Imagine you find yourself in such place…
Maybe you were driving happily and suddenly you had to stop here not knowing what to do next. Or someone brought you here and left with just a few pieces of luggage. You might intuitively know that the road would change but you didn’t expect this to happen so quickly. Or you planned for getting to a new place, but now it looks it may be a little more difficult than you thought. Anyway, the question is – what now?
Regardless of how much time you spend thinking why it happened to you, what are the options, what is awaiting you behind the fence and the bushes, at some point you have to pack the most important things to your backpack, take a last look at what you are leaving behind you, and start walking. You are doing this because you cannot neither go back or stay here, but you also hope to soon find a new road, better than this old one, which will lead you to new places. You also sense that both adventure and fear on this unknow path will change you forever.
It is a cliché to say that our life is a journey, but it really is, and there are times when we can find ourselves in such place – the life as we knew it is coming to an end or we are no longer comfortable with it. We want or we should proceed, but we are not sure about neither direction nor goals. It can happen when we are “emerging adults” starting a new independent life, when we start family or go through a divorce, retire, go through quarter-life, mid-life, or any other existential crisis, change life and profession due to burnout. It is more than a simple change and we need to re-invent ourselves in a process of Transition.
Transition was defined by an author, consultant, and international speaker William Bridges in 1979:
“(…) change is situational. Transition, on the other hand, is psychological. It is not those events, but rather the inner reorientation and self-redefinition that you have to go through in order to incorporate any of those changes into your life. Without a transition, a change is just a rearrangement of the furniture. Unless transition happens, the change won’t work, because it doesn’t ‘take’.”
William Bridges, Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes
Bridges proposed a simple but powerful Transition Model applicable both to individuals and organizations going through a transition; it contains just 3 steps: The Ending, The Neutral Zone, and The New Beginning. I modified the model to contain 4 steps more fitting my style of coaching and a vision of standing in front of a No U-Turn sign, hesitant to take the first step.
Step1: Say goodbye to the old path
When your car stops in front of the “No U-Turn” sign, take your time to reflect what brought you here, what you are leaving behind, who you are at this moment. You will start realizing that you cannot go back and you need to find a new place for yourself. You still feel attached to the current life and your current self, but to be able to proceed you need to gently let it go. Do not rush until you really accept that there is no return.
In a coaching situation you will be asked questions about your past and presence, and start preparing for a farewell:
- What situation are you in? What makes it a “No U-Turn”?
- Who are you? What are your values, priorities, beliefs?
- What are you proud of? What do you love about yourself and what you would prefer to change?
- What is difficult to leave behind? How can you take it or its part or memory with you?
- How can you switch perspective from being Attached to your past to Appreciate and cherish it, but be able to move forward?
- What unfinished business you have (if anything)?
- Are you ready for a next step?
Step 2: Prepare for a journey
Once you know who you are and why you are here, and you decide that it is time to move on, you need to spend some time preparing for this exciting but sometimes scary journey. You have to decide what to put in the small backpack you will carry with you, and what to leave behind. You may want to look back and take a last photograph of your past before switching your mind to look forward.
The coach would ask you questions like:
- What is the goal of your transition?
- Who do you want to be?
- Which values and priorities are you unwilling to compromise?
- What options do you see?
- Fear is normal, but what can you do to contain it?
- How can you keep yourself motivated to continue the transition until the end?
- How will you know that you have reached the goal?
- How can you switch from doubt, insecurity, fear, and longing for the past to the belief that you will end up in a new, exciting place?
- What challenges do you expect to meet? Who can support you?
- Are you ready for the next step?
Step 3: Walk, walk, and walk a little more…
It is time to jump through the fence and start walking. You are looking into the bushes behind the fence and have to decide which way to go. You may see one small trail among the trees or several trails to choose from. There may also not be any trails and you will just start going step by step among the trees and bushes.
Anyway, the transition journey starts with the first step. You will frequently check if you are still on track to reach your goals, because the path may not be straight, and you may have to go back a little and change direction. Or you may even decide to change your goals if you learn something new about yourself along the way.
The coach will walk beside you during the entire journey, helping by discussing with you:
- How do you feel about your journey so far?
- Where are you in relation to your goals?
- What have you learned about yourself so far?
- What are the changes in your values and priorities?
- What changes in the goals or directions do you want to make, if any?
- How can you keep yourself motivated and accountable?
- What are and may be the barriers on your way? Who can help you?
Step 4: Welcome on a new path
Finally, you leave the forest and you see a new road inviting you to continue the journey with new adventures, experiences, and challenges. But before you proceed, you stop for a while and reflect on the transition that just happened.
You talk with the coach to check:
- Who are you now?
- How did your values, priorities, beliefs change?
- What are you looking forward to?
- What are your plans?
- What have you learned about yourself in the transition?
- How can you apply this learning to other aspects of your life?
- Are you ready to part with the coach? 😊