THE BLOG
03/28/2008 02:48 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

How To Better Master Transitions In The New Year

How about this year you change the pattern and don't make that long list of resolutions, but instead consider peeling back what you thought about change for yourself...in your eating,
exercise, or in your life?

Some of us are kicked into life's surprises, and into changes in our professional lives by events that we may see as out of our control. In business, a merger, reorganization, downsizing, or retirement, all push us into a new place. Changes in our health, caring for an aging parent, or sick child, a divorce or a move, really press us to cope and "manage" these often startling, sometimes unwelcome, changes in our lives.

One of the best resources I know to "map" the changes that evolve from the bumps and surprises in our path is TRANSITIONS: Making Sense of Life's Changes, a 1982 book by William Bridges. The author offers a wise way to look at making any change work. It's a smart mental mapping process to launch us into making change real. And, if you have the gusto and guts to try it, it works. And, unlike most of our well-intentioned resolutions, it sticks.

In my Practice, I use the book as an essential pre-read for our work with senior executives. Bridges' premise that "change begins with endings, not beginnings" sets the stage for a fresh look at our beliefs about ourselves, others, managing and leading. Best-selling author, Malcolm Gladwell, said recently that "we are experience rich, but theory poor." Bridges offers
us a lively theoretical framework for our life changes.

We all could use a new vocabulary for the feelings of transition, as well as a map to guide us along a path. Bridges suggests that transition has three phases: an Ending, a disorienting sort of "nowhere" that he calls The Neutral
Zone
, and a New Beginning. We've added a fourth, Reinvention
and Renewal
. If you don't experience each phase, you get stuck there,
and change becomes simply rearranging the furniture. In short, change
is the way things will be different, and transition is how to get through those three stages to make the change work and stick and allow us to grow and accept the outcome.

Our next step in understanding life's transitions, it to surrender up your Belief Maps, the thoughts you have about yourself, your relationships with others, your beliefs about managing
and leading, and your ideas for the future.

You can begin by asking yourself some
simple questions:

  • How does life work?
  • What is my life really about?
  • Who really knows me?
  • Who is glad I am their friend?
  • What motivates people?
  • What is my personal vision, what am I trying to build, to create?
  • How do I get people to follow me? Who really listens to me?

Each question doesn't invite a simple answer, and in our individual coaching and counseling with remarkable, courageous folks we "sit" with the question long enough to discover what beliefs inform our decisions, our assumptions, our actions. Surprisingly, we often discover that we live and lead out of outdated beliefs, often encoded at age 8 or 9. Imagine: we are acting out of
beliefs that we don't believe anymore.

This is adult work. It takes courage to even contemplate the questions, for we "know" that our answers may be unsettling to our well-established sense of ourselves. Playwright Arthur Miller noted that "an era can be said to end when its basic illusions are exhausted." Perhaps it is time to see if our illusions have changed and it's time to turn up the lights.

I invite you to begin January with
the invitation to yourself to hit that pause button more often in the
hectic pace of your days, and listen, really listen, to the new whispers
of conversation, of ideas, of nature...that we hear when we slow down.

Ready or not, here comes the New Year!