The last year and a half of disruption and uncertainty in this world, have been like no other.
Amongst all the chaos and sadness, there are wonderful stories of people supporting each other and quickly adapting, make the most of the situation they have found themselves in. It is gratifying to see how the vast majority of people care about each other and try to do the right thing in these challenging times.
Many people have used this time as an opportunity to take stock and evaluate their lives, their priorities, their values, and what it is they want for a better life in the future.
Personally, I had been contemplating making significant changes in my work life for a long time and after much deliberation, I decided to go ahead with the plans I had been working on for a long time.
Below is some of my story and strategies that helped me in going through this major life transition.
Of course, I have also included the lessons I learned about what I could have done better!
After having had a long and successful career in Education as a teacher, career coach, and executive manager in large Education Institutes, I decided to take the plunge and move away from my life in a large organization and focus fully on my coaching business.
The leadership positions I held in large organizations led me to more senior and complex roles which I would not have been able to undertake if I had not been in the previous roles. It reminds me very much of the famous Steve Jobs speech about connecting the dots looking backward.
“Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.” – Steve Jobs
The culture and values of the organization I chose to work in over the years were particularly important to me as was the quality of leadership. Leading by example is such an important quality of a leader. It sets the scene for any organization.
Having senior management roles in large organizations brought its own pressures and frustrations as well as an opportunity to further hone my skills and expertise in leadership and coaching. I stayed true to my core value of respect and of treating people the way I would like to be treated.
In short, my career in Education has been an amazing journey in a field that I am passionate about, lifelong learning and helping people reach their potential and thrive in this rapidly changing world of work.
I really felt it was time for me to move onto the next chapter in my life and focus fully on my passion in supporting people to take responsibility for their lives and build their capability in coaching themselves to live a successful, fulfilling life.
To prepare for my new life, I made a deliberate effort to have a work/life balance as my tendency is to be consumed by work. This strategy worked sometimes!
I did not make the decision lightly to leave my career in Education and reflected deeply on the impact (or so I thought). I have always hated letting people down but I knew the time had come for me to show myself respect and follow my own path aligned to my core values and take the challenge of the next stage of my life.
The change was a major life transition that I welcomed with open arms. Knowing the importance of preparing for major transitions and in fact, advising this to people over the years, I prepared well for this using my self-coaching model.
However, as we all know, life is messy and complex! When I finished work, it was as though my whole world turned awry. What! This is something I had looked forward to so much.
Changing my lifestyle completely, even with meticulous planning brought with it lots of emotions. My tendency to anxiety skyrocketed. My main stressor, my high-pressured job had been left behind, surely this would mean I would have less anxiety.
Of course, the holidays we had planned and go on when we could, depending on border closures and lockdown, were refreshing and timely.
When I returned home from holiday, what I found comforting was having a daily work routine. I had been working from home and so found getting back to the daily routine of walk in the morning and then into my office, this time for my own work, with my regular coffee break, lunch break, and bouts of exercise during the day helped me.
No matter how prepared I was, I did not understand the full ramifications of the emotions I would go through.
The reasons we work are so varied. It is about the achievement of a job well done. It is also about connecting with people, having that stimulation of working towards shared goals. It is about being part of the human experience, the sense of belonging, and the complexities of building relationships. It is also about security and a sense of purpose whether it be about work or personal goals of financial security.
Clearly, I did not prepare myself adequately for this major change in my life and had to deal with the ramifications. Don’t you just love hindsight?
What would I say to someone who is considering making a major transition in their work and lifestyle?
Below are some strategies I followed and some valuable lessons I learned through my own experience.
Understanding the three phases of transition
Understanding the emotional ramifications of going through major change is very important.
William Bridges was a world-renowned change consultant who developed a Transitions Model to guide organizations and individuals during significant change. According to William Bridges, transitions have three phases. They are Ending What Currently Is, The Neutral Zone, and The New Beginning.
It is important to note the difference in meaning between change and transition. Change is an external event or situation that takes place and can happen quickly. It may be starting a new job or moving to a new location.
Transition is the inner psychological process that people go through as they come to terms with the new situation that the change brings about. The starting point for dealing with transition is not where you want to be, but the endings that you go through in leaving the old situation behind.
It is important to celebrate and acknowledge the ending of any stage in your life. This is a good time to organize a few activities whether they be social or otherwise, that is an acknowledgment of you finishing this significant part of your journey in life.
The middle phase, the neutral zone, is the messy one where things feel chaotic. Interestingly, it is here with all its chaos, that all possibilities and innovative ideas can come to life and flourish.
Finally, there is the new beginning where you have worked out what your future life looks like and make a fresh start in that direction.
These phases are not in order, you can be doing a bit of all of them at the same time! We tend to gravitate towards the stage we’re good at and interestingly can feel really stuck in our weakest stage.
Understanding the stages of grief
There is no doubt whether your life transition is voluntary or involuntary, the ending comes with a form of grief and there is a grieving process. It is good to familiarise yourself with the different stages of grief. Understanding why you are feeling the way you do really does help.
During this time, be prepared for any ingrained habits and thought patterns that lead to anxiety and stress amplifying and exacerbate. This is a key lesson I learned and in the future, I would safeguard myself more and be more prepared emotionally to ensure a smoother transition.
Going through a major transition no matter how prepared you are is an opportunity to learn more about yourself, about your patterns of behavior, particularly when under stress.
It is a catalyst for change. It is an opportunity to dig deeper and reflect on really what is the underlying reason for your stress and anxiety. You may be surprised at what really comes out!
For me, the anxiety I had suppressed for a long time, needing more and more adrenaline to push through in a high-pressured job, increased. Making this significant change in my life was a major opportunity for me to address my key issues of anxiety and expand my daily practice of mindfulness and self-compassion.
We advocate a healthy work-life balance, the time allocated to your work, to enjoying yourself and spending time with your family and friends as well as having leisure activities you enjoy. We all know this helps with preventing burnout and reduces stress. If you have followed this in your working life, then you will have few problems transitioning to your new life.
However, there are many people who put most of their energies into their work. Their connections are work-related and it seems most of their life is about work.
The key here does not to put your eggs in one basket. Do not rely on your connections to be all work-related. It is important to keep up your friendship groups outside of work. Yes, that is so hard when you work full time and in a high-pressure job but it keeps you more balanced.
Most of the time I did not allow my propensity for anxiety to get the better of me at work. I definitely was that duck gliding calmly on the water with legs moving furiously. I was very mindful of the energy I invested in my work but certainly tried to keep an emotional distance.
I have always been a major proponent of the practice of mindfulness. It allows us to experience fully the present being aware of our thoughts and feelings and fully accepting them without judging them.
Learning to master wayward mental processes brings with it a sense of mastery and the few if only brief moments we can do this can make us feel at peace and accepting of what is happening in our
life. It can certainly help in times of stress and in this case while going through a major life transition.
My book soon, Be Your Own Life Coach: 10 Essential Tips to Create a Life You Love has some great tools and techniques for practicing mindfulness and self-compassion. Although I had integrated mindfulness and self-compassion into my life a long time ago, a refresher course would have been a good idea during this time!
Do some goal setting for life post your career. It is not enough to have a vague idea of what you want to do.
My Life Journal online course has lots of great techniques and tools on goal setting and taking effective action to enhance your life and inner wellbeing. The course teaches a self-coaching model you can use throughout your life. Many people have successfully used this model to create a life they love.
Goals give you purpose, direction, and momentum. The real value of setting and pursuing your goals is not just in the goals themselves but in the person, you become as a result. It is about stepping out of your comfort zone and growing, learning more about yourself and your capacity for resilience and your potential.
To sum up, going through any major transition in your life is the opportunity to rewrite your life story.
Whether your transition was forced upon you or you chose it yourself, it really is up to you how the next chapter in your life will look like.
It is an opportunity to learn more about yourself, heal the frightened parts of you, and move on in a more positive and forward-looking way to the next stage of your life.
I hope these strategies help you with whatever life transitions you are going through.
All the best in the next chapter of your life story!
If you’d like to have all the tools you need to create a life you love, then check out my eBook: How to be Your Own Life Coach: 10 Essential Steps to Creating a Life You Love.
By going through the 10 step process in this book, you’ll develop a deeper understanding of yourself, greater clarity about your purpose in life, set meaningful goals, and most importantly, develop the ironclad discipline to achieve them.
… this isn’t a fantasy quick-fix, and you will be challenged…
… but with consistent effort and discipline, you’ll begin a journey towards a more successful, satisfying, and happier life.