These words from John Denver’s song, I’m Leaving On a Jetplane, still bring tears to my eyes. As a sixteen year old I imagined how dreadful it must have been for the girl to have her boyfriend leave so suddenly. How much it must have changed her life.
Since then I have realized how our lives change all the time. Sometimes in dramatic and unexpected ways; at other times slowly but inexorably.
Sometime we choose change: graduate from university; gap year in Europe; marriage; accept a new job with a better salary package; change careers; choose to take a retirement package …..
Sometimes, like the woman in the song, change is thrust upon us: a partner leaves; a mysterious illness changes our lives; we’re retrenched; we have a new manager; our major funders pull out of the business ….
Although change can evoke strong emotions, it often is not the change itself which is difficult. It is the transition – the internal psychological process we undergo as a consequence of the change – that is the most tricky.
William Bridges, a world expert in change and transition processes, recognizes three natural phases of transition: endings; neutral zones, and new beginnings. In his words “transitions involve new skills that must be developed for negotiating the perilous passage across the “nowhere that separates the old life situation from the new.”
Sometimes we are so caught up in the change itself that we fail to recognize our need for an ending. When something new begins, generally something else ends. Yes, we start a new job, but we still carry our old selves and our characteristic way of thinking and being into our new position; our manager at work is new but we hold on to the way we have always done things “here;” we get married, and we bring the whole of our past life into that marriage; being a new parent is exciting, but our lives as a couple change forever; we lose something…
In navigating this phase we need to understand our historical way of dealing with endings because, in the words of William Bridges, an ” old mindset is often reactivated in the present when something ends in our lives … Endings need to be dealt with if we are to move on to whatever comes next in our lives. New growth cannot take root on ground still covered with old habits, attitudes and outlooks because endings are the clearing process.”
What is ending in your life, and how would you like to prepare for it so that the new beginning is not marred by old patterns?
If you would like a process which will help you to navigate a transitional phase in your life contact me, Juliette Gyure (change management and transition coach), on email@example.com, visit the home page of www.farsightcoaching.co.za or fill in the contact form. I look forward to hearing from you.
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