Why is change so hard?
Doing something new, facing uncertainty, or managing the challenges that come with new, pop into my mind. I bet some of the same reasons popped into your mind too. However, did you know that change triggers the process of transition? The transition triggered by making a change can be a beast to manage. The first part of transition, what William Bridges calls, “the ending” can knock you on your butt.
For years, I convinced myself that I was a master at change. I loved the challenge of doing things differently. I awarded myself the gold medal in change processes.
Recently, I discovered that my approach to change was to charge through it trying to avoid the inevitable process that followed. My strategy, invite change into your life, but don’t get caught up in any of those icky feelings that come with it.
What was I so quick to avoid like the plague? The ending.
Ending means saying goodbye to something. Embracing the first stage of transition, “the ending”, can set you up to move with intention and purpose towards whatever lies ahead.
Ending means letting go or saying goodbye. Take some time to think about what you’re saying goodbye to when you make a change.
When I left my last position as a staff psychiatrist several years ago, I was letting go of a lot.
There were the goodbyes to the staff and colleagues. I valued our close working relationships and felt their loss.
Just as difficult was saying goodbye to my patients. I cared deeply about them and wouldn’t have the chance to see them continue to get better.
I was also saying goodbye to part of my identity as a physician employee. That role came with certain conveniences and predictability. A longstanding part of my physician identity was being lost.
Some of the things that you are letting go of will be obvious to you.
Leaving a workplace, means saying goodbye to people you had previously seen on a regular basis. Even if you stay in contact, it will be on different terms.
Some ways of saying goodbye are less obvious.
Changing roles, such as my role as a physician employee, meant letting go of a part of my identity. Although less obvious, this letting go brought a whole set of emotions with it.
Embracing the first stage of transition, “the ending”, can set you up to move with intention and purpose towards whatever lies ahead.
Once you identify what you’re leaving, notice the emotions that come up. Are you experiencing periods of sadness, joy, anger, or relief? Maybe you’ve been surprised by a feeling of grief. Grief can arise from a sense of loss over a part of you or way of life.
This is normal.
Sit with these emotions without immediately reacting. Give yourself an opportunity to move forward with intention and purpose. Experiencing difficult emotions doesn’t mean you have to change your choices or behaviors.
Strong emotions are bits of data that tell you that something meaningful has occurred. It might be enough to just become aware of that.
When you sit with difficult emotions without immediately reacting you have more time and space to explore your options. It’s important to be able to tolerate difficult emotions without reflexively trying to get rid of them.
You might actually be leaving something behind that was mostly positive. That’s OK. You’re ready to move towards more or something greater for yourself.
Once you’ve named what you’re saying goodbye to and the emotions that come with it, you can start letting go of the behaviors and ways of being that are no longer useful to you.
Certain habits or routines, such as getting up and commuting to a particular clinic or hospital, may be a thing of the past. Put those routines in your review mirror and say “hello” to an extra 30 minutes of sleep in the morning.
If you’re used to checking with protocols and processes before making certain decisions, let go of the inefficiency that created in your decision making.
Saying goodbye to old behaviors means that you’re open to doing things in a way that better serves you at this time in your life.
That’s it. You now know the inner working of “the ending” that comes when you are experiencing a change. Welcome “the new” into your life with more confidence and purpose.
Keep your eyes open for future posts. I’ll dig into the other phases of change so that you are ready to tackle any change in your life.