Bridges does have some strategies to help with the flow into this new beginning. One of them is to foresee what you can, to be able to look ahead to have those things to look forward to. Another one is that this is a great time to clarify, or for those that were Franklin-Covey fans, re-clarify your mission. Where are you going to go from here; you’ve opened yourself up to a whole new opportunity. My personal favorite is unloading old baggage. Again, what are the things that you get to leave behind as you move forward to this new place? You get to rebuild trust, take strength and confidence in the way you have been able to get here. Part of this is to acknowledge the small “wins”; again, by doing the small tasks we get to build on our successes, and we get to take and increase our self-confidence by having those small wins and continuing to move forward. It’s also a chance to create a new reward structure for our selves, again, a whole new motivational system to move forward to this new place and this new identity that we have.
Remember that one of the resources you have as an alum is lifelong access to the Center for Work and Service. I have had the opportunity to work with several alums as they go through some of their life transitions, and have been able to generate this general coping strategies list from some of the strategies that have worked for them combined with some of the things Bridges has already offered us. First and foremost it seems to be that setting goals, prioritizing tasks and making action plans really help people. I think by nature Wellesley women could be list makers; we love that feeling of putting things on the list and checking them off. It is a great way to create success, to help us learn as we go along. Again, taking a process step by step helps make it far less overwhelming than trying to do the whole thing at once. Seek support; remember again, women are relational-based. This is the time to turn to family and friends for support; do not “tough it out” or go it alone. Another strategy that seems to work for people is facing the fear; evaluate the situation, some do “worst-case scenarios”, and then choose to get on with your life. For some, going through the worst-case scenario, thinking about the worst that can happen and being able to mentally survive that, makes it easier for them to get through the ending to move forward. Again, it is also a great time to make a list of your new opportunities; what are you looking forward to or again what are you glad to be leaving behind? Most importantly, limit the changes; you don’t have to change everything overnight or give everything up. Keep some of your familiar rituals, a piece of your identity; keep a piece of the past with you. You do have to go through the ending, you do have to let go, but you don’t have to let go of everything. Again as we just discussed, take care of yourself. You need to relax, take times out, get away from this for a little while, and then take care of your body; give it the food, the sleep, the exercise and the pampering it needs. Most importantly, see if there is not an opportunity to laugh; take time to find the humor in the situation. That often brings us back around and helps get us through the anxiety and tension involved when we are stuck trying to get through one of our transitions.
Remember, transition is an individual process; a single event can affect people in different ways, or the same event can affect the same person in a different way under different timing and circumstances. You have many coping mechanisms, many strategies that have successfully gotten you through multitudes of transitions, again, probably many without even knowing it. Every once in a while you get stuck because something has just happened a little bit differently. Remember the new beginnings have to start with the ending; you cannot move forward until you can let go of what holds you to the past.
We have provided a Transitions Worksheet to help provide a framework to help you move through a situation in which you be finding yourself stuck. Three key points to be focusing on:you have to identify what will end, what you have to let go of. It is key if you can to identify any obstacles now that you can foresee getting in the way and seeing if you can’t put into place some resources or ideas to help overcome them. And finally, write down three concrete action steps, small steps, little things that you can do to help move it forward. They say that the actual step of writing down the steps makes it 80% more likely to happen. Again, feel free to edit or adapt the worksheet to meet your specific needs; we are just trying to provide it as a framework. Do remember as well that you can always call the Center for Work and Service and make an appointment with one of our counselors to work through your specific situation.
Managing Life’s Transitions Copyright 2012, Wellesley College Center for Work and Service
Transition Theory“It isn’t the changes that do you in, it’s the transitions. Change is not the same as transition. Change is situational; the new boss, the new role, the new policy. Transition is the psychological process people go through to come to terms with the new situation.”- William Bridges, Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change, 1993 Copyright 2012, Wellesley College Center for Work and Service
Three Steps to Bridge’s Theory1. Need to start with the Ending2. Move into the Neutral Zone3. Finish with the New Beginning Copyright 2012, Wellesley College Center for Work and Service
Ending• Time of loss, letting go, leaving behind.• Most people want to start with the outcome, the new beginning, but you have to start with the ending you will have to make to be able to leave the old situation behind. You can’t move forward if you are still tied to what was.• Situational change hinges on the new thing, but psychological transition depends on letting go of the old reality and the old identity you had before the change took place.• As with any ending, there is a loss, and you may find yourself going through the five stages of grieving: denial, anger, bargaining, despair, and acceptance. You may take steps forward and then have to revisit loss(es). Copyright 2012, Wellesley College Center for Work and Service
Ending Strategies• Allow over-reaction• Acknowledge loss openly, define what is over and what is not• Keep a piece of the past with you• Start to explore loss: What will I miss, what am I glad to leave behind, what am I most proud of that I will take with me, what will I do differently next time, etc.? Copyright 2012, Wellesley College Center for Work and Service
Neutral Zone• Time of anxiety, uncertainty, confusion, chaos, clean slate. This phase is the no man’s land between the old reality and the new, the limbo between the old sense of identity and the new, the time when the old way is gone and the new way is not yet comfortable.• There needs to be a healing process, a way to work though the grief of the loss, and allow yourself to open up to the excitement of “What am I going to do now?”• Familiar anchors (role, status, self-definition) are re-arranged, re-established.• You may go in and out of this stage, but the bottom line is that the human psyche cannot stay in a crisis state for a prolonged period of time; there will be movement, either forward or backward. Copyright 2012, Wellesley College Center for Work and Service
Neutral Zone Strategies• Redefine the situation• Create temporary systems, make lists of small steps to complete• Strengthen connections/support network• Be creative/consider new possibilities• Take time outs• Get it out; journal or therapy Copyright 2012, Wellesley College Center for Work and Service
New Beginning• Time of renewal, integration, new identity, new direction• Comes after you make an ending and spend time in the neutral zone, although often people try to start here rather than finishing here• Time of increased clarity, more focused goals• Uncertainty will continue until new self-definition is clarified and processed consciously Copyright 2012, Wellesley College Center for Work and Service
New Beginning Strategies• Foresee what you can• (Re-)Clarify your mission• Unload old baggage• Rebuild trust• Acknowledge small “wins”• Create new reward structure Copyright 2012, Wellesley College Center for Work and Service
General Coping Strategies• Set goals, prioritize tasks, make an action plan, take it step by step, keep learning as you go along• Seek support - you don’t have to “tough it out” or go it alone• Face your fear - evaluate your situation, and choose to get on with your life• Make a list of your new opportunities or things you’re glad to be leaving behind• Limit changes - you don’t have to change everything overnight or give everything up, stick to some familiar rituals, keep a piece of the past with you• Take care of yourself - relax, get away for a while, mind your body (eat, sleep, exercise, pamper)• Laugh, take time to find the humor in your situation Copyright 2012, Wellesley College Center for Work and Service
Final Thoughts• Transition is an individual process; a single event will affect different people in different ways, or the same event can affect the same person in a different way under different timing/circumstances.• New beginnings start with endings. It will be hard to move forward until you can let go of what holds you to the past. Copyright 2012, Wellesley College Center for Work and Service
Next Steps•••• Copyright 2012, Wellesley College Center for Work and Service
Additional Resources• William Bridges’ Web site:http://www.wmbridges.com/index.html• Other transitions theorists include Gene Cohen on making transitions in later life, and Nancy Schlossberg on adult transitions, adult development, career development, and intergenerational relationships. (For a quick look at Nancy’s theory, see: http://www.cheyennewinkler.com/overview/classes/NancyKSchlossberg.pdf)• Center for Work and Service: http://www.wellesley.edu/cws Copyright 2012, Wellesley College Center for Work and Service