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.
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.
“We all have masculine and feminine within us, and when it’s all balanced it’s like accessing a super power.” (Alicia Keys)
What do we mean by “masculine” and “feminine” and why is balancing them important?
Much has been written about the sacred feminine (yin) and the sacred masculine (yang). Although each person possesses both masculine and feminine energies, usually one type is more developed or dominant. This dominant energy affects how you perceive yourself, others, your environments and how you interact with the world.
The qualities of each type of energy are outlined in the table below. *
Feminine Energy (Yin) BEING & GIVING
Masculine Energy (Yang) DOING & RECEIVING
Linear & Logical
Allow for “flow”
Excerpted from “Learning to Dance with Life: A Guide for High Achieving Women” (2015) by Pamela Thompson, p. 84
When you live life feeling like you are on a hamster wheel and can’t get off, you are exhibiting many of the characteristics of masculine energy. It’s important to be aware of the qualities of each type of energy because being out of balance negatively impacts our bodies, our minds, our relationships and our work. For example, if we are constantly in our masculine energy, over time it leads to illness, lack of fulfillment, unhappiness, and restlessness. Whereas if we are dominated by our feminine energy, we become ill, resentful, needy and insecure.
How can you find and create your own unique balance between your feminine and masculine energies? A good place to start is with an assessment.
Here’s an illuminating exercise:
At the end of the day, take some time to pause and reflect on your day. Create 2 lists. Put at the top of one list “Doing” and the other list “Being”. Without thinking too much, do a brain dump of all the things you’ve done in that day. This could include: planning with your team, chairing a meeting, doing a performance review … . Then write down all the things you would categorize as “being” such as: walking mindfully in nature, meditating, spending time focusing attentively on someone or something.
If it’s been an unusual day, take the time to also reflect on the previous day.
Then create 2 other lists. Think about all your “Giving” behaviors that day. Examples include: making a meal for a sick friend, volunteering your time to assist others, listening to a friend’s tale of woe. .
Now think about all your “Receiving” behaviors for that day. Receiving behaviors include: treating yourself to a yoga class and being present during it, meditating for at least 10 minutes, reaching out for support when you needed it; such as “Sweetie, do you mind driving the kids to school today? I’ve got a lot on my plate.”, treating yourself to a bubble bath or massage.
Now look at your lists. What do you notice?Are you giving more than receiving and doing more than being?
Then take a few moments to go into your body and notice how you are feeling. Are you low in energy? Are you feeling resentful? Are you finding you have a “short fuse” and that you are reacting rather than taking some thoughtful time to respond to people at home and/or at work?
I invite you to do this exercise for a few days and notice what you notice. I welcome your reflections and insights below.
Stay tuned for the next installment to discover some tips and tools for balancing your masculine and feminine energy.
For centuries, people from different cultures around the world have shared their lessons and knowledge through the oral tradition of storytelling. With the introduction of the printing press, the possibility of writing stories down and sharing them far and wide become a reality. Now with the internet and social media, we can share our stories, blogs, insights and ideas with people from around the globe from a variety of backgrounds and cultures.
So why is storytelling so important?
Stories connect us
When we read Bridget Jones’s Diary or Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella, we realize we are not alone and are not the only ones who have certain personality quirks and are dealing with life challenges.
Stories promote understanding
When we read someone’s biography such as “Becoming” by Michelle Obama, we gain insight into what it was like to grow up as a black woman in the US during her time, in a family without a lot of financial resources and also what it’s like to move into the White House and become the First Lady after living a relatively private existence. When we read “Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree” it helps us understand what it could be like to be kidnapped as a young woman and enslaved by members of the Boko Haram, a radical Muslim group in Nigeria.
Stories help us heal
Many of us have stories of our past that we have locked away and not shared with anyone. An example is stories of childhood sexual abuse which need to be acknowledged and shared in order for us to heal and move on in our lives.
Stories give us hope
When we think of Martin Luther’s historic speech “I had a dream”, that dream and story laid the foundation for a different America.
Stories inspire us
When we read about someone who has faced tremendous odds and rose above them to be an amazing leader and changemaker, we are inspired by how resilient we can be as humans. Women or men who have come from poverty and risen above it to make the world a better place serve as role models for others in similar situations. They help us believe that anything is possible.
What story are you longing to tell?
A few months ago, I was given the opportunity to share a story as part of Female Wave of Change’s storytelling project. We were invited to submit a story that we thought would be helpful for others; one of 1000 words or less.
I’m excited to share that the “Stories Matter” E-book was launched at Female Wave of Change’s (FWoC) Global Conference on September 26th. This is a collection of stories contributed by women and men from all over the world: “stories of hope, of resilience, of courage, vulnerability and wisdom.”
With all of the recent events, protests and discussion around anti-black racism, it is has made me reflect on some valuable lessons I learned from Dr. Vern Redekop while studying at the Canadian Institute for Conflict Resolution in the early 1990s. At that time, Vern was working on his PhD and I was honored to be part of a social experiment he was conducting as part of his dissertation. Vern was researching what would make people who had been discriminated against and harmed on many levels forgive their perpetrators and move forward, as well as increase understanding between the “victim” and the “perpetrator”.
To that end, Vern researched a number of different disciplines and conducted seminars that he invited a mix of people from various backgrounds, cultures, religions and ethnicities to participate in. At the beginning of each seminar he would share the research related to some aspect of the conflict process. Then we were divided into small groups to work on questions Vern provided. Following that we debriefed with the larger group.
There were many participants who shared horrific experiences based on religious, ethnic, and cultural differences. I recall a black man from Rwanda who had seen his family cut up in front of him as part of the genocide that took place in that country. There was an ex-policeman from Northern Ireland who had left the country due to death threats. There was a Sri Lankan woman who had been held hostage by the Khmer Rouge. So many stories and heart-breaking experiences were shared. As well, many of those who shared the horrific acts that had been perpetrated against them, also shared that they had learned to forgive their perpetrators.
There are several things that stand out for me from that experience that I believe can increase our understanding of anti-black racism and other prejudices and horrific acts. One was that in order for “victims” (those who had experienced atrocities and discrimination) to forgive their “perpetrators” (those who had committed the atrocities), the perpetrators had to acknowledge what they had done and issue a formal apology to that person or group. What also was useful in terms of process was for the “victim” or “victims” to sit in a circle with the “perpetrator” or “perpetrators” and for each to share how they were impacted by what had happened. This created increased understanding on both sides and also enabled the “victim(s)” to decide what type of punishment they felt was due to their “perpetrator”. This is how restorative justice is practised (for example among some indigenous communities in Canada) and it is interesting to note that the punishments that are decided upon by the “victim(s)” in a restorative justice process are usually much less harsh than typical sentences arrived at in court.
The other learning that stands out for me was some research Vern shared that demonstrated that the need to belongoutweighs many other human needs, and historical events have borne this out. This is important when we think about racism and other forms of prejudice and acts of violence, because it helps us to better understand why people do what they do. It also helps us recognize that it takes a strong and courageous person to step away from a group he/she belongs to and take a stand that is in opposition to that group as they run the risk of being criticized, punished and ostracized.
These two “lessons” from conflict studies and from research on history, human nature and culture I believe are important, particularly at this time when the light is being shone on anti-black racism and other forms of racism worldwide.
Understanding and awareness are important for change to begin. It is also important to understand that there are many layers of belief and cultural conditioning that we need to “peel away” in order to truly forgive, heal and create a better world.
“(A) world free of war and violence;
One where all cultures, (races) and religions are accepted;
Where all people are respected and treated with respect;
Where people live together in communities that model
The values of contribution, collaboration, caring and connection …
One that believes in the power of groups and synergy,
That the whole is greater than the sum of the parts;
A world where women and men stand together as partners.:”
Based on these learnings what actions can we take to move forward and create a better world? I welcome your thoughts and suggestions below.
 Professor Emeritus, Conflict Studies, Saint Paul’s University, Founder of the Social Reconciliation, Just Peace and Development Research Group and author of From Violence to Blessing: How an Understanding of Deep-Rooted Conflict Can Open Paths to Reconciliation
 “Restorative justice is commonly defined as an approach to justice that focuses on addressing the harm caused by crime while holding the offender responsible for their actions, by providing an opportunity for the parties directly affected by the crime – victims, offenders and communities – to identify and address their needs in the aftermath of a crime. Restorative justice is based on an understanding that crime is a violation of people and relationships. The principles of restorative justice are based on respect, compassion and inclusivity. Restorative justice encourages meaningful engagement and accountability and provides an opportunity for healing, reparation and reintegration. Restorative justice processes take various forms and may take place at all stages of the criminal justice system.” (Source: https://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/cj-jp/rj-jr/index.html)
 Excerpted and slightly modified from Learning to Dance with Life: A Guide for High Achieving Women by Pamela Thompson, pp. 153 & 154