core values

The Visioning Stage of Transitions and Why You Don't Want to Skip It

In this theory of the stages in transitions, we reach the Visioning stage after moving through the previous stage, Death, The Unknown and Rebirth. We grieved our loss(es), are aware of what we are letting go of and cleared space for what’s next. We begin to feel re-energized and ready to dream our future. Visioning is a process that picks us up out of today and puts us someplace in our future, in our imaginary ideation of fulfillment. We use the right side of our brain when we vision, the part of our mind that is abstract, creative, intuitive, imaginative and sees the whole picture, rather than the left-sided linear, concrete, analytical brain.

Visioning brings into our awareness what lies deep in our core: our core values, our core truth, our creative energy, what gives us joy and peace of mind. We become aware of our intuition, paying attention to what our mind, body and spirit are telling us, listening for their whispers, shouts and aches.

Visioning is a helpful tool, especially when we find dreaming a challenge. Many of us want to get into action mode, to plan and do stuff, to feel that we’re moving things forward and accomplishing. Honouring this stage in our transition, especially when we let go of our past story and identity, and create space for the new to be imagined and intuited, is a powerful process maybe even transformative.

Emily Carr, “Scorned as Timber, Beloved of the Sky”
Emily Carr, “Scorned as Timber, Beloved of the Sky”

When Canadian artist Emily Carr painted “Scorned as Timber, Beloved of the Sky” in 1935, she was 63 years old. She wrote:

“There is nothing so strong as growing. Nothing can drown that force that splits rocks and pavement and spreads over fields...Life is in the soil. Touch it with air and light and it bursts forth like a struck match."

As children we visioned our dreams all the time. We pictured ourselves being and living our dreams. We are born with this ability to dream a spectacular future. The stage of Visioning is an opportunity to re-visit old dreams, resolve our disappointment and explore how we can fulfill their essence now.

I had one client who was going through both a career transition and a life stage transition, wondering “What’s next?” After clarifying her core personal values, I led her through a guided visioning (imagining) exercise. A clear picture came to her: of where she wanted to live, of her community and who was surrounding her, of how she wanted to feel, of what she wanted her lifestyle to be. She took gradual steps to make that vision become a reality. She emailed me recently,

“It was quite an undertaking and a huge transition. I remember waking up early one morning thinking, 'What the heck have I done?' When I doubt that I made the right decision, I remind myself about the core values that are so important in getting me back on the right path.”

It does not always happen that way. Another client going through a career transition drew a complete blank when he visioned his future self. He felt disappointed that he saw nothing, and that turned out to be a great launch pad for him. He learned about his intuition and grew it, discovering what and who resonated for him and what resonance felt like. He gradually trusted himself to try all kinds of new experiences, making choices that aligned with his core values, his passions, needs and strengths. He knew his present Purpose and built a successful business. What surprised him is that he has also grown his social network, feeling like he has found his tribe. He said, “I know it will be okay. My self-confidence keeps growing and I trust myself. I trust the Universe.”

Here are several different ways to vision.

  1. Attend a guided visioning workshop led by a life coach. There are in-person and virtual events. Check out the International Coach Federation Credentialed Coach Finder. I do offer occasional visioning workshops and individual visioning sessions, usually based on a theme, e.g. the New Year, retirement, career, health/wellness.
  2. Create a dream (vision) board, a collection or collage of images, text, meaningful quotes, poems, personal values that connect to your dream, your yearnings. It is not intended to be an artistic or crafty experience although it might be, and it will likely stir your creative and intuitive juices even more. You might want to create a scrap-book of personal visions for different aspects of your life.
  3. Write your vision in story format can be anyone who enjoys words, writing or writing stories.
  4. Write vision lists. The infamous “Bucket List” is exactly that, a list of your dreams. You can give it another snazzy title of course. I’ve tried this and it became so huge that I created categories. Then there’s Jerry Seinfeld’s take on the bucket list, “I made a bucket list, turned the "b" to an "f" and was done with it.” There’s also that.
  5. Watch films including documentaries that inspire visioning. Documentary and biographical films are great visioning tools. 15 Reasons To Live is one example. And there’s always *the* film, The Bucket List.
  6. Read books that inspire you to dream. Biographies and non-fiction like Callings by Gregg Levoy, and Martha Beck’s North Star.
  7. Notice what energizes you, makes you come alive, gives you pleasure and gives you thrills.
  8. Understand where and how intuition signals to you in your body.
  9. Travel. It’s a way to get out of your past story and identity very powerfully and see your life and yourself from a different vantage point.
  10. Be your own fortune-teller or astrologer. Look into your crystal ball or imagine your annual horoscope. What do you see? Write it down!
  11. Notice metaphors and symbols that come into your awareness and intuition, i.e. token animals.

Allow yourself to dream, intuit, yearn, create, and be inspired. Give yourself permission to dream, again.

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...

Create a gift box - for yourself!

Whether going through a challenging transition or feeling in the midst of stuckness, one idea to  stay motivated is to create a gift box as an accountability tool for yourself. It can hold you accountable to your dreams, your goals, and your Authentic Self. Create it for yourself as a personal gift that will inspire you. Here are some suggestions for your gift box. The “Letting Go box” and “Friendship box” are amazing ideas that were offered by students from my “ReDesign Your Life for Retirement” class.

* Core Values Box - After clarifying your personal core values (a life coach can help you!), write down each one on a separate piece of paper. You can write down as many as you want - 30, 50, 75! Each day, remove one from the box and honour it throughout your day.

* Celebration or Gratitude box - Every day write down (at least) one thing you feel grateful for or want to celebrate and read your collection at the end of the month or at a time when you most need it.

* Accomplishment box - Oftentimes when we are moving through a transition or making a big change in our lives, the steps we take and the work we have done can get lost amid all the movement. Creating an accomplishment box that you fill daily with one thing you have done can keep you inspired as you read your accomplishments a week or a month at a time.

* Inspiration box - Fill your inspiration box with 30 meaningful quotes, sayings, poetry, jokes. Draw one out each day to enjoy, inspire you, make you laugh or give you a moment’s pleasure.

* Letting go box - Write down things you want to let go of. For example, a book, a household item, a bathroom item, an item of clothing, an emotion, a grudge, rigidity, smallness, frustration, a situation, tension, etc. Fill your box with 30 different items. Draw one item every day from the box and practice letting go on a daily basis.

* Friendship box - Place the names of your friends in the box. Each day pull out one name and contact that person. Keep on meeting new people and making new acquaintances to add to your box. What a wonderful way to stay connected to your friends and deepen your friendships.

* Kindness Box - Lynnette Rumble of Aim Coaching and Be The Game offered this great idea for a gift box. She says, “We suggest this to our school kids as part of the 21-Day #KINDEVERYTIME Challenge. Write down kind things you have done or make note of the kindness bestowed upon you by others.” Such a great idea!

When you finish filling or emptying one box, consider whether you want to stick with the same gift box or try a new one. Each one will offer you an opportunity to learn about ourself, experience connection, resonance and aliveness, and honour that which is most important to you.

Do you have any other ideas for a gift box? I’d love to hear your suggestions or other ideas you have tried.

Career transitions: deciding to make a career change or not?

In the 1970’s there was a game show on television called “Let’s Make A Deal” hosted by Monty Hall. Audience members dressed up in costumes hoping to be picked as contestants, filling their purses and pockets for when Monty asked them for some random item: safety pins, poker chips, a silver dollar. You could never know what Monty would ask for! For the Main Event, Monty showed a prize behind Door A and asked the contestant if they wanted to stay with it or trade up for what was behind Door B. And possibly a booby prize. Which would you choose? The prize revealed or the one concealed?

Oftentimes we go through a similar process when making the decision to change careers or jobs. Do you stick with the career you know or do you go for a new career? Do you stick with what you know or go for what is unknown?

That is one kind of decision that draws people to contact me — when they want to make a job or career change and feel confused or stuck about whether to stay or seek out a career that is not yet revealed.

Something is provoking their decision. Some common contributing factors are the boss, the unappreciative work environment, boredom, the lack of challenge or growth opportunity or their lifestyle.

And why stay? For many reasons: the (regular) paycheck, health benefits, the mortgage, the kids, the routine, the security, the stability, the status, the prestige, the familiarity, the Known.

Therein dwells the inner conflict: the reasons for leaving conflict with other reasons for staying. This is where “Stuckness” lives. 

So what propels us forward towards making a career change? It often depends on how much each of us will or can tolerate. Is the pain of staying in the career (job) greater or less than the “unopened curtain”?

Dr. Henry Cloud said, “We change our behavior when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of changing. Consequences give us the pain that motivates us to change.” This threshold point is different for each of us which makes discovering our places of friction and suffering important for change to happen.

Questions for your consideration (some of these questions may sound similar - answer those that make the most sense to you):

  • Which consequences will serve to mobilize you towards a career change?
  • What if you don’t do anything? What will happen if you stay (here)?
  • How will you be worse off or better off, temporarily or permanently, if you stay? If you leave?
  • What will you have to invest to make the change? What investment are you making in staying?
  • What will it cost you to stay? To leave?

8 Decision-Making Tips and Strategies Some of these strategies are analytical, linear and logical, some are creative, intuitive and emotional. Play around with them. You might want to try on some new ones and give yourself a personal growth stretch.

  1. List your fears. For example starting over, not being skilled, not being knowledgable, feeling incompetent, losing status, prestige or professional network, etc.
  2. Develop your intuition and “gut instinct”. Strengthen your sense of intuition, connect with your what your gut is telling you and develop your awareness of what feels resonant and dissonant for you.
  3. Notice what your body, your emotions, your mental and physical health are saying about your work, what aspects light you up and which ones lower your energies.
  4. Reconnect to your dreams. Dreaming of making a change is very different from taking steps towards making it a reality. Dreaming is an important part of the change process that will remain a dream until you take action. Keep growing your dreams and keep dreaming.
  5. Do research. Figure out what information you are missing that will help you make a decision.
  6. Network and talk with others who have gone through it or are going through it and learn what helped them and what did not.
  7. Clarify your core personal values and how they connect to your decision and/or choices. Oftentimes, we experience an inner conflict of our core values that makes the decision-making process feel challenging or “hard”.
  8. Get creative and brainstorm ideas, solutions, possibilities. Maybe you don’t have to leave your job or maybe leaving your job or switching careers is far more beneficial to you and your life.

Sometimes this is decision about your career and sometimes this decision is about your life. The more understanding and information you have, the further ajar the unknown door will open for you and what was concealed will become (more) revealed.

I'd love to hear what has worked for you, what strategy you have found to be most helpful or anything else you care to share about making a decision to change careers.