More than 30 years ago, William Bridges, Ph.D., wrote the first edition of Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes,
a primer on coping with the tumultuous changes to our personal lives that we all face. Bridges takes us systematically through the three stages of any transition: The Ending, The Neutral Zone
and, in time, The New Beginning.
When it comes to making career decisions, the stages in this model can be turned into strategies for change and coping: Understand, Believe and Act.
Understand (Self Awareness)
Transitional opportunities enable us to rewire our brains and reassess ourselves regarding personal change and growth. Transition lets us redefine learning as a relatively permanent change in thoughts and behavior. Though you may not feel as if you have control over anything when you’re in a transitional period, remember that it’s a perfect time to be in control of your learning efforts. Sometimes you need to shift gears, wear another hat, and look at personal development outside of the corporate mind-set.
With the right guidance and direction, you can create your own learning environment in lieu of standard corporate training efforts.
Transition affords the opportunity to answer various important questions, including:
- How do I define my success? What are my goals at this time in my life?
- What is my personality type? How am I wired? Do I react, or do I respond to changes?
- How do I develop myself for a future I am uncertain about and I can’t control?
If your job is eliminated and you must change positions or professions, do you view it as a layoff notice or as a blank page? Understanding your character traits will help you understand how you’d view this situation in a particular way and why.
A number of character traits, when developed well, lead to success. Clearly, optimism is one of the most important traits for providing the confidence and resilience necessary to ride emotional ups and downs.
Optimism can also be viewed as a behavior. Synonyms for “optimism” include “hope,” “future-mindedness,” and “future orientation,” and all these ideas imply cognitive, emotional and motivational acknowledgment of the future. Though psychologists distinguish subtle differences among these attributes, such attributes are equally linked with all manner of desirable outcomes. According to psychologists, humans are optimistic most of the time, meaning we are usually able to weather the storm. In addition, optimism is linked to positive long-term health implications.
Act (According to Your Values)
Harvard Business School faculty members Laura Nash and Howard Stevenson wrote Just Enough: Tools for Creating Success in Your Work and Life (Wiley, 2005), a publication that provides a kaleidoscope strategy across four domains: happiness, achievement, significance and legacy. They are not four equal quadrants; they are flexible parts that change constantly as our life stages evolve and develop. With a clear understanding of our values, we make better choices during times of transition.
Our personal values are learned early and continue to develop throughout our lifetime. Values are the standards of desirability by which we choose between alternatives or assumptions about the nature of reality. Of course, they differ based on culture and environment. Personal goals are the answers to the questions we ask ourselves about our lives. Awareness of our values guides these goals.
After you understand and answer these important questions you will be in a better position to embrace chaos and uncertainty when it comes to career decisions. Let optimism light the path forward. And what’s important—values—guide your choices in a continual cycle of personal growth and development.
John T. Mooney is senior consultant and principal at Consultive Source. As a seasoned professional development practitioner, talent management expert and International Coach Federation certified coach, Mooney helps clients master new skills, develop new business ideas, visualize new goals, embrace new corporate talent optimization strategies and systems, and pursue individual development opportunities.