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7 Tips for Navigating Major Transitions

25 February 2016

Change is hard. Yet inevitable. And most of us will go through several major personal or professional transitions during our lifetime. 

It would serve us well therefore to be more equipped to navigate these transition points. Why? So that we’re more adaptable in today’s fast changing world. And to even go beyond to leverage these potential turn-your-world-upside-down moments and emerge as stronger, better versions of ourselves.

William Bridges, a recognized authority on managing change, developed a Transition Model which highlights three stages of transition people experience when going through change at the workplace. 

They are -
Stage 1 : Ending, Losing and Letting Go -  a period of resistance and emotional upheaval where you may experience fear, sadness, anger and a sense of loss because you are being forced to let go of something you’re comfortable with. At this point, it’s important to acknowledge these emotions to enable you to accept that something is ending before you can begin to explore new ideas.

Stage 2 : The Neutral Zone - the disorienting ‘nowhere’. While you may still feel confused and uncertain, it can also be a time of great creativity and renewal as you explore new ways of thinking.

Stage 3 : The New Beginning - this is when you begin to embrace the new way forward, and it’s a time of acceptance, renewed energy and growth through learning of new skills.

While this model was developed for organisational change management, the key principles are valuable to help you transition through any major professional or personal change in your life.

Bearing in mind these 3 stages, here are some tips to help you navigate your transition -

Don't underestimate how hard change can be.

Expect to go through this roller coaster of emotions and give yourself time to adjust. Everyone transitions through these stages at their own pace. Find someone you can talk to who can support you through the change process. Many people reveal that just being able to talk about what they’re experiencing makes them feel better.

Acknowledge your sense of loss

Almost all change involves letting go of something. Don’t bury your emotions. Acknowledge any negative emotions so that you can deal with it. At the same time, try to put things into perspective and look at the bigger picture. Ask yourself what is good about the change that’s happening.

Make the most of your Neutral Zone

You may be tempted to jump straight into planning for the future. Don’t. It may seem counter intuitive but a period of doing nothing is the best thing at this point. Clearer insights will surface as emotions calm down. Experiment with different mindfulness techniques as they have been proven to help lower stress, build a more positive mindset and open your mind to new ideas. 

Prioritise Self Care

Pay particular attention to your health and wellbeing as it will help you deal with the stress of change. Consciously build into your daily routine things you enjoy doing that make you happy. Put yourself first. You’re not being selfish. You’re being smart.

Find your anchors

During this period of uncertainty and ambiguity, use anchors to help center you and boost your self confidence when you need it most. Review your strengths to see how you can leverage them to build a better future. Remind yourself of your past successes at dealing with difficult situations. 

Get crystal clear about what matters most to you and what you want for the future. It’s a critical foundation step to help you get clarity for stage 3 - your new beginning. Think of your values as important signposts to guide you forward.

Daydream about the future 

Starting with a blank page can be confronting, yet incredibly liberating. This is the perfect time to imagine what’s possible …whether it’s a new career pursuing childhood passions that were put aside, or your new life post your divorce. 

Give yourself permission to put aside restrictions and really allow yourself to picture as clearly as possible the new future you want for yourself. Picturing a clear vision for your future helps your mind filter and direct relevant information to your attention so that you think of new ways to achieve your vision. 

Start building a plan

Creating a new beginning can seem too complex. Chunk it down into smaller goals to make it less daunting. Start with one small action step, then go from there, one small step at a time.

Change is hard. Yet it brings with it new beginnings and the opportunity to create possibilities for an even better future.

As always, wishing you onwards and upwards in your journey.

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