Transitions derailed….

“Oh, you’re dreaming,” shared Margot, a forty something Focus Group participant.  She was relating a conversation with a family member who wasn’t necessarily embracing her transitional aspirations.  Margot had exited a job that was a poor fit, pivoted to a new industry and added a husband and three children along the way.   “What I’m investigating might not lead to a direct result,” she said.   “Or it might happen down the line.  You have to be comfortable with that….”  Clearly her relatives were not.   That evening we threw the relatives and several other issues into a bucket called derailers, those events that can cause us to stall or head for the hills while in transition.  Have you ever encountered any?

Spring 2014

Spring 2014

Derailers.  Just the other day I was talking about a stressful work issue with a friend.  “I could never do that….,” she intoned.   More and more this type of comment makes me sad and angry.   Something was stopping her cold.  But what?

Derailers.  The Focus Group ladies created quite a list:  Financial gates.  Other’s expectations of us.  Risk aversion.  Confidence or lack thereof.  Our inability to hear our own voice.  Lack of support.  Shame.  Perfectionism.  Failure.  Us, ourselves.  Rejection.  Exhaustion.

Can you see the thing that might be stopping you?

Exhaustion really got the lion’s share of attention at the Focus Group.   It’s one I’ve wondered about a lot.

“How can I follow my voice if I don’t have the emotional energy to support it,” said a marketing executive who’d been thrust into transition following a job loss.    She operated at what I would describe as a sustained exhaustion level for a long time.  She’d been very good at her job, exceptional even.  She’d invested seventeen years.

She, like Margot, alluded to exhaustion clouding out her ability to think through transition while still working.  She’d considered transition long before the lay-off.  She’d just never acted on it.   Margot went as far as to define ’emotional well-being,’ her reciprocal of exhaustion, as a prerequisite for transition.

Everyone in the room seemed to gravitate to emotional well-being.  I wasn’t sure what it meant.

Following the Focus Group I stumbled onto Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman,  a popular mid-90’s title.   Goleman defines Emotional Intelligence as, “how well we handle ourselves and our relationships.”  He believes that Emotional Intelligence is made up of 4 domains (excerpted from Daniel Goleman Introduces Emotional Intelligence):

  1. Self-awareness:
  2. Self-management:  ‘Handling your distressing emotions in effective ways so that they don’t cripple you.  Also, marshalling positive emotions, getting ourselves, you know, involved, enthused about what we’re doing, aligning our actions with our passions.’
  3. Empathy:  ‘Knowing what someone else is feeling;’ and
  4. Skilled Relationships: ‘Putting all components together in a skilled relationship.’

I don’t know enough about emotional intelligence to anchor it to transition.  But I can tell you this….

I remember a week-long family vacation in July in the year prior to my leaving Iron Mountain.  Life had been chaos leading up to the break.   My daughter, then a kindergartener, had experienced some tough social behaviors in her classroom that year.  It required all sorts of interventions on the part of parents, teachers and the administration.

Prior to the vacation I would have told you that she had weathered the storm perfectly well.  It wasn’t until I could observe her for seven days straight that I noticed she was off.  My typical bubbly emotive little girl was withdrawn and edgy.    She hardly spoke.

The situation had impacted her in ways that I was either too exhausted or too emotionally unavailable to see.    It was a sobering realization.

Transitions require us to re-imagine our assumptions about our identity, our capacity and our values.   Trying to break through all manner of derailers, including exhaustion, may be our first order of business.  The great news in all of this?  Progress can be made even if you can only dedicate one hour on a Tuesday night once a month.

Dream. Reach.  Imagine.  I’m convinced that the real risk of transition isn’t found in its derailers.  It’s found in not engaging at all.  Imagine.

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