Growing up in the Greek Orthodox church, the liturgical cycle always brought rhythm to my life. “Feast days” on the calendar brought great joy and celebration. Days of great piety, increased prayer and restriction of food appeared in “fast days.” When there’s a fast, you know that a feast day is around the corner. Likewise, as feast days wind down you know fast days are ahead. Knowing what is coming, and that cycles change and resurface, is comforting.
Like the church calendar, life is cyclical. Days seem to cruise along “on a roll” with things going well, even amazingly well. Life is exciting, inspiration is present and things are “in the flow.”
Then, seemingly out of nowhere what worked before doesn’t seem to work anymore. Inspiration dries up. There’s a sense of drifting and there’s no clear picture of where life is going. What happened?
Unfortunately there is no calendar that shows us the date when flow will be reinstated. We may even begin to doubt it’s ever coming back. These times of “in between” are sometimes referred to as “transition.” They usually involve self-doubt, decreased motivation, lack of clarity and a sense of drifting.
Transition typically goes through the following cycle, as described in Stuck by Terry Walling:
1. Entry. Signs of entering transition include self-doubt, lack of focus and direction, diminished confidence, confusion and restlessness. You may feel like you live on Mars and there’s a heightened conflict with yourself and others. You may feel unable to move, stuck in quicksand with no clear direction on where to go next or even what is causing the feelings of confusion.
Your role: Stay open and awake and realize you are entering transition. Some of the best personal growth will come about through transition if you recognize and welcome it. Write down your questions in a journal or share them with a trusted friend who will help you endure the difficulty without helping you short circuit it. Trust that answers will unfold if you have the courage to ride the wave.
2. Evaluation. During this phase values and life convictions start to sift through. What do you believe? Who is your real self? Evaluate your life; are you living within your value system? What is working in your life? What’s not working? What is causing you conflict and stress, and why? What does your soul tell you it needs?
Your role: This is the proving ground and where the faint of heart turn back. Spend periods of mindfulness or quiet to reflect on what brought you to transition and where you feel you are yearning to go. Spend time developing a personal values statement and ask yourself if your life reflects alignment with your values. Sit with the discomfort, recognizing it is integral in order for breakthrough. Journaling or processing with a good coach can also help you through this phase.
3. Alignment . After this reflection something that must be given up usually rises to the top. It may be something in your character, a habit, a relationship, a job, a lifestyle, a spiritual paradigm or other things large or small. Acceptance of this need for change can be frightening, but it is critical in order to gain something more authentic and meaningful in the future. Recognition brings up other challenges such as self acceptance, fear of change, shame or guilt from past mistakes, or the ego’s denial of what you’ve uncovered.
Your role: You are at a pivotal juncture. Will you have the courage to face what you’ve uncovered or will you bury it in numbing activities or denial? Instead, can you embrace the beauty of uncovering new insights and self awareness? Can you trust that changing your life in a meaningful way will result in a new freedom and joy? Can you surrender to where life is calling you?
4. Direction. This phase produces breakthrough. It may be an “ah hah moment,” a chance meeting, something you hear in passing that hits you like it was meant for you to hear, a nugget you uncover in an unexpected way or even a dream. For some who are spiritual it may be a “supernatural natural” occurrence such that you believe you have divine direction. The transition doesn’t have an abrupt ending but the fog begins to lift.
Your role: Begin to make a game plan for next steps to apply what you’ve uncovered. Coming out of transition with the new information can be exhilarating, especially because the work in the middle of a transition will often have been painful and grueling. Be sure to make clear headed well thought out decisions and don’t respond spontaneously or emotionally. Enlist a trusted friend or skilled coach to help you think it through.
Transition isn’t a “one and done” process. Like the church calendar, it’s a process that is constantly repeating. Most of our lives will have a series of transitions. The big ones are:
“Awakening” in our 20s and 30s when we are restless and trying to decide “Who/what shall I be?”
The “Deciding Phase” in our 40s and 50s where we wonder if we are doing what we are here to do. “Am I following my purpose?”
In our late 50’s and beyond it’s the “Finishing Stage” where we reflect on our legacy. “Will my life matter when I am gone? With whom can I share my life wisdom and experience in order to enrich their lives and leave a lasting legacy?”
Within the big life transitions there are repeated smaller phases of transitions.
Since I learned about the transition cycle a few years ago, I recognize quickly when I’m entering transition. Instead of dreading it as I did in the past, I appreciate all that the process will bring. It can be difficult to endure at times, but I know that the fruits of the process are monumental, and that they will come every single time without fail. Embracing transition has changed my life.
If you are interested in exploring whether you’d like to hire me as a coach contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org