At The Edge of The Neutral Zone

Over the past few weeks and months I have been reading and writing a lot about transition and change, mostly the work of William Bridges. You may recognise his name I have quoted it a few times on various blogs. He is a Professor, writer and consultant on Transition and his model on transitions is widely used and very easy to follow, and that is why I use it a lot, as it seems to make perfect sense. His model consists of 3 parts: ending, losing and letting go; the neutral zone; the new beginning.

The three phases of transition: William Bridges (2008) Managing Transitions. Nicholas Brealey Publishing , Boston USA

So I have been doing a lot of thinking about change and the amount of change we are going through, right now. We are all used to change to some extent, most workplaces go through change on a regular basis, so the discomfort and confusion caused by change are emotions we are used to. However what is different this time is the global nature of change we are experiencing. Change has permeated into every aspect of our lives. Some of the changes we have created, some have been started at work and other have been initiated by government, but they are all driven by one huge change that is happening everywhere to to everyone. The problem with this change is, that we have no idea what the new beginning is going to be like, and we are not sure how much of a say we have in what it will be. This change comes with a massive dose of uncertainty. Feeling uncertain makes us feel unsafe. Certainty, along with options, reputation and equity are core social needs, when any of these are missing or threatened we can feel very unsafe.

The pattern of our lives has been disrupted we are in grieving for the certainty we once had. We keep on trying to apply the patterns of our old world to the world we are currently in, but it does not fit and that makes us feel more unsafe. If we apply Bridge’s transition model above, that is why I think we are just at the edge of the neutral zone. We are still coming to terms with the loss of the old ways of doing things, some of us have let go of some things and are struggling with others. We are all trying to decide what we can take with us and what from the old way of doing things we have to leave behind.

This morning I was listening to Brene Browns wonderful podcast “Unlocking Us”, in this episode she was talking about what she calls Day 2. Day 2 is the neutral zone, she describes it in terms of a three day training program that she used to run, where day 2 was always the difficult day, you were passed the excitement and enthusiasm of day 1 and too far away from the satisfaction of completion on day 3. Nothing ever seems to make sense on day 2. There is a lot of information being thrown at you that is difficult to understand, that will all make sense on day 3. I can relate to this, the Clinical Supervision Course that myself and Janis run has that very same difficult day 2, where everyone is huffing and puffing and trying really hard to make sense of it all. The thing is to complete our Clinical Supervision course you have to do day 2. What we are going through at the moment is that difficult day 2, but without the choice of dropping out.

We are in this neutral zone whether we like it or not. Our lives will never go back to the way they were. Somethings we will be able to take with us, but at the moment we are not quite sure what they are, not until we have traveled further through this zone. So how do we keep ourselves safe whilst travelling through this?

  • We have to accept that we are in transition and not try rush our way out
  • Be honest with ourselves and name the emotions we are feeling
  • Build temporary structures that we know our temporary, to replace old rules and ways of doing things to keep us safe
  • Be purposeful in everything we do (be clear as to why you are doing what you are doing, for instance working from home to keep your family safe, or going into work to support your community)
  • Be creative with what you have, ad stop chasing things you don’t have.
  • Accept that things will go wrong, that you and everyone else will make mistakes, so be kind to yourself as well as others.

I suspect that this neutral zone is very wide and that we will be in it for a long time, that is why it is so important to recognise where we are and not force the new beginning until we are certain we know what that is.

Transitions and how to cope

Change never happens immediately, there is always a difficult, confusing, and unsettling period where you are not quite at the new way, and at the old way.

This hinterland is often where changes fail. We often think that whatever we wanted to do is not working and go back to the old ways of doing things.

For instance take my weight loss plan. In reality I started trying to reduce how much I weigh over a decade ago. All I succeeded in doing during that time was get heavier.

This time I decided to apply William Bridges principles of transition, something I have talked about here before. I know it works, because I have used it before to give up smoking.

So this time I started with preparing for loss. The loss of crisps, chocolate and comfort over eating. To do this I created a compelling vision of the future I want. The reason why I want to lose weight. This reason why has to be more appealing than chocolate, crisps, biscuits, cakes….. you get the idea. Being ill during March, April, May and June, along with footage of overweight middle aged men on ventilators due to COVID-19, was and still is a very strong motivation. That alongside this desire to have a fulfilling and active retirement hopefully with Grandchildren in the years to come creates a rich compelling future that is far more compelling than fatty, sugary foodstuff. Just like smoking this was not about giving something up is was about gaining a lifestyle, a lifestyle that meets my values and answers my reason why.

Now I have this vision I still need to protect myself from the temptation of slipping back in to old habits. So I allow myself treats in moderation, something from my old life that I can take with me into my new lifestyle.

That brings me to the transition bit. Wanting to lose weight does not make you lose weight. It takes ages. Some days are easy others are really horrible. Sometimes I am not as dedicated as others. I am kind to myself when this happens. I hold myself to account, rather than being ashamed of the setback. I have started weighing myself daily. I have found it really helpful to keep myself in check without feeling terrible when my weight sometimes goes in the wrong direction. It was hard at first, but now it keeps me focused and reminds me to look at the bigger picture and the trend downwards rather than the fluctuations. I have an initial target and then an overall long term target to work towards. I am expecting ups and downs but most of all I am focused on the reason why I want to lose weight.

As I get closer to my goal I will start to develop a consistent approach to sustaining my success. So this time in transition well spent experimenting and starting to form new habits that will create the pattern and habits that will keep me at a weight that is healthy.

If you are planning on making a change in your life, it is important to look beyond the short term gain of moving away from something that is negative and concentrate on the long term benefits of your future. Move towards your goal rather than moving away from the discomfort. Don’t kid yourself it will be really hard, things will go wrong, you will feel rubbish. So prepare yourself for that by creating a goal that is more attractive than your status quo. We are all much more capable than we think.

I provide coaching via zoom to help with creating a compelling goal with regular check ins to support you through the transition and in creating a sustainable new beginning.

Message me or email me if you are interested my coaching is more affordable than you think.

When I Fall Wedinar on 3rd October

The most important thing about falling is how quickly you get back. To live our best life we have to accept that there will be times when we fall, if want to continue living life to it’s full we have to keep picking ourselves up dusting ourselves down, learning from our mistakes and trying again.

When I Fall will explore how we can learn to dig deep and carry on when all we want to do is give up.

New Beginnings

Yesterday we took Jack to Manchester, he has gone a month early to settle in an look for a job before he starts his studies in September. He will be sharing a house with his big brother who goes into his 2nd year. Surprisingly it was a lovely day. We spent the afternoon with both our boys around the centre of Manchester, before taking them shopping and then heading home, so they could watch the Charity Shield. It was lovely to spend some quality time as a family all 4 of us, something we have not done since lockdown.

On the journey back myself and Lisa were reflecting on parenthood, and Lisa pointed out parenthood is so full on and how we spend so much energy preparing for the next stage, when they are babies you look forward to weaning, then walking and talking and then pottie training. The next is nursery then school, then riding a bike, then high school, then GCSEs then A levels, then work or university. Then that is it, they have gone.

The house seems so big this morning. I remember my mum telling me how she felt when I left home, as a if her right arm had been cut off. I feel a bit numb, I am not quite sure how to explain how I feel. I am so immensely proud of both my boys. I know Jack is more than capable and him and Ben are going to get the most out of living in Manchester and I am excited for them, at the same time I miss having them around the house. Ben has been gone a while, but I am really going to miss the chats me and Jack have about music ( Jack has expanded my knowledge and taste in music immensely), and football.

I have not been as emotional as I thought I would, apart from yesterday morning, I stood in our dining room looking at all the pictures of us as a family over the years that are on display in there, and a wave of sadness came over me, and had a little cry to mark the day passing of an era and the beginning of a new one. That is I suppose the reason why I don’t feel as emotional today. The sadness would just be for me wanting my boys to stay young. This is really at odds with the purpose of parenthood, which is to create adults that contribute to society. We have achieved that, so rather than sadness I feel pride and excitement when I think of their achievements and what they will achieve in the future.

A little story about how I shifted my view of the world.

As I keep talking about making changes in your lifestyle, and the importance of a plan and then having a clear reason why to get through the difficult days, I thought I might share my personal challenge. On Monday 10th of August I vowed that I would embark on losing weight down to a healthy weight. I am really aiming to do this over a year as I have a lot to lose. I have a clear image of what I want to be and feel like rather than focusing on the loss of weight. I have a compelling vision that I have drawn on already. As some days I feel pretty miserable. So far I have lost nearly a stone. But there is a long way to go and there will be days when it does not work out but I have a clear vision of being healthy and being well and happy is age more appealing than a cream cake. Change is hard, the first thing to do is to be very clear what you want achieve and why you want to achieve it.

If I am honest I feel quite vulnerable sharing this story but, I am convinced I will succeed and wanted to share that you can make changes to your lifestyle and mindset.

To get started is never easy and that is where coaching can really help. A coach will help you decide on whether the change in lifestyle is right for you, then help you shift your mindset from one that is entrenched in your status quo to a mindset that is prepared to view your world with a transformational eye. Once you have shifted you mindset it is far easier to see your goal in front of you.

If you keep trying and failing to change your lifestyle, send me a message and we can start shifting how you see your world.

Episode 2: Paying Attention to Your Well-being

Episode 2 of my Connected Living podcast is now available via Spotify.

In this episode we explore the how I use Martin Seligman’s PERMA to manage my well-being and how I use the stress bucket to keep a check on my stress levels. You can stream it now via Spotify by following the link below.

Introducing the Connected Living Podcast

I have decided to jump into the podcast world and publish regular podcasts based on connected living. Each episode will concentrate on an element of connected living. I will along the way be collecting stories from people that may relate to each episode from those around me. So if you have a story you want to share please let me know. So here is the first introductory episode, which just lays out what the idea of the podcast is. Please share with your friends.

https://anchor.fm/matthew-smith656/episodes/Introductions-eignmv

It is also available via Spotify and Apple Podcasts

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