personal growth

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...

"Our Thoughts on Aging" Interview Project: August 2015 Update

The last time I shared an update about this interview project was in December 2013! That’s 20 months ago! Wowsa. Apologies to all of you who have followed along on this journey. Since then so much has changed in my life, changes that have not only moved this interview project forward but pretty much catapulted it way beyond what I could have imagined. But I am speeding ahead so I’ll slow down and share what happened since that December 2013 when I made the decision to conclude the interview project at 30 interviews. Up until that point, I shared these interviews publicly on this blog and then I moved them into a secret space where only I could access them.

I then went on to explore what to do next, what would be most meaningful: for me, for the interviewees, for the world. After brainstorming a myriad of possibilities, I decided to move forward with a book — a beautiful, evocative, moving page-turner on aging and dying and death. You know, the sexy stuff.

In the first half of 2014 my dad experienced a series of health events and crises that took his health into a state of decline. He was hospitalized in late June 2014 and passed away on July 20, 2014. My dad’s death was personally transformative, wisdom-building of the life experience kind. I earned new grey-hairs honestly through these years of care-giving, grieving and transitioning through family loss and changes that rippled out.

Looking back, I realize that it was as though a part of me had stalled on this project, as if an inner part of me knew, knew, that I needed to experience the death of my dad so that I could write and create this from a place of lived understanding.

Interestingly, I had contacted my writing coach, Chris Kay Fraser at Firefly Creative Writing, in the Spring while I was in the midst of it all. Similarly to when my clients decide to hire me, I decided to hire her for accountability, structure, support, to find my way into new insights and realizations, and for what she excels at, inspiration. So now I am writing up my own story and threading it among these others for what I hope will be evocative and compelling reading.

For a variety of what-I-think-are interesting reasons that are will be elaborated in the book, from the original 30 interviews there will now be approximately 17 interviewees in the final version. After reconnecting with each of them for clarity and updates, I am now in the process of transcribing them and shaping them into a story format. I found that reading an interview is one experience and that reading someone’s story is decidedly more fluid and intimate.

As I mentioned earlier, there are a few special treats that will be created out of this project. A couple of the interview questions asked about the positive things about aging and the total count from the interviewees came to over 70! I’m working with a talented graphic designer to create a text image for posters, cards, etc. And each interviewee will receive a gift package for volunteering their time and sharing their personal thoughts — theirs has been a most valuable and meaningful contribution.

Surprises: What are the surprises we have after we leave?

Read the previous posts on this journey: A Dream Is Born and Climbing New Mountains. I have had several surprises since leaving my adventure-filled vacation in Nepal. A few surprises happened immediately upon leaving, others took weeks and months.

Surprise 1. The sun knows best. I was surprised to find out how much I enjoy rising before the sun and setting not long after the sun. i sleep better and more soundly when I follow the sun’s lead (most days).

Surprise 2. How little I need. Shelter, food, water, clothing, heat and electricity — the basics. It makes me wonder about the messages trying to persuade me to buy or do something because I need it. Not really the truth though. Do I need more clothes? More accessories? More decorations, more tech, more pretty shiny things? Nope.

Surprise 3. I enjoy smelling natural and earthy. I liked trekking and not showering, not shaving, not washing my hair and not laundering my clothes. I felt powerful, primitive and rebellious. It was so contrary to the North American ideal of cleanliness using a gazillion hygiene products to not smell, to not smell each other. I like knowing how I actually smell.

Surprise 4.How much stuff I have AND how hard it is for me to part with *my* stuff. The trek leaders offered us the opportunity to donate clothing at the end and it was a struggle for me. I rationalized that I would need the items when I travelled on or would continue to wear them when I returned home. Which I did and do. And I could have given stuff away and been fine. I had an opportunity to let go, to share and be generous. I realize it is not easy to detach from “It’s mine” and “I still need this”.

DSCN0986
DSCN0986

Surprise 5. The power of sticking to a daily plan. The trek leaders kept our group on a firm schedule which kept me focused, striving and challenged. Without it I probably would have stayed an extra day to rest my sick, puking stomach and then got caught in the snowy mess ahead preventing me from climbing higher and reaching base camp. Sticking to a plan made the difference between getting “there” and not.

Surprise 6. The intensity of North American consumerism and consumption. It was a shocking surprise to return to North American culture and values and be met with December holiday commercialism, the superficiality of celebrity culture, retail culture, and fitness culture. I felt bombarded by the amount that was promoted, marketed and sold to me, especially with the focus on “you you you” and “me, me, me” rather than “we we we” or “us us us”.

Surprise 7. Feeling spiritually full. I noticed how it felt to shift from feeling spiritually full to empty. I experienced having my spirit feel sumptuously full and fulfilled that my body needed little food to energize itself. I felt energized by what I was experiencing, seeing and doing. In contrast, I noticed the spiritual emptiness to urban life as the days and weeks passed and I settled back into a more sedentary life that was rich with resources and opportunities but lacking in nature, movement, community and connection.

Surprise 8. How the Nepalese listen and Canadians talk. When I arrived in Nepal, I immediately noticed how the Nepalese listen deeply and with full presence. They are able to be in silence, be with silence and allow silence to hang. In contrast, North American culture is all about the talking. Arriving back to Toronto I was surprised by the amount of constant, loud talking. We talk at each each and talk to make our opinions known.

There were surprises where my core personal values came alive in fulfillment and resonance, or when I experienced an inner chafing, a personal struggle of conflicting values.

There were surprising moments where a few of my core personal values declared themselves and wanted me to honour them more.

There were surprising places where I experienced a struggle between my values and those of my culture and society.

Surprising insights and realizations can happen when we leave anywhere or anything: Leaving a vacation place. Leaving a workplace, a job, a career. Leaving a relationship or friendship. Leaving home. Leaving an experience. Leaving a habit. Leaving a lifestyle.

Being aware of the surprises we have after leaving can not only give us important insights into ourselves. It can also help us understand and honour our true self.

What have you left?What things have surprised you since leaving?