– by Jaime Willis
“When nothing is certain, EVERYTHING is possible.” – Margaret Drabble
Before I get to the point of today’s post, I need to give you a quick lesson on William Bridges‘Transition Framework (TF). The TF states that for every change that happens in your life, physical, mental, or spiritual, there is an emotional transition that one must also go through. This transition process has three main steps: Endings, Neutral Zone, and Beginnings.
An “Ending” is the acknowledgement that a change has occurred in your life, and using evokes feelings of sadness, anger, and fear. The “Neutral Zone” is the place where you wander when you have acknowledged the change, but don’t have your new routine down pat yet. Being in your Neutral Zone usually evokes feelings of fear, confusion, and stress, but may also be a time of freedom and opportunity, depending on the change you are transitioning through. Beginnings are when you are emotionally ready to commit to your new way of life and boy, does this feel great!
Because change and transition doesn’t happen on the same timeline, the TF helps explain why your emotions may not match the circumstances of your life. For example, why do you think high school students experience a big funk after graduation? Even though graduating is a wonderful accomplishment, they are experiencing an Ending (of their high school career) and will have feelings of loss and even anger until they can transition through to their new Beginning. Get it? TF is a great emotional tool to use and you can read much more about it here.
Now that you have a sketch of the Transition Framework, let’s look at how it can be applied to goal achievement. Think, for example, about someone who has made a goal to purchase their first home. This goal is a huge change for this current renter. Achieving this goal may mean the loss of freedom and/or independence, as one is now obligated to pay a mortgage and upkeep a house (endings). The future home-owner may find the process of finding a mortgage and choosing a home extremely stressful and confusing, and may not be able to make a decision on anything while sorting through all of the new information (neutral zone). Once the person finally sees all the opportunities they have in homeownership, they will be able to buy a house and start living the life of a homeowner (beginnings).
Once you understand that you will have to go through all the stages of a transition to achieve your goal (there are no shortcuts), what can you do to help alleviate the emotional upheaval you may feel.
Acknowledge your feelings and your transition stage.
Change and transitions are tough. Sometimes just being able to name the reason for your emotional response helps quiet your feelings. (This is also true for dealing with a person going through their own transition–you can have a lot more empathy for your teenager’s bad attitude when you understand what stage of transition they are working through).
Also, it is important to note that transitions are NOT linear. You may alternate between sadness/anger and stress/uncertainty as you process the change in your life. (You may be upset that you lost your job, and are stressed out about getting a new one–depending on the day).
Create a calming ritual.
Why are funerals so important? Because they are a ritualistic acknowledgement of the loss everyone attending has suffered. Funerals are the embodiment of a transitional ending, and are incredibly cathartic. But, it isn’t just sad changes that should be acknowledged.
Happy changes also have a component of ending/loss in them that needs an emotional home. A Bachelor/Bachelorette party is a perfect example of a ritual celebrating the end of someone’s single life.
Utilize positive self-talk.
During one’s neutral zone stage, the lack of certainty and firm footing can be paralyzing. Since there is no short-cut through the neutral zone, one has to find ways to accept a level of uncertainty as you transition. If you are anything like me, you worry about what “could be” a lot. I have recently found two powerful mantras (think priming) for me to evoke whenever worry starts shutting me down.
“Thank you for right now.” My worries are never about what is happening in the present moment–they are about what already happened or what may happen. One way to recenter myself is to remember that I cannot change the past and I cannot control the future, but I can be thankful for what I have right this very moment. This song (Blessed by Brett Dennen) is my go-to “be in the moment” track. You may also like the Serenity Prayer.
“When nothing is certain, everything is possible.” I was literally just introduced to this quote yesterday and it really resonated with me. I never worry about something good happening, only about all the bad things that could happen. This quote helps remind me that it is just as likely that something amazing can happen, focusing me on the positive. See also: Impossible is Nothing.
Find Comfort in Community.
There are almost 7 billion people on this planet. It is safe to safe that there is unlikely to be any change, no matter how good or bad, that at least a few others have already gone through. Network with these people to learn how they managed a similar change and transition. You may also find comfort in the listening ear or support from family, friends, or mental health professionals.
No matter where you are in your goal-achieving, I am sure you can benefit from figuring out how the emotional transition you are making is impacting the change you are trying to make. Good luck as you continue your change and transition journeys!