Can We Really Manage Change?

Can We Really Manage Change?

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[1]. 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?


[1] Bridges, William, TRANSITIONS Making Sense of Life’s Changes, 2004.

What is Reinvention & What do We Need to Reinvent Ourselves?

What is Reinvention & What do We Need to Reinvent Ourselves?

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:

  1. 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”)[1]
  • 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.[2]

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.  


[1]  https://pamela-thompson.com/strengthen-impact-world-dance-change/

[2] https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/resilience

Reinvent Yourself: Let Go of Fear & Navigate Change with Confidence & Clarity

Reinvent Yourself: Let Go of Fear & Navigate Change with Confidence & Clarity

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”[1], 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.


[1] https://pamela-thompson.com/strengthen-impact-world-dance-change/

Letting Go – It’s Easier Said than Done!

Letting Go – It’s Easier Said than Done!

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[1] 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.


[1] https.//allthefeelz.app/feeling-wheel/

How to Learn from & Embrace Life Transitions: A Helpful Process & Framework

How to Learn from & Embrace Life Transitions: A Helpful Process & Framework

The pandemic has been a time of transition for us all.

  • You may have transitioned from having a job you loved to being laid off
  • You may have transitioned from working in the office to working at home
  • You may have experienced a relationship ending due to the stress of working at home together while at the same time looking after young children
  • You may have had time to reflect and realize that you want to make a bigger difference in the world
  • You may be feeling exhausted and lack clarity on your next steps.

Imagine having practical tools and a proven process to support you to move through transitions in your life and work. One that supports you to move from anxiety and uncertainty toward clarity and fulfillment.

I believe that embracing change is a creative process that opens us up to new possibilities.

My 5-step “Art of Change Process” enables you to identify a change you are struggling with, understand how you respond to change and why, let go of beliefs, emotions and behaviors that are holding you back, envision the change you want to see and create an action plan to move forward.

The “Art of Change Process” can be applied to both your personal and work life and to teams if you are a leader. It enables you to move from resisting change to embracing it.

You may be thinking “I love change. I don’t resist it.” Yet if you peel back the layers and reflect on changes in your life, you may come to realize that many of the changes YOU initiated, so they felt easy to embrace. However, if you reflect on those changes that were imposed on you or initiated by someone else, you may find your experience is different; e.g. being “let go” from a job or having a partner leave you when you weren’t expecting it.

A key concept I have found helpful for myself and for clients has been understanding the difference between a life change and a transition.

William Bridges in his book “Transitions – Making Sense of Life Changes”[1] based on over 30 years of working with people and organizations, noted that a life change is external and situational such as divorce papers or a pink slip; something tangible that we can see. Whereas, a transition is internal and psychological; the internal work we do to reorient and readjust to our new external reality. Many of us do the change, but don’t do what I call the “transition journey” work.

Based on more than 25 years of consulting and coaching with individuals and organizations on 5 continents, the Art of Change framework is a proven model for embracing change whether it involves getting unstuck and moving forward when change is imposed on us, or whether we initiate an organizational or life change.

The Art of Change Framework is a 5-step process that uses the metaphor of life as a dance. The steps are:

  1. Shine the Light – Explore how you respond to change and why
  2. Choose Your Dance – Identify the transition you want to work on and where you are on your transition journey
  3. Feel the Rhythm and Learn the Steps – Commit to embracing change in your body rather than resisting it, and begin doing the work associated with the phase of the transition journey you are in
  4. Practice, Practice, Practice! – Do the work that includes letting go, identifying lessons learned, envisioning the work or organization of your dreams, taking action, and viewing change as a creative process that opens you up to new possibilities
  5. Consciously Share Your Dance with the World – Observe the positive changes in yourself, how others respond to you, and the positive impact you have on your family, friends, communities and workplaces.

If you’re intrigued to learn more, I invite you to sign up for my complimentary “Art of Change Framework” white paper that includes practical tips and tools at https://pamela-thompson.com.

I welcome your comments and strategies you’ve found helpful to embrace life transitions below.


[1] Bridges, William, Transitions – Making Sense of Life’s Changes. Da Capo Press, 2004

Celebrating Endings & New Beginnings: A Useful Process

Celebrating Endings & New Beginnings: A Useful Process

December is a great month to reflect on your achievements from the current year and to set intentions for the coming year.

A process that I’ve found to be extremely useful for myself and my clients is to answer the following questions and journal about them at the end of one year and before starting a new one.

Reflections:

What are the accomplishments I am most proud of in 2020? 

What am I most grateful for this year?

What lessons have I learned regarding relationships, work experience, my business, my own blind spots … over the past year?

Intentions:

What are my intentions for 2021 (in five areas)?

  • Personal life – i.e. What my personal life looks and feels like. Note that it is important to write your intentions in the present tense as if you have already accomplished them. For example; “I am strongly connected to myself, my gifts, my fears, my strengths. I courageously uncover any and all fears, doubts and limiting beliefs that are holding me back from standing in my true power and fulfilling my larger vision and mission … .”
  • Related to my Health i.e. What my health looks and feels like. “I feel great! My body is toned, strong and flexible. I radiate health and vitality – physically, emotionally, socially and spiritually. I do yoga 3 to 4 times/week, meditate daily and spend regular time in nature hiking, kayaking, swimming, cycling …
  • Financial – i,e. What my financial life looks and feels like. “ I average $_______ thousand a month in terms of income generation through Creative Life Coaching & Consulting. I feel financially free and serene. I pay off my credit cards every month and my line of credit is paid off. …
  • Spiritual – i.e. What my spiritual life looks and feels like. “I continue to meditate daily and deepen my ability to go within and connect with the Universal wisdom. I continue to strengthen and listen to my body’s wisdom. … “
  • Intellectual – i.e. What my intellectual life looks and feels like. “I am flexible, flowing and open to new ideas. I connect with my creativity easily and effortlessly. … I blog regularly and creative ideas come to me easily. I design and facilitate workshops and retreats that many women connect with and learn from.”

I encourage you to experiment with the process above. Feel free to change the titles of the 5 areas suggested to ones that resonate for you. Reviewing your intentions quarterly and noting how you’re doing in relation to them, helps keep them top of mind and provides encouragement to move forward. Using your intentions as a “touch stone” at the end of each year to review your achievements is helpful.

Celebrating your accomplishments feels so good and is important to provide you with the energy and commitment to move forward and fulfill your intentions. Here’s a short video that explains why it is important to celebrate.

Best of luck reflecting on 2020 and setting bold intentions for 2021. To your health, happiness, fulfillment and inner peace!

I invite you to try out the process and welcome your comments below. Feel free to share this post with others.