I once read that we teach best what we most need to learn. I had no idea how true these words are until I sat down to write about the next steps in my own career trajectory. For the past five years – since I finished grad school – I have been working as a full time counselor in the Counseling and Disability Office at Seneca College. It’s been a great ride that is coming to an end next week so that I can dedicate all of my energies to my private therapy practice as well as the life coaching, training and consulting business I have been developing part-time over the past three years.
In thinking about the week to come, I remembered a training session I developed and facilitated on managing transitions for a group of wide-eyed first year managers. I certainly didn’t know a year ago as I researched and wrote this session that I would benefit as much as student of this learning as I did as its teacher. As it turns out transitions, like many experiences, follow a fairly predictable pattern. In order to successfully navigate a transition you must first let go of your old reality. And part of letting go of anything requires an acknowledgement of loss. Even if you’re looking forward to a next step or running from a negative experience there is a loss inherent in every new beginning. Accepting that loss is a critical part of change. Not doing so prolongs the inexplicable feelings of frustration or alienation that might accompany transition.
The next step is living in the new reality with all the uncertainty it entails. No future, no matter how carefully planned out, is exempt from the unknown. The task here is to get comfortable with having way more questions than you do answers. If you get good at accepting the unknowns and allowing the questions to multiply you avoid the knee-jerky moves that usually accompany our discomfort with them. Ultimately you’ll make better choices and decisions that reflect the spirit of why you’ve embarked on this next phase in the first place.
That leads nicely into the exploration phase. Although you still want to keep your options open you do want to start answering some of the questions that you have. What does this new reality look like? What possible opportunities exist? How do I learn more about what works and doesn’t for me? Remember to take your time exploring all the possible answers. A short-term decision that is anxiety and/or money driven isn’t going to get where you need to go. If done right, successfully navigating a current transition could circumvent the need to prematurely navigate future transitions.
Once you’re done collecting data from the exploration phase, you need to make some choices, commit to them and firmly root yourself in your new experience. In part, this is done by looking back and taking stock of how far you’ve come and how much closer you are to what you want. If you’ve done things right, this should put a smile on your face. Then you can take the final step towards a successful transition: proudly embracing your arrival in your new reality.
Transitions are fraught with tension and doubt. Even as a teacher of what it takes to successfully navigate them I am not immune to the negative impact of these. Recognizing where I’m at and why I’m here, I hope and as I teach others, will help lessen the anxiety and keep me moving forward. As they say, the proof is in the pudding so I’ll keep you posted on my own transition over the weeks and months to come.
Wish me luck!