Life Coaching

The Roller Coaster Ride of Transitions: The Joy of Beginning...and Completing

This piece was in my latest coaching newsletter and several people wrote to me about so I’ve added it here, in an edited version.

On a recent sunny day, I went to an end-of-summer amusement park with friends and we rode one of the thrilling roller-coasters. As we looped around, getting tossed about in our seats, my palms got sweaty and I wondered to myself how interestingly similar this was to completing the “Our Thoughts On Aging” interview project.

It has been six years in the making and finally it is here: I am writing the final chapters of the book, the storied interviews have gone through their first manuscript edit, the artwork for the book cover is in progress, the “As I Get Older” greeting cards and poster are completed, the new RT Coaching website is launched with an online store, and the book will be published in — I hope — early 2017.

 "As I Get Older" poster

"As I Get Older" poster

What a roller coaster ride it has been, and that is true for anything we mostly choose to start:
a life stage, a goal or dream, a project or business, a diploma or degree, a new health habit or lifestyle, a career change or residential move.Strap yourself in and hold onto the handrail ‘cause it’s going to be a heck of a ride.

It starts off gently enough and soon you are climbing upwards, ever so slowly, and when you reach the magnificent height of the apex, you can see the beautiful big perspective where the view will catch your breath. The view is sweet from this high.

  Credit Morgue File

Credit Morgue File

Not a moment later, the roller coaster ride thrillingly swooshes you to the deepest low giving you an adrenalin rush, sweaty palms and a jolt to your stomach so intense you think you might vomit. You can’t believe how fast the ride took you down. It’s The Dip.

Then you’re heading for another slow climb, not as high this time, slow enough to release the handrail and wipe your sweaty palms dry just in time for the next plunge. Only this time you’re hurtling forward upside-down in some gravity-defying position. No words can describe the rush that comes with putting yourself “out there”.

And in between the climbs and dips, there are the hair-pin turns. Sometimes you can see them coming and sometimes they catch you by surprise, jostling you about sharply and shaking your equilibrium.

Finally, finally you see the end of the ride approaching. As you disembark, you feel a simultaneous sense of joy and relief, depending on how intense the jolts, upside-down twists and hurtling-towards-the-ground manoeuvres landed for you. Your wobbly legs grateful to touch land as you leave the thrilling ride behind.

As you glance back at the roller coaster, you can see the twists and turns, the steep slopes and enormous dips you were on. You are suspended for a moment in disbelief or awe, perhaps wondering about the next one you might go on.

Unlike a roller coaster ride though, when we start something new we can’t see the entire ride or know how long our ride will take. This is what makes it scary thrilling, this element of the unknown. Figuring out how to go with it is part of the ride, of life and of change.

However, there are safety mechanisms and systems set up for roller coaster rides. It includes a team of people staffing it to make sure that safety is enforced, like the man who was doing calisthenics as he waited for our ride to approach the return gate. We need safety systems, and they can be amusing too, for those challenging and thrilling rides we go on in life.

When I planned to complete this interview project and transform it into a book, poster and greeting cards, I needed to find the people — professionals, colleagues, friends, and family — to support me on my ride. I also needed tools and resources that gave me structure and accountability, lifestyle habits that nourished, energized and motivated me, and celebrations to acknowledge the teeny tiny steps taken.

Completing the ride, we walk away with that experience in our toolkit. We know what it feels like. We have the confidence that we can handle it or what we need in order to handle it the next time. We know we can do it again if we choose to or go on a different one — maybe less scary, maybe scarier — the next time. It's the personal growth ride of transitions!

What transition(s) in your life have felt like a wild roller coaster ride?
What and/or who helped you on your ride?
What would you do differently next time?!

Transitions: Old Fulfillment, Old Growth

We all have had exciting dreams, the kind that we badly wanted. Whatever it was, very often we accomplish “It”, we reached “There”: getting an education, going on a date, getting hired for our first job, earning a living, moving out of our parents’ home, being partnered or married, having a child or creating our lifestyle. We felt fulfilled. One unsuspecting day, something happens.

An event comes along and shakes our life up. Our job becomes restructured and no longer exists, our partner says they have fallen in love with someone else, our doctor diagnoses us with a chronic illness, our financial debt hits bottom and we have to declare personal bankruptcy. Something has changed in our life that topples our sense of fulfillment. It can be a shock to realize that our dream has died and our mind tries to make sense of our new reality.

Or we start to notice something. Our life, or an aspect of our life, is no longer fulfilling. “It” doesn’t excite us like it once did. Maybe it is boring or doesn’t feel like it’s such a good fit anymore. It no longer offers a challenge or sense of connection. Something has changed inside of us that shifts our sense of fulfillment.

This is the stage of Old Fulfillment. We wish we could go back in time, to go back to how “It” was. Our Saboteur voice(s) natters in our ears, tells us to stay safe, sometimes too safe. Too much caution can prevent us from moving on and opening ourselves up. That Saboteur voice activates our anxieties and worries, suppressing our confidence and courage, so many people choose to stay, if that is possible, out of fear and anxiety of what might lie ahead.

Becoming aware of what we fear about this transition can be a helpful first step. Some common fears are the fear of scarcity or poverty, loneliness or being alone, losing prestige or status, rejection, failure or success.

There is often a sensation of friction within us in Old Fulfillment where our core values rub uncomfortably against each other. For example, familiarity and stability rubbing up against challenge, vitality and growth. Which one(s) will we choose to honour?

It is during this stage that we feel a sense of disappointment, realizing that this is the end of our dream, and this is important for new dreams to be born. It is a normal personal growth process and along with it comes life experience, self-compassion and understanding, and confidence.

There is a natural cycle to the transition process. We can go through several career transitions during our work history, have several relationship transitions within a marriage, or experience various health transitions during our life due to injuries, illness, traumatic events and normal aging. There is a cyclical nature to transitions that happens because we are human beings and we are a part of nature.

By Snežana Trifunović old growth forest copy
By Snežana Trifunović old growth forest copy

We need Old Fulfillment. It reminds us of what is possible, how we have fulfilled our dreams before, that we are creative, adaptable and courageous. Like old growth forests, Old Fulfillment gives us a strong foundation for new energy, new dreams and new learning. Old growth forests have multi-layered heights and experience different stages of growth as they regenerate through natural or man-made disturbances. This regeneration is what makes them invaluable and rich with life. Being rich with life is beautiful.

The next stage in this model of the transitions process is Death, The Unknown and Re-Birth...

The "Lost and Found" of Transitions

The end of something is often the beginning of a transition, the transition from what we know and is familiar to us, The Known, through to The New. Lost our job. Lost our relationship. Lost our health. Lost our home. Lost our community. Lost our way.

Feeling Lost and Feeling Loss-ed.

Feeling lost can be overwhelming, a mish-mash of feeling loss and what I call feeling “loss-ed”. Feeling the losses in our life, the losses of who we are, like a part of us is missing. Feeling confused, conflicted. Feeling empty. Feeling grief. Sometimes it can feel - unbearable.

Feeling lost in a foggy swirl of thick overwhelm filled with confusion, numbness, chaos. Wanting to protect ourselves, hiding under the covers with a cup of tea, or vodka, or a bag of chips, maybe a carton of ice cream. Wishing for a moment of clarity to nudge us, to awaken us from our comfortable or not so comfortable stupor.

Landing in the Unknown, in mid-space, unsure of “What’s next?” “Who am I now?” “Who am I without it / him / her?”

Some part of us that wants so badly, is working really hard for things to be normal again, to find the “next”: the next relationship, the next career, a new home, a new lifestyle. Sometimes we force ourselves ahead into the “new” or “next”. It takes Trust, the kind where we trust ourselves and our process.

And, the finding!

Swimming in the ocean, we can see the shoreline, suddenly a wave comes from nowhere, the undertow tugs us, pulls us underneath so that we feel as though we may never come back up, like we cannot find our breath. Until we feel something, something within pulling us up, and we see tiny glimpses of land coming into view.

manswimminginocean
manswimminginocean

Those tiny glimpses of clarity, those moments when they peak through, they are what we wait for, what we hope for, what we wish for — the excitement and relief of finding. When we feel even a little bit ready, there are many ways to starting finding “the next” or “the new”:

Read a book about it — biography, fiction or how-to. Read newspaper, magazine or blog articles about your "next". Watch a related film - documentary, biographical or fictionalized - or simply for joy. Move your body to move your thoughts — swim, walk, dance, whatever works for you. Commune with nature - spend time outdoors for relaxation, well-being and sparks of creative ideas. Create a fort or sandcastles with your kids or some kids. Take a workshop on something that fascinates you. Make art. Make music. Take an improv class. Brainstorm a list of what is important for you in your “next”. Declare your intention, be it tiny or large. Acknowledge what you are learning, your disappointments and wins. Connect with others who are experiencing it too. Discover new resources and share them.

No matter where you find yourself, in the place of lost, in the place of finding, or in the place of found, appreciate being wherever you are in your process. It is the building of your resilience muscle and the magic of being present to what is possible, that is transforming.

Gawd Forbid we are complex: Accepting complexity in ourselves

complexblogphoto There are moments in life that can be challenging and confusing for us. Making sense of it, trying to understand life, others and ourselves can be like figuring out some intricate moving 4D puzzle. Very difficult and overwhelming. Instead of staying with the overwhelm, we often choose to simplify how we see others, simply how we see the world, and simplify our sense of self to understand and manage difficult situations.

So we’ll take a quiz, fill out a questionnaire or complete an assessment that will help us figure ourselves out and give us THE answer - which career is best for us, who is best for us to mate with, what food is best for us, etc. They can help us and they also validate what we already know about ourselves.

“What’s your astrological sign? What Myers Briggs type are you? Are you a Boomer, Gen X, Gen Y, Millenial? What classification are you in the DSM-V? What political party do you support? What Ayurvedic type are you?”

“Gawd forbid” we are complex. Gawd forbid that we be textured with many layers. Gawd forbid that we continue to be revealed to ourselves.

Being “this” type or “that” label restricts you and me and us from stretching into new places. We are so much more than being slotted into some category for someone to understand us, or make us safe to them. We are so much more than being slotted into a type so we understand ourselves better.

It might lessen the fear, It might quieten the Saboteur voice(s), It might temper the anxiety, when a quiz or an expert says you are this or that.

Perhaps this is why as we mature, we understand less. Our capacity to embrace complexity expands with maturity, gently moving us away from the all-or-nothing, black-and-white constructs of meaning making. Being able to tolerate complexity includes holding duality, this and that, paradoxical ideas, and seemingly conflicting thoughts and beliefs.

“Gawd forbid” that we have nuances. Gawd forbid that we do not have the answer, have an answer, amidst the chaos.

It takes away our opportunity to embrace our colourful layers to become this and that to be this and that to believe this and that to be young and old attractive and ugly smart and naive serious and silly strong and weak.

It takes away the possibility to be more to expand our sense of self to deepen our spiritual understanding to heal ourself to carve our own way to grow in the spaces that we choose to be human.

It takes away the fullness of understanding ourselves, to connect with each other to cross generation, race, religion, culture, gender.

We contain within us a diversity of beliefs, ideas, contradictions, perspectives and ages. Accepting the wholeness of our complexity connects us to our innermost peace and joy.