Exploring Transitions

The Power of Change-- and What Makes It Successful

Like many people, I’ve been following the uprising in Egypt over the past couple of weeks with hope and amazement.  To have a groundswell of people from all sectors of society coming together as peacefully as possible to call for a government responsive to people’s needs is an enormous expression of frustration with years of repression.  As a life coach, it’s fascinating to see on this large a scale, important coaching principles come to life-- to have a vision, claim your own life, acknowledge and move past your fears, be called forth into a new way of interacting, and step forward into your dream.  In Egypt, the protesting population are doing all of this-- or learning to do so.

On another change front, I recently participated in one of a series of interviews with professionals in law, financial planning, career coaching, health and fitness, etc.,  facilitated by my coaching colleague, Edi Spanier-- called Divorce by Design-- for the benefit of women in the process of divorce.  Divorce is a huge life experience that is often fraught with emotional and financial misery.  However, going through a divorce is also a time when many women learn to take charge of their lives, decide what’s really important to them, and learn new skills to make this possible.

In both these situations, there are people who have reached the point where enough is enough, and a separation from a habitual way of life is vital in order to live with aliveness and fulfillment into the future.  So what can we learn from both these situations?  What makes for change that is powerful and effective?  In my personal and professional experience, a transition to a new reality that is transformative and lasting, not reactive and limited, needs to include the following:

* A vision of where you want to go

* A plan for getting there

* Willingness to take certain risks and be open to new possibilities

* Support (therapy, coaching, family, community) that validates your vision, your feelings, your needs, and your learning-- and help you take appropriate action

* Understanding what resources you require and how to find them

* Patience with and commitment to a change process that doesn’t always seem clear or possible, and may end up looking different from what you expected

Finally, a truly successful, lasting change is the result of a transition in which the vision (desired career, new way of living, a new form of government) you have held and created for yourself is fully in alignment with the person you really are.  Change that fulfills you is part of a journey in which you are committing to a fuller, richer way of being and living-- and trusting that this is possible for you.

Satisfaction in Action-- Slow Down and Feel the Sunshine!

I was struck the other day by something I read in a New York Times obituary of Joan Sutherland, the luminous singer of Italian bel canto opera.  She not only had a powerful voice of incredible range, she achieved great dramatic intensity in part by giving equal attention to each note of an aria, singing each one fully.  She didn’t gloss over them in an effort to make something happen.  She savored each note, and in doing so, brought her audience with her into a deep, timeless place of incomparable beauty.

             In the work I do as a coach-- guiding people to make choices that will let them move in the direction they really want to go-- I’m informed by my many years of work as a body therapist to help them slow down and pay attention, with each step forward, to what they’re feeling in their bodies and their spirit.  The process of change is so much more than making leaps from here to there.  It’s about the way your whole being is involved in feeling, learning, expressing, and connecting with what is real and true for you. 

             You can easily enter into this experience by closing your eyes and envisioning a change that you’d like to make in your work or any other part of your life.  Notice what happens to your breathing, whether it gets faster or almost shuts down as you take in the implications of really making a meaningful change.  Notice whether there’s any tension or opening in your belly, your chest, your throat, your neck, or behind your eyes.   What are the messages from your body that feel connected to your vision of change?  What is the level of energy you’re feeling now? 

            It’s really quite amazing how much useful information you can sense about a decision you need to take or a change you want to make by taking time to go deeper into yourself during a time of transition-- rather than just running forward.  In fact, time expands and opens possibilities for you when you stop rushing and pay attention to what’s inside you, to the sound of each note resonating, and to the feel of sunshine on your shoulder.  When you really feel the depth of what you’re wanting for yourself, then you know, with confidence and clarity, what you have to do-- and the way opens before you with astounding ease.  Then the actions you take will lead you to much greater career and life satisfaction.

                         Join in the Discussion!

 • When have you stopped running forward and let yourself experience inside the feeling of making a change? 

• What is it to slow down?  What are you afraid will happen to your life if you do?  What has been a positive experience you’ve had in slowing down?

• What has been a deeply satisfying change you’ve consciously made in your life?  Why was this change so satisfying?

Perspectives on Transitions as Transformation

As a life transitions coach, I’m intrigued by Elizabeth Gilbert’s (author, Eat, Pray, Love) new book, Committed, in which she explores the multiple meanings of marriage to people at different times and places in history.  She has a compelling reason for doing so, since, in order to live in the United States with the man she loves who is Brazilian, she must marry him.  However, since both she and her partner have gone through painful divorces, neither has wished to remarry.  Only the demands of the immigration laws of the U.S. make them consider that marriage for them is a necessity. 

            So here is Liz’ dilemma about this situation:  We must (due to legal requirements) get married.  However, we have concerns about whether marriage can sustain the loving connection that is the basis of our relationship.  She is now 15 years older than when she was first married.  This is a transition that tests all her conscious and unconscious assumptions of her individual and woman’s rights and desires against the background of societal/familial needs for order and continuity.  Is it OK to insist on love (not just security or being “well-matched”) as the foundation for one’s marriage?  Is it all right to love someone and want to live with him and yet not want/need to have children?  Can marriage sustain a woman being a working professional who loves what she does? 

            As I read this book, I thought to myself, “I wish I’d had coaching before I got married!”  I thought of all the questions and concerns I’d had about formal, societal commitment to another person.  I truly wish I’d been able to work with someone who could’ve guided me through a process of exploring what I really wanted in my life (my purpose) and what kind of person I wanted to be.  It would’ve been good-- for my whole life-- to have looked more fully at how marriage fit in with my own personal needs and vision.  Or how the structure of marriage might provide a catalyst for growth and development.  It would’ve been helpful to feel that I’d looked at different perspectives beforehand for such an important transition in my life-- and that of my husband-to-be, as well. 

            Recently, I wrote an article (“Purpose and Renewal in Life Transitions”) for a website dedicated to issues around transitions (www.FindYourFooting.com). In it, I came to the conclusion that“transitional periods can feel less chaotic and more valuable if they’re experienced as part of a natural flow towards self-renewal and living with purpose.  To stay fulfilled, resourced and balanced as you move forward in life, it’s vital to stay mindful of the powerful need and movement within yourself to unfold into your full potential.” 

            When you learn to approach transitions-- marriage, career, retirement, creative projects, etc.-- with the conscious intent to “unfold into your full potential,” something comes alive in you that makes the output of time, emotional concerns, and energy well worthwhile.  For those of you who are interested in exploring your current transitions as transformative opportunities, I invite you to join me for my upcoming free tele-class, “Career & Life Transitions-- Am I in One?  What Do I Do Now?” on Wednesday, October 6th, at 9 AM Pacific Time.  For further information and to register, please go to http://www.kailaslifecoaching.com/?id=presentations.