Beautiful blue butterfly on a green leaf.

Coping with Change: The Emotional Journey of Transition

I’ve always been an advocate of change, being brought up in times where the saying ‘change is as good as a rest’ was commonly heard. I like that saying, it is true, doing something different and changing the routine is good for you and can often re-energise and re-focus you in life.

From an observer’s point of view, change happens quickly, with the swapping over from one thing to another: change of role; change of house; change of gym routine; and so on.

But often change takes time and effort. That could be seeking a new gym class, where time has been spent scouring the internet researching for better or different workouts, to finding the cheapest deal possible. For those changing house, there has been hours of time invested in looking for the perfect home, viewing properties and all of the legalities that come with that rent or purchase. For those changing job or role, there’s likely to have been time invested in refining the CV and interview skills, and what seems like endless filling-in of application forms. Change is often a long and arduous process.

With change comes the end of one thing and the beginning of another, and within those two entities lies a time of transition. That period can be hard, and often doubt, anxiety, denial, frustration and resistance can creep in. We can begin to question ourselves and wonder why the hell we ever thought change was a good idea! Just to add to all those feelings, we can also feel what may be our perceived sense of criticism from others. Bridge’s Model of Transition, see below, demonstrates where those feelings exist in that journey of change.

I recently was involved in a professional learning dialogue, where we were discussing Professor Steve Peters’ Chimp Paradox, and our chimp brains. We talked about the chimp brain and its ability to make us undermine ourselves and question what we are doing. This chimp (emotional) brain is five times more powerful than our ‘human’ (facts based) brain or our ‘computer’ (storage space) brain, and we have to learn to manage the chimp in order to manage our self-doubt. In that discussion, a colleague reminded me of the wonderful coaching question: What evidence do you have of this? Such a powerful question to support us when we are feeling judged or criticised as often, we think others are judging us and criticising what we are doing. For example, we may think that if we move house to another neighbourhood, our friends or family might make some judging comment about who do we think we are, or they are mad to take on that mortgage! We may be thinking others are having a field day at the decisions we have made to start a new job, or go self-employed, when in reality, they actually might be silently jealous of our bravery. Unless someone actually says something directly to you, then we ourselves (our chimp) are causing our own doubts and self- sabotage. That’s where the question, ‘what evidence do you have of this?’ is crucial to bring you back to reality, and help you refocus on moving forwards, rather than doubting yourself or looking backwards.

Always remember, you have created change for a reason. Something wasn’t right for you in the first place. You didn’t want to remain comfortable or complacent, or in a place of discomfort. You made the decision for change, so stick with it, ride out Bridge’s Transition Model and reach the point where you are relishing in the high energy, motivation and relief you have as a result of your change. Change is not easy; I’m talking from a place of recent experience. Playing the long game of transition requires stamina and determination, and lots of matter over (chimp)mind to avoid self-sabotage.

If you are in the position where you would like to embark on a journey of change, but aren’t sure how to begin, then please contact me via my contact page so I can tell you how I can help you move forward with conviction and self-belief. Moving through the transition zone is hard, and having someone support you can be the biggest gift you can give yourself. What will you do?

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