OK, full disclosure time: I realized last week that I haven’t yet mentioned on the blog that I am pregnant. As of the date of publication of this blog entry, I am 33 weeks along, and actively preparing for our daughter’s arrival in late March. Needless to say, my husband and I are very excited. However, being pregnant and a soon-to-be-mom has certainly changed quite a number of things in my life already—my lifestyle, my financial planning, my business plan, my time management—all are impacted, and the list goes on and on. Of course, being a Type-A and being a coach, I have a roadmap for how I am planning to handle all of these things as flawlessly as possible. That doesn’t mean, however, that I am not occasionally subject to a little bit of shock and awe at how fast things are changing, despite my best efforts at life design.
A couple of weeks ago, I was having breakfast with another coach—the phenomenal style and women’s empowerment guru, Silfath Pinto, with whom I will be teaching a dynamic new program for burgeoning women entrepreneurs this summer (stay tuned)—when I began to express my observations about the warp speed manner in which my world is changing right now. Because Silfath is a style maven, I was talking about my wardrobe and my body, but I could have been talking about any number of ways in which my life is changing in anticipation of my daughter’s birth. In her wisdom, Silfath listened patiently, then looked me in the eye and said, “Look, it’s true that some things may never be the same for you. But what if you viewed that as an invitation to transformation, instead of a crisis?”
It was a VERY good question, one that I realized I have posed to my clients numerous times, albeit in not quite the same circumstances nor quite so directly. It is also a question that applies across all life changes that we face, whether expected or unexpected, whether with plenty of ramp-up time or no warning at all.
And so today, I ask it of you: what if an impasse you are facing right now, or sudden, unexpected developments that have arisen in your work or personal life, are in fact NOT a crisis, but rather an invitation to the next stage in your personal and professional development? How would that change your perspective? How would it change your actions?
Over the past year, I have worked with more executives in career transition than I can count. Thinking it over, the most dominant characteristic that has governed how well my clients in transition have handled their circumstances is how willing they have been to accept change. Railing against the boss who laid you off gets you nowhere. Railing against your changed financial circumstances gets you nowhere. Acceptance—and better yet, an excitement about what the future holds—gets you well on your way to a new life and more.
Here are a couple of strategies that I have taught to my clients that will help to get you off the crisis page and on to your next transformation:
1) Purge your stuff. There is nothing to mark a transition like throwing out the stuff that signifies your old life. For instance, when I left the practice of law, I purged my closet of every suit that I hated to wear to work, that felt like a “legal uniform” not reflective of my style or that had a bad memory attached to it, and then donated those clothes to an organization supporting impoverished women looking for work. It felt tremendously good to get rid of those clothes and to give them to a great organization; further, it was a step toward a new life that I knew was waiting for me—one where I didn’t have to wear a suit every single day. Similarly, some of my clients take great pleasure out of purging their home offices of papers and books related to their old profession when they are looking for a new job, or purging their homes of objects related to a prior marriage when they are in the process of a difficult divorce. Purging your stuff clears up space to welcome in the new—not just literally, but also in your own mindset.
2) Purge your mind. For clients who are stuck in the victim mentality around unexpected work transitions such as layoffs or terminations, I advise sitting down to write out every horrible thought about the circumstances that is repeatedly arising, for as long as it takes. For some clients, it takes ten minutes; for others, it can take hours. I then ask each client to bring the document to our next coaching session, where we review what the client has documented in detail. Through this process, we seek to identify the lesson that the client can take from the circumstances that have arisen, and then strategize on how to effect the lesson so that the same conundrum doesn’t arise again for the client down the line (a note: if you find yourself in the same awful circumstances or relationships over and over again with different people or at different jobs, there is a lesson there that you haven’t learned yet). Effecting the lesson may mean, for instance, having a graceful but honest exit interview from a job, or sitting down to have a conversation with a difficult boss before departure to reach a comfortable conclusion that carries no baggage forward for you into the next professional position. Purging your negative thoughts can be a powerful exercise that leads to powerful conclusions in preparation for the next stage of your life.
3) Look to the future! This is where the rubber really meets the road. Looking forward, what opportunities are available to you now that were not available to you before? Had this unexpected circumstance not arisen, what would you have missed? What most excites you now about your future? What transformation are you being called to as a result? Place your focus there. Not only will it clarify your direction, it will also make plain the next steps you need to take for yourself to get there, whether professionally or personally.
For me, right now, looking toward the future means focusing on the excitement of being a mother, getting deeply into my body in anticipation of giving birth, imagining how amazing it will be to meet my daughter for the first time, and reminding myself of the fact that while I know that my life will never be the same, that is a good thing. For what is the point of life if not to continue to grow and learn and transform, and to take what we have learned along the way and transmute it—alchemize it, if you will—into something better, richer and more beautiful?
This is the next stage in my story. What’s yours?
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