Transitions Coaching Blog

Thoughts. Reflections. Intentions.

Navigating the Unknown: How to Embrace Life Stages and New Beginnings

By Lynne Juve, Practice Leader, Recruitment and Career Coaching  |  January 8, 2024
The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new, Socrates

Ask almost anyone, and they’ll probably tell you they’ve experienced a sort of turning point, a stage at which they said, “What am I doing? Is it right? Is it enough? Do I have to do or be something else?” It happened to me, and it was one of the scariest periods of my life.

For years, I’d had a sense that I wanted (needed) a change.

I liked the career I’d chosen, but I was weary of the path it had led me down. I was working too many hours, and my job was dominating my days, nights, and weekends.

When I started down this road, my intentions were good. I wanted to provide for my family, enabling us to live the life we wanted.

I also had my mind set on early retirement. “Do this now so you can enjoy life later,” I would tell myself. I realize now that the dream of early retirement was just me wanting to be done with a job I disliked and was completely draining me. I was working to be “freed from prison.”

Then, I found myself in a major life transition.

I was getting a divorce, and I was rocked to the core. When I imagined my life from that point forward, I was terrified. What was I going to do? Surely, I could forget early retirement. How was I going to support myself and my daughters?

I didn’t recognize it at the time, but I know now that I was sitting in a really scary place—the Neutral Zone, as it’s described by William Bridges.

Bridges is a renowned expert on change and the creator of the Bridges’ Transition Model, a three-phase model for understanding transitions.

The model includes the Ending Phase (letting go of the old), Neutral Zone (an uncertain in-between stage), and New Beginning (embracing the change). Navigating these phases is hard—but recognizing them can help us cope more effectively.

In my case, my divorce initiated the Ending Phase. I had to let go of life as I’d known it. In the Neutral Zone, I had no idea what came next. The New Beginning was hard to imagine or see. While my external context had changed, I hadn’t yet adapted internally. I had work to do to psychologically transition, accept this change, and move forward.

In time, I was able to see my transition as a pathway to something new and different—a new life stage that was totally natural, something to be embraced and welcomed. At the point of impact, though, I never imagined reaching that place of acceptance. It took time for a possibility mindset to take hold.

That mindset helped me open up to a new way of being, both personally and professionally.

I knew I couldn’t continue living and working as I had been. After all, it had contributed to this messy transition I found myself in! For a time, I grasped onto the familiarity and the stability of work, but I tried showing up differently. I cut back on hours, tried to be more present at home. And that helped—temporarily. Deep down, I knew I wasn’t on the right path.

This all led me to wonder, “What else?” With the support of an amazing coach, I eventually created a vision of what I wanted most for ME (a whole new concept) in work and life. Creating this vision and embracing a possibility mindset helped me dig deeper and find a new path forward. And that’s what led me to the work I love today.

Change is inevitable.

Whether by choice or by circumstance, we all find ourselves at a crossroads at various points in our lives. Instead of rejecting these transitions, we can embrace them as opportunities for self-discovery and growth.

Like the quote from Socrates suggests, our energy is better spent building the new than fighting the old. When we let go of outdated beliefs and habits that aren’t serving us, we can create space for fresh possibilities. The discomfort of the Neutral Zone can be a fertile ground for self-reflection and transformation.

I’ve learned that life’s transitions are not endings but beginnings in disguise. We should embrace them, learn from them, and use them as stepping stones. The secret to effectively navigating change is recognizing an inflection point, seeing the potential for a new beginning, and channeling our energy in that direction.

At Transitions Careers, we understand that change is anything but simple.

Our group coaching program can help you if you’re feeling stuck, overwhelmed, and maybe even a little afraid as you approach a transition. Learn more about Navigating the Journey of a Career Transition and discover a personalized, do-able path to finding work you love.