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”
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.
How has 2021 started for you?
Do you feel the past few weeks have been a blur? Did you hit the ground running and feel like you haven’t stopped?
Or, perhaps you started the year more tentatively, preferring to move slowly, doing what you know and feel comfortable with. Wanting all of the uncertainty, stress and sadness associated with 2020 to disappear.
It’s interesting how each of us deal with uncertainty. Some of us stay busy and don’t take time to slow down so we can’t think too much. Others take it slow, really feel their emotions and proceed cautiously. Which category do you fit into? Or are you somewhere in between; some days moving at top speed and others feeling emotional and moving more slowly?
I’m one of the folks who “hit the ground running” and feel like I’ve “had my roller blades on” since January 4th.
Yesterday my body felt tired and stressed. I felt “wound up”. I finally listened and went for a walk in nature. I walked to the ocean’s edge and lay on a rock, soaking up the winter sun and feeling the tension in my body melt away into the rock, or so it seemed.
“Nature connects me with my soul.” That’s part of a faith statement I developed at a personal growth workshop years ago. Nature is such a great teacher and healer. I’m amazed when I walk by water or in a park or forest how relaxed I begin to feel. My stress just falls away. Do you relate?
There is a lot of evidence regarding the healing benefits of nature. This was brought home to us during COVID-19 when we saw air and water pollution levels go down within the first 6 weeks of lock-down.
How are you dealing with this ongoing pandemic? Are you able to get out in nature? If so, I encourage it and when you’re there, notice how you feel. Perhaps journal about it afterward. After the year we’ve all had, it’s important to be kind to our bodies.
Thinking of you and sending much love and healing energy your way!
Did you end 2019
feeling exhausted and burnt out? Did you set the intention that this year would
be different, that you would take more time for you and to spend with friends
and family? Are you finding that already you are slipping back into old
patterns of taking work home in the evenings and working on weekends?
I understand. I’ve been there. Early in my childhood I
internalized the belief that in order to be loved and valued I needed to
perform and achieve. And so I kept doing that. Setting one goal, reaching it;
then raising the bar and striving for the next one. Taking very little, if any
time, between my accomplishments to celebrate; until I became exhausted and
What happens when we
are driving and striving?
- Our agendas are packed
- We have little or no time for ourselves
- When we are speaking with someone, often half of
our brain is focused on them and the other half is focused on the next thing on
our to-do list
- We feel like there is so much to do and so
- We focus on our goals and become so fixated on
achieving them that we may miss out on other opportunities that come our way
- We often feel tired on awakening
- We may start to feel resentful, as we seem to be
giving to everyone else, yet no one seems to be there to support us when we
Do you relate? Living this way, constantly driving and striving, leads to adrenal fatigue, burnout, various types of cancer, and auto-immune disorders such as fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis (for more details on burnout and what to do about it – https://pamela-thompson.com/how-to-know-if-youre-burning-out-what-to-do-about-it/). When we work night and day, our bodies don’t have time to return to homeostasis where we relax and rejuvenate ourselves. As stress hormones constantly surge through us, our organs eventually burn out.
What does thriving
look and feel like?
- We feel happy, healthy and grounded with a balance
between “giving” and “receiving” and “doing” and “being”
- We feel open to possibilities
- We awaken feeling energized and excited about
the day ahead
- We spend time with people we care about
- We feel connected to something greater than
- We spend regular time in nature
- We exercise regularly
- We are grateful for the life we have
- We are clear on our core values and live life in
alignment with them.
Feel free to add your own descriptions to the lists above.
How do we move from
driving and striving to thriving?
- We learn to Listen
to and trust in our body’s wisdom – The first step in getting out of our
heads and into our bodies is a mindfulness technique called body scanning. On awakening, you begin
scanning your body from the top of your head to the tips of your toes and
noticing where there is any tension or discomfort. Then you breathe into these
areas and set the intention to release any discomfort. Another mindfulness
practice is mindfulness walking meditations.
I encourage my clients to begin doing this 15 to 20 minutes a day, 3 times
a week. It can be done at noon or during a break. Instead of taking a walk and
thinking about the next thing on your plate or reflecting on a stressful
conversation you had with a partner or team member, you focus on your senses.
You feel the wind on your cheeks, you smell the salt sea air, you hear the
birds singing, you see the beautiful vistas surrounding you. When thoughts come
into your mind you view them as clouds floating by and let them pass, returning
to focusing on one of your senses. When you do this, notice what you notice
during the exercise, after and the cumulative effects.
- When you are feeling stressed, Take deep breaths in through your nose and
out through your mouth; making a sound as you breathe out. When you do this
3 or 4 times you release oxytocin, a hormone that relaxes you.
- Each week
block off in your calendar all of the things you commit to doing for yourself
(that you enjoy). For me one of these is yoga 3 times a week at noon. It
may be going to the gym 3 of 4 times a week after work. It may be meeting a
friend or partner for lunch once a week.
- Set firm
boundaries. Learn to say no. This is important at work, and with family and
your energy levels and schedule your activities to capitalize on these. For
example, if possible, do your creative work when you are naturally more
creative. Schedule meetings after 10 am.
- Spend regular time in nature; walking, hiking, cycling, kayaking … . Nature is therapeutic. Based on several decades of research, the Japanese have evidence to show that forest bathing/walking among trees reduces your heart rate, reduces your blood pressure and increases the number of natural killer cells your body produces. For more on the benefits of being in nature check out: https://pamela-thompson.com/how-you-can-benefit-from-nature-why-its-important/
from technology for at least 24 hours one day a week (e.g. on weekends) if
your achievements, big and small.
It’s important to reach out for support to friends, family
or a coach, as moving from driving and striving to thriving, IS a journey and
it requires support from others.
For more practical tools and techniques to support you to be healthy, happy and grounded, I invite you to check out my book Learning to Dance with Life: A Guide for High Achieving Women – www.amazon.com/dp/B0145ZGDO2 that is backed up by evidence from neuroscience, eastern psychology and the health promoting and healing benefits of the arts. There is also a series of coaching questions woven throughout the book to support you to move from driving and striving to thriving.
I welcome strategies that you’ve found helpful in the comments below.