Like my backyard and the seasonal changes that effect and support growth, we all have seasonal changes in our lives that impact our own growth. Being mindful of these seasonal changes will help us make the most of our lives.
The idea of the seasons of our lives actually came from a client of mine, who was speaking of the changes in her life and how she viewed them as the changing of a season. While one season of her life had come to an end, there was a new season starting, and everything that promises. I was really moved by this analogy, and felt it was a great way to recognize change and as an aid in transitioning to this new phase in her life.
A New Season for Me
My latest seasonal change started when my husband walked out of my life in February 2018. After 12 years as seeing my family as seven people, I was faced with redefining what my family looks like.
This was not a change I was prepared for, but as traumatic as this event was to me and my family, it paved the way to beautiful outcomes and lessons that will serve me for the rest of my life.
Change vs. Transition
Change is uncomfortable. Often it is met with resistance and opposition. If you want to help guide someone through change, it’s very important to understand the feelings of those effected. The end goal is for them to be in a place where they can accept and support the change.
A tool that I commonly utilize to help my clients with change is William Bridges’ Transition Model. Bridges shared this model in his 1991 book, Managing Transitions.
There is a subtle difference between change and transition, but it is important to recognize them as separate things. Change is something that happens to you. It doesn’t matter if you agree with it or not. It can be good, bad, or just different. Ultimately, just like the seasons, things change.
Transition is an internal process. It is what happens in your mind and your heart as you experience change. Change can happen rapidly, like an accident, a promotion, or a spouse leaving. How you transition through that change will likely be a longer process.
Three Stages of Transition
One of the main reasons transition takes longer is that it has three distinct stages you go through to get back to finding your voice again and making sure you are living the life you want. You go through each stage at your own pace, and it’s not uncommon to find yourself stuck in one of the first two stages.
If you do find yourself stuck, review my guidelines to assisting transition below, but never be afraid to ask for help. Change can be traumatic, and some transitions may be too difficult for you to handle completely on your own.
Stage 1: Ending, Losing, and Letting Go
When a change happens, it happens. Almost every time, there is no going back. Regardless of what the change is, good or bad, you are jostled from your comfortable idea of what is normal. You should expect to have an emotional reaction to that change.
Common Emotional Responses to Change
- A sense of loss
Again, change is the ending of something that was. In order to transition to this new season in your life, you must first accept that something has ended.
If you ignore the emotions associated with this change, you will find yourself resistant to letting go and accepting the new. You need to take the time deal with your emotions. Talk openly about what you’re feeling and what’s going to happen as a result off the change.
As you examine the change and its impact on your life, think about how you can apply your experience and knowledge to your new normal. Don’t discount how you feel about applying your skills to this new way of being. I had a right to be pissed at my soon to be ex-husband, not only for his leaving, but the way he did it, and the burden it put on me, emotionally as well as financially, to support my family. I had to come to grips with that anger.
People often fear what they don't understand. Change invokes a new reality you must come to know and accept. Often that takes time. Remember, your skills and experience are a vital part of understanding and then creating your new normal.
My husband left. He had let go of our life together. Anny relationship has at least two parties. If one of those parties has let go of the past, then you need to as well. You have the power to make this new season in your life a positive one. It’s brand new, make it what you want it to be. Let the past go.
Stage 2: The Neutral Zone
It is all new. You will not be able to keep everything as it was. Even if you’ve let the past go and accepted that things have changed there will be times when you are confused, uncertain, and impatient.
Not only that, depending on how well you're adjusting, you will likely have to work harder than you did before as you develop new systems and truly understand the demands of the change. Think of the neutral zone as an experimental time to establish how you are going implement change.
Common responses when accepting a change:
- Resentment towards the change
- Low morale and low productivity
- Anxiety about your role, status or identity
- Skepticism about how you can influence your transition
Remember, just because you have let go of the old, it doesn’t mean you will immediately fall in love with the new. You may have negative feelings toward the change, but this is the stage where you plan your new start. The Neutral zone can be a time of great creativity, innovation, and renewal.
Not everything you do during this stage will be productive, some of your productive actions may seem like far too little reward for your efforts, and at times you may simply feel lost. Remind yourself of what your goal is. View your efforts as trial and error experiments in search of a best result.
It’s very important that you express how all of this is making you feel. You will likely not jump right into a change having all the answers. You are perfectly justified in being frustrated just as much as you are to be excited by the possibilities.
Remember, you don’t need to solve every detail of your new normal at once. It may help to create a series of short-term goals to build your momentum and offer up “wins” to lift your spirits. If possible, you may even want to seek outside help to act as a coach, a sympathetic ear, or even just someone who can alleviate your workload as you figure things out.
Stage 3: The New Beginning
The last transition stage is a time of acceptance and energy. You are finally figuring out what this change is going to look like, and you’ve embraced it. You’ve either gained new skills or realized what skills you need to develop to make this reality truly your and the way you want your life to be.
At this stage, people are likely to experience:
- High energy
- Openness to learning
- Renewed commitment to the group or their role
As you adapt, you need to be able to sustain your change. This is, after all, your new season. Spring starts with Easter and baseball and Spring Break. Summer is marked by the end of the school year and the summer solstice. Each season begins with celebration. Take time to reward yourself for your hard work. Likely, your transition is still ongoing, but a moment to celebrate and tell yourself, “I’m doing this” is a great way to own your new season.
As for my new season, I’ve let go. I’m finding my own voice again and recreating the life I want. I’m not going to say it was (and is) always pretty. My transition is still ongoing, but opportunities are all around. Last weekend was my daughter’s wedding, and I chose joy and positivity over any opposition or provocation from my naysayers or my ex.
I am concentrating on being the best version of myself, and that is the season I’m living in.
#Transitions #Changes #Happiness #SummerSolstice #Joy