Are you acting just for action’s sake?


Image courtesy of Morguefile

Yesterday, we looked at a checklist of things to consider when you’re going through your transition.  One of the things to consider was if you’re acting just for action’s sake.  Today I want to look closer at how you can tell if you’re just acting out of a need to take action or if you’re about to do something that will really give you momentum in your transition.

Do you feel deep down as if you’re rushing things? Is your gut telling your that you’re going to fast, you don’t know exactly why you’re doing this, or how things are going to help you in the long run? If that’s the case, listen to your gut.

If you feel odd, as if things just aren’t right for you, then you’re probably acting out of discomfort. You just want to get out of where you are, and you’ll take any ill thought opportunity to go anywhere really fast.  That’s not progress.  It’s fear bullying you. Make it stop.  Now.

If that’s the case, you run the risk of settling for good when you really should be holding out for great.  Look, your career- your life even- isn’t like the last fifteen minutes before closing before the bar closes.  Don’t just grab something in desperation because you don’t want to feel alone.

Is the rush just too much?  You know how it feels when you watch a friend start a rebound relationship.  You’re on the sidelines, shaking your head.  You know this will end only in disaster.  What your friend doesn’t realize is that they’re refusing to take the time out needed to mourn what’s lost.  And to sufficiently get ready for what’s coming next.

If there’s a rush going, you can just count on the fact that you’re acting purely out of emotion, and not thinking with your logical part of your brain.

Are you improvising in a really, really bad way?  Sure, improvising is a great way to open up the Right Brain and gain some insight from your subconscious.  If you’re in a situation where you HAVE to make a decision in a split second, improvising usually is a good skill to have.  You usually make the best decision because you’re not agonizing by trying to endlessly weigh all of your options.

But if you’re constantly improvising, refusing to make a plan, then you’re in the process of leading yourself astray.  No matter how much of a creative free spirit you are, you have to come up with some kind of fluid master plan.  If you don’t, you’re sabotaging your own work.

And the odds are, you’re refusing to take responsibility for your own decisions.  You start to blame fate when what’s really going on is that you’re abandoning your own need to think about your own decisions.  And when it all goes to pot, you want to blame Fate for picking on you.




A transition checklist


Image courtesy of Morguefile


While you’re going through your transition, professional or not, even the most disorganized person likes to have a mental checklist to give some sort of sanity to the process.

While it’s not exhaustive by any means, here’s a handy checklist you can use while your’re going through an change, even a change in the kind of toilet paper you use in the bathroom.


  1. Take your time.  No change starts with a single decision or action.  So don’t assume you have to run through it as fast as possible.  Just trying to get through with it will make it much harder.  Even the process of trying to orientate  yourself to the new surroundings takes time.  And so will testing new ways of doing things and seeing what works and what doesn’t.  When I started freelance writing, I think it took me about a year to figure out what would bring in steady money, what I hated (and I mean HATED) to do, and now not to try to bring in clients.  I really wish all that would’ve just taken a couple of months, but that’s just the way things go.
  2. Construct some temporary structures.  Think of it as going through a remodeling project at home.  But you’re the contractor who drags things on endlessly.  Find ways to accept things the way they are, not the way you want them to be.  As the Buddhist teach, realize that every situation is temporary and find ways to deal with them for now.  They’ll be gone eventually.  Remember:  inner work takes a lot of trial and error to get it right.
  3. Don’t act just for the sake of action.  Transitions require that we end a chapter in our lives PLUS we find out what we need to learn in order to take the next step.  If you try to bulldoze through this process, you’ll shortchange yourself out of that second step.
  4. Take care of yourself in little ways.  While you need to be practical about your resources, accept that you also have to practice some self care while you’re transitioning.  If your indulgences used to be expensive while you were getting a regular paycheck, find a cheaper substitute.
  5. Explore the other side of the change.  While you’re thinking of how things will be when you get to the end of your transition, actually go out and experience it from time to time.  Even if it’s just going to mixers with people who are doing what you want to do, it’ll make what you’re striving towards that more concrete to you.  And it will inspire you to keep going.
  6. Talk to someone.  And that’s not just for advice.  Although, God knows professional counselors are an incredible resource when you’re changing you life, don’t just feel like you have to come to everyone with a problem.  Find someone you can go to and not talk about work for a while.


I once read that you can look at a transition as a time where you leave the status quo, take a time out, and come back for an answer.  It’s a way of thinking of this time as a way to add to what you want to know, instead of thinking it as an upheaval.  Whatever works for you, it’s good to think of things from different perspectives.






Rule Number Four of Transitions

Image courtesy of Clarita.


This week, we looked at how every transition in your life begins with an ending. Today, we’ll build on that idea, looking at how each transition takes that ending and goes to a new beginning. But before you get to the beginning, there’s an empty place in between.   And now we reach Rule Number Four of transitions:

There is an ending, a beginning and in between, there is a Neutral Zone.


Neither here nor there


Welcome to what psychologists and sociologist refer to as The Neutral Zone.  The Neutral Zone is a cocooning phase, where you are absolutely NOT where you were earlier, nor are you where you’ll be by the time the transition is over. It’s a completely distinct area that goes in between the two.

In fiction, when the hero breaks (or is forcibly thrown into) the world of act two, he’s often disoriented.  That’s because when we’re disorientated we’re also highly suggestible.  And open to suggestion or drunken acts in some cases.  But good or bad, if we’re suggestible, we’re open to something new.  And it’s hard to be open to something new unless we’re pried away from the familiar.

It’s long. Unbearably long.

If you’ve ever timed a theatrical movie, you’ll see that out of a typical 120 minute film, 60 minutes are devoted to Act Two, the Neutral Zone.  For the audience, it’s lots of fun, but for the hero, it’s the worst torture that he’s ever experienced.  The same goes for all of the transitions that you go through in your own life.  They’re so unbearably long that you spend much of your time wishing they’ll be over already.

Not only are they long, you go back and forth, one day improving and the next everything goes wrong for you.  So it’s never a clean, linear time for you.  You make the majority of your mistakes during the Neutral Zone, because you’ve never done this before.

It’s the time you can start to let go of the past.

In the ending part of a transition, you still had some unfinished business to take care of. Now in the Neutral Zone, you can start to let go of it.  It’s a great time to let go of all those old habits and ways of doing things that you wanted to get rid of.  And to get rid of the things that weren’t working for you (like going to Chipotle for a 1000 calorie lunch every weekday and never exercising).  Don’t get the idea that it’s all pain and confusion.  It’s also a great time of refining and renewing yourself.  You really get to grow now

But very few of us totally let go of the old.  Some things will still stay with you, including things that you need to or would rather let go of.  That’s okay, as long as you don’t waste time beating yourself up.

It will be over at some point.

I can remember the day I got out of graduate school to the second. I turned in my thesis to the Dean and ran like hell to the parking lot. I felt like an inmate making an escape for it. I really couldn’t believe they were letting me go. But the sense of relief I felt was incredible. It will be for you as well, one you get to the point of making a new beginning.


Rule Number Three of transitions

Image courtesy of Dani Simmonds.

In the past couple of days, we’ve looked at how every transition in your life starts with a change, and how the urge to go back to who what and where you were before is irresistible. Today we’ll take a frank look at the Third Rule of Transitions:

We resist examining the impact of transitions with every fiber of our being.


We humans are creatures of habit, and most of us try to go with the past of least resistance. But we’ve convinced ourselves that the path of least resistance is to never change. To just stay the same even until the point of stagnation.


This is where our individual coping mechanisms come into play. While we all resist, we all resist in different ways. It’s just like how we all mourn in different ways and we all have different handwriting.


Some people will opt out of taking responsibility for the transition, saying that they were powerless when it happens, and they’re also powerless to do anything once they’re in them. Life just pushes them along, and they have no way of doing anything to change it. It’s learned helplessness, and the longer we try to perpetuate it, the longer we stay stuck in a particular part of a loop. Maybe we’re the type that invites numerous kinds of endings, like lovers who walk out on us in disgust, or a string of failed jobs.


Others try to make a clean break, or more likely a quick getaway. They’re the type who hate to have goodbye parties, and will slip out of anything early to avoid saying goodbye. The type who like to insist that there is no ending and try everything to stuff how they feel about them. It’s just too painful for them to acknowledge that another loss is coming. When a loss is so overreaching, however, they tend to fall apart when they can’t stop running from them.


Don’t get the feeling that any kind of dealing with an ending is “wrong” or better than the others. They’re idiosyncratic, and they make us different from one another. Most of us learned how to deal with endings when we were kids, so it’s not only deeply ingrained into us, it’s been there for a long time, controlling how we react in the present and the future.


One of the main reasons why we react to endings the way we do is that we can’t separate ending from pain. We expect them to be a kind of loss of who we are, and how the entire world that we inhabit. That causes an incredible amount of anxiety for us. But at some point after the old manages to slip away, a new identity starts to take over, and there’s more of a replacement (or even an upgrade) than a loss. Think of it as updating the operating system for your computer—sure you give up the old, but you get some pretty cool upgrades that you’ll have to spend some time getting used to.



News from the disabled list

I was really glad this week that I put the blog on auto by scheduling posts ahead of time.

As I type, about a week ago what we’re calling “The Incident” happened.  I was carrying my cat in my arms when I tripped over the garbage can.  It happened so fast, I don’t know for sure what happened.  But I think I braced the cat, which caused him to freak out and bite/ scratch me.

So I got Cat Scratch Disease, which really should be called Cat Bite Disease since it’s caused by a bacteria that lives in the cat’s mouth.

My left wrist has been swollen since last Wednesday night, and I’ve put off typing until the doctor gave me the “all clear” yesterday.

So now I can go back to blogging about transitions.







The Second Rule of being in transition

Image via Morguefile.


In yesterday’s post, we looked at how no matter how you begin your transition, some things still linger with you. That can include old routines, interactions with former coworkers or the nice feeling of having a steady paycheck. That brings us to Rule Number Two:


Every transition begins with an end.


Scientists are now theorizing that even the Big Bang couldn’t have happened without something being changed or left behind. That means that when you’re in the process of starting over or starting “new,” you are at the same time bringing something you’ve had before to an end.


Actually, each transition in life goes through three phases, which you will find yourself drifting in and out of in your own


  • There’s an ending, which is followed by
  • A period of confusion and stress where you feel neither here nor there.
  • A new beginning


People who go through a transition unwillingly really struggle with admitting to themselves that they’ve going through one in the first place.


A large part of us really, really wants to go back to where we were before we started the transition. A spouse desperately wants to go back to a time before the other person asked for a divorce. A new college graduate fantasizes about going back to school because the routine was down and getting a job is next to impossible.


What about the so- called “good transitions?” Even a happily married newlywed has moments where he misses the single life. New parents do miss being able to stay out until 3am. So many times, we try to rush through the ending part of a transition, feeling guilt about thinking about it that don’t allow ourselves enough time to say a proper goodbye to them.


So we do ourselves a disservice by ignoring the first of the three stages of a transition. Unfinished business keeps coming up as we change, and many times it causes us to take several steps back. We tell ourselves to “get over it,” “Never look back,” “it’s in the past,” “never cry over spilled milk,” and try to force ourselves through the transition process without even allowing ourselves to deal with a vital first third of the process.


Far too often, when we’re embarrassed at not being able to handle a transition smoothly, it’s because we didn’t handle the beginning of the transition well in the first place. We didn’t acknowledge where we came from, we tried to run over the threshold that put us in the new place, and we forced ourselves to buck up and not properly mourn the old we’ve left behind.





When things are up in the air


Image courtesy of Morgue File

Right smack in the middle of the Neutral Zone, you start to get the feeling that you’re floating helplessly.  Things are up in the air and you have no idea where they’re doing.  It’s the most distressing part of the Neutral Zone because you have nothing solid to hold onto or check in with.

Everything is in flux.  And not just the things that you just worked so hard to change.  Each area of your life is rippling with the change that you’ve made.  You start avoiding some people because they keep asking you about work.  Since you haven’t heard back from that client in over a week, the last thing you want to talk about is work.  You break down and cry when you look at your bank account.

The 3 universal transitions of our lives

Image courtesy of Morgue File

It’s no surprise that work related transitions aren’t the only ones that we’ll go through in life.  Since they involve our paychecks, how we make our livings, they usually feel like some of the most eventful ones that we go through.  But there are scores of changes that happen in our lives that go beyond work transitions.

Losses of relationships

Think about the people who have gone out of your life in the past year: friends who moved away, deaths, and other permanent losses.  Those are the ones that we usually think of first, but we can also experience loss when a child moves away to go to college.  And it’s not just people- the loss of a pet can be just as devastating as the loss of a human family member.

These losses make an impact on the quality of life in your home.  Not having someone you care for deeply causes a disruption in your routine.  And it’s a loss that can never completely be replaced.

Changes in home life

Even if you moved to a new apartment two doors down in your complex, it’s still a change.  When you’re distracted, you might find yourself putting your new keys into the lock of the old door.  Even remodeling what you have brings with it lots of changes in your life.  From the noise to the financial burden it puts on you, a change to the place you call your home is incredibly stressful.

But not all changes at home involve a change to the building.  If you or a family member is dealing with a serious illness, it directly affects the dynamic of your relationships with each other.  A child or adult child caring for an ailing parent finds that their oldest relationship is undergoing seismic changes.

Personal and inner changes

These are some of the most grueling changes we go through day in and day out.  If you’re trying to change your eating or exercising habits, it’s driven by an internal desire to change, so it hits as close to home as it possibly could.  The same level of vulnerability comes when you end or begin a romantic relationship.  These changes are so intrinsic to who we are that the slightest variable can cause shock waves throughout our lives.  Ask anyone who’s tried to show up to work the day after being dumped.

Not all changes we go through involve our work-  most of them deal directly with who we are at home and who we interact with on a personal basis.




Regardless of where in your life a change is happening, the transition takes a toll on you physically, mentally and socially.  When they start to pile up on you, and pull different parts of your life, the effect becomes more and more complicated.

Handling change like an adult

Image courtesy of Morgue File

Oh, adulthood- with its own collection of myths, old wives tales and fictions.  It’s a wonder any of us make it through adulthood in the first place.  We come into it with so many over the top expectations for how it will be and how it should be.  But being an adult, just like being a kid, means that everything is constantly in flux.  You may not be losing any milk teeth, but even if you come into adulthood with things going the way you expected them to, look out.

You’re headed for transition after transition.  And they’re all normal.

I think we’re all locked more rigidly into what we think we should be doing by age X as adults than we ever are as kids.  If a kid is a late bloomer and learns to read a little later than her peers, that’s cool.  She’s still a genius.  But God forbid someone do something that they’re “supposed to do” by age 30.  It’s as if we’re all offended at their inability to handle being a human.  No slack in that case.

Lesson #1: adulthood is full of contraction, expansion, change and just downright weirdness

And all of those stages happen differently for each of us.  They don’t follow in a nice linear pattern.  And for the majority of the time, angelic choirs don’t sing when a change happens.  Most of our changes happen in stages and baby steps.  So if you’re trying to do it all in one afternoon, knock it off.

Lesson #2: not everyone hits a life changing or downhill slide at forty.  Or fifty.  Or sixty.

There is no magical expiration date for going after something that’s meaningful for you.  Given, it’s hard to do things like pro basketball or gymnastics that depend on physical skills after a certain age, but that only applies to physical skills.  Mental ones don’t age.   So don’t waste good business planning time worrying that you’re too old to do something that’s personally fulfilling for you.  Pardon my candor,  but thinking you have to be a spring chicken to be an entrepreneur is a load of horse shit.

That’s all for today.  If you’ll excuse me, I have a pack of teenagers to run out of Barnes and Noble.

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