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Moving through a Life Transition

Life TransitionsLife has a way of bringing you back to places that you thought that you had left for good. William Bridges author of The Way of Transition.

Life Transitions. Health coaching conversations often involve working together on life transitions. With my clients, the most common transitions include a change in health status, downsizing move, losing a spouse, changing careers, and selling a business, or retirement. If possible, I use the client’s vision and values before the transition to map out a strategy and game plan. Often vision and value discussions have clients circling back to places that reconnect them with lifelong values.

With an Ending Comes a Loss. Losses create endings that are unsettling. Some of the transitions like the loss of a spouse to illness or divorce or an empty nest after last child moves out come with some support from family and friends and are identified early on as a loss. Other losses involve transitions with the anticipation of a better life ahead. We can’t wait until we live in a smaller house with fewer responsibilities or the freedom of leaving a demanding career behind to try something new. But with both types of transitions, there are moments where you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of the losses, even when you have a fair amount of control over the ending and the new beginning.

The Four “D’s.” In his book, The Way of Transition, author and transition specialist William Bridges talks about transition as a developmental process that begins with an end of the way things were. He positions life transitions as passages. With an ending comes a feeling of disorientation (I am not in Kansas anymore), disidentification (loss of old identity and status with new career, new location, new marital status, new health status), disengagement (the separation you feel moving from the old to new reality) and disenchantment (the new beginning isn’t exactly what you pictured so far). From most, the ending is a prelude to a period he calls “the neutral zone.”

The Neutral Zone. The neutral zone is an important developmental step in which you dismantle a whole past life structure and relinquish the outlook and daily habits that were part of the past life. Most people underestimate the enormity of the letting go experience. It is a long process where you begin testing new patterns and habits while still feeling awash in the four D’s feelings. The goal is letting go of the past to make room for the new beginning. The neutral zone ultimately is a time where you are allowed to discover this new beginning and decipher what works for you and your lifestyle.

New Beginnings. It’s not easy. There are no developmental short cuts. Transitions and life changes take time as you encourage yourself to take risks and embrace your new beginning or new start. There are hiccups along the way, but new opportunities closer to your personal vision and values are possible.

Coaching through Transitions. I have several clients who have taken on a major transition of selling the family home after adult children have made their own lives. Sometimes it has been complicated by divorce or death of a spouse. Moving forces a life review as you sift through the household choosing what to keep and what to give away or sell (letting go). Along with the excitement of a smaller house in a new community, there is the loss of the your old community with all the connections and status you had as a long time member. With coaching we focus on the stages of transition and it’s connection to your personal vision and values. In difficult transitions, we identify the positive choices that are available while saying goodbye to the ending.

As always, I am available for anyone interested in hiring a professional health coach to work through life and health related changes. Drop me an email and we can arrange for a time to talk.

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