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 is the second in a series of personal reflections on what has changed and what remains relevant since I wrote “Learning to Dance with Life: A Guide for High Achieving Women” ten years ago.
In “Learning to Dance with Life”, I coined the term “Creative Living”. It is defined as “the conscious cultivation of improved health, happiness, fulfillment and inner peace in your life (p. 35).” In today’s world of constant change and much conflict and strife globally, Creative Living is more important than ever. Having tools and strategies to ground us and help us respond from a place of inner peace and understanding rather than conflict and reactivity, is so needed.
I also identified seven keys to Creative Living which I believe continue to be important to help us prevent and heal from burnout, and live a life of radiant health, happiness, fulfillment, and inner peace. The seven keys are:
- Listen to and trust in your body’s wisdom
- Tap into and express your creative side
- Consciously create right and left brain-body balance
- Live in alignment with your core values
- Believe that you are here to make a difference
- Learn from and embrace life transitions
- Find inner peace, and build peace in your family, friends, community, workplace … the world.
There is also now more documented evidence supporting each of the seven keys.
Based on some feedback I received in the past, I’m not certain that some people understood that Creative Living and the seven keys associated with it, supported me and others to heal from burnout. I know for certain that integrating these seven keys and the proven strategies and powerful practices associated with them, together, have enabled me to heal from the inside out and to live a life of improved health, happiness, fulfillment, and inner peace.
In the book, I identify seven elements of Creative Living. They are:
- Body wisdom
- Core Values
- Life Transitions
- Inner Peace.
“The elements may be likened to seeds that germinate when nourished with sufficient water, food, and warmth. The “work that we do around each seed, enables us to cultivate a unique garden of health, happiness, fulfillment and inner peace (p. 36).” I stand by this statement and am living proof of it.
How about you? Do you relate to all or any of the seven keys and elements above? I welcome your thoughts and experiences below.
“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.