unfulfilled. An example is someone who consistently chooses new positions for the money without understanding and choosing based on their passions and what makes their soul sing. Another is someone who marries three, four or five times and after the initial honeymoon phase ends up in each relationship dealing with the same issues again and again and again, and either stays in the relationship and remains unhappy and unfulfilled or leaves and starts the process again.
The Benefits of doing the Internal Work
When we commit and take the time to do the internal psychological work and switch our beliefs and actions from resisting to embracing change, we no longer perceive change as a threat.
So how do you learn to embrace change and view it as a creative process that opens you up to new possibilities?
By understanding yourself and how you respond to change and why. And having a framework and tools to support you to navigate the journey.
The Art of Change Framework
Based on over 30 years of experience working with people and organizations in volatile environments including conflict zones, I created the “Art of Change Framework”. It is based on the metaphor “life is a dance” and underpinned by the belief that “embracing change is a creative process that opens us up to new possibilities.” Faced with yet another life transition, I decided to apply the “Art of Change Framework” to that transition and document the journey so I could share it with others.
On October 7, 2022, I had hip replacement surgery for my left hip. Due to osteoarthritis, I hardly had any cartilage left in it. That was the first major surgery I’d had.
My Transition Journey: Applying the “Art of Change Framework”
Step 1 – The first step in the “Art of Change Framework” is Shine the Light. This is where you explore how you respond to change and why.
Rate yourself on a scale from 1 to 10 in terms of how you typically respond to change “1” being “scares me to death” and “10” being “I thrive on it”. I rate myself as a “9” as I typically enjoy change and starting and experiencing new things. Perhaps you relate. The next activity is Rate yourself on a scale from 1 to 10 in terms of how you typically respond to a change that is imposed on you and that “comes out of the blue” such as when you receive a lay-off notice or when your partner says they no longer love you. I rate myself as a “6” on this scale.
Step 2 – Choose Your Dance – This is where you choose the transition you want to focus on, as it is preferable to focus on one transition at a time. The transition I’m choosing to focus on is my hip replacement surgery.
Step 3 – Feel the Rhythm and Learn the Steps – In this step you begin doing the work associated with where you are on your transition journey that includes: 1) an ending; 2) a neutral zone; and 3) a new beginning (adapted from the work of William Bridges). Each phase has work associated with it. The work associated with the ending is letting go and identifying lessons learned.
What did I have to let go of as part of my hip replacement surgery?
- Fear I had about “going under the knife”
- The emotions associated with grief; losing my once healthy hip, the one that had enabled me to run, jump, swim, hike … for all those years
- The belief that I had somehow caused my hip cartilage to deteriorate based on all of the track and field, running, and jumping and other sports I have done since my youth
- My independence as I had to let my partner and others support me during my recovery
- The ability to do activities I regularly do such as yoga, walking in nature, swimming, hiking …
- The belief that I’m getting old and as we age our health declines.
Step 4 – Practice, Practice, Practice – This step involves embracing change in your body and continuing to do the work associated with the phase of the transition journey you are in.
As part of the ending phase above, what lessons did I learn from the experience?
- Patience; I had to learn that recuperating from this type of surgery takes time; at least three to six months
- To reach out and ask for support
- To receive and be okay depending on the physical and emotional support of others
- What an amazing caregiver my partner Alan is
- I am challenged to sit still and not be physically active
- This provided me the opportunity to pause, reflect and take stock of my life and identify the many people and things I am grateful for
- I received the insight that as it was my left hip that was replaced, it is representative of my feminine side. Perhaps my new hip will have “amped up” my feminine energy and help me to spend more time in flow and move forward more quickly and easily without driving and striving.
The neutral zone is the phase between the ending and the new beginning. The work of this phase is to get clear and envision the life, relationship, career of your dreams. It provides an opportunity to create and visualize what your new life will look and feel like. This can also be a fearful place as you have “taken the leap”, are entering unknown territory, and you’re not sure what’s on the other side or whether there is a net to catch you.
I could have chosen not to go on the surgical wait list about a year ago, but after encouragement from my partner I said yes.
What will my new life look like? I see myself:
- playing with my grandkids, going up and down slides with them (including water slides), climbing on recreational equipment
- kayaking with my Sweetie, going on motorcycle rides, and feeling comfortable on the back of Alan’s motorbike
- awakening each day feeling whole, healthy and without pain
- hiking and walking with friends and family on a regular basis
- doing yoga three or more times a week
- believing that life continues to be an adventure to be lived to the fullest
Step 5 – Share Your Dance with the World – In this step, due to the positive ways you respond to change, you inspire and are a positive role model for others.
Applying the “Art of Change Framework” to my recent hip replacement experience reaffirmed for me that the 5-step “Art of Change Framework” and process takes you on a journey that transforms you from resisting and fearing change to moving through personal and professional transitions with greater ease, grace, and playfulness, resulting in increased clarity and confidence.
If the “Art of Change Framework” resonates for you, I encourage you to apply it to your own personal and professional transitions. I welcome your comments and questions below.
 Bridges, William, Transitions; Making Sense of Life’s Changes. Cambridge: Da Capo Press, 2004.
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.