Everyone experiences multiple changes throughout their life. Whether it is a move, job change, illness, a birthday, death, marriage, divorce, or some other life-altering event, you are experiencing a life change. A transition is the internal redefinition of one’s self that takes place based on these external changes. Without understanding that both external and internal shifts are separate processes, people experience life changes and are caught off guard by the need to redefine their self-image based on that outer change.
In his book, Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes, William Bridges outlines the three phases all transitions are comprised of:
1 - An Ending: The first phase – the Ending – involves the process of letting go of an old situation.
2 - A Neutral Zone: The second phase – the Neutral Zone – requires the person in transition to be in a state of in-betweenness – in which they no longer have the identity they had before the ending and do not yet have a new one to replace it. This Neutral Zone is an uncertain, uncomfortable, confusing place that many people are tempted to race through or skip altogether.
3 - A New Beginning: The third phase occurs when the person has navigated through the Neutral Zone and emerged renewed and ready for a New Beginning.
Here are five secrets to successfully navigating a life transition:
1 . Declutter: Yes, I said declutter. Endings are a great time to let go of stuff that no longer serves you. Whether its papers, clothes, furniture, books, you name it, if it no longer fits in your life, release it. This opens up literal and figurative space and energy for new things to flow into your life.
2 . Befriend uncertainty. The uncertainty of what you are doing. The uncertainty of where you are going. The uncertainty of who you are becoming. The uncertainty of when and how you will get there. It is not easy to tolerate uncertainty. But growth happens in this uncharted path through uncertainty.
3 . Allow time and space to simply be. Embrace your need to be alone and/or seemingly unproductive during this time. Release beliefs that no longer serve you. Create a time-out from your everyday life, and be in the space created by letting go of the past.
4 . Make meaning during the transition. Journaling about your thoughts, feelings, actions or inactions will provide a framework to make sense of the shifts in perspective you may be experiencing. Conducting a review of your life will help you make sense of the past and present, and to reframe the future.
5 . Lean in to your desires. Take this time to discover what you really want to do and be next. When you have released the old and allowed for renewal, a new sense of purpose and next steps will emerge. Then you will be ready for the new beginning.
Everyone experiences a series of life-changing events throughout their lifespan. It is not a question of if, but when. It is up to you to decide whether you live with just the external change or make the internal transition as well. With awareness and support, the next life-altering event you encounter can be the gateway to the most purposeful and productive years of your life.