Altered States….

“So this really is my problem.  I can figure out what I want to do with it.” shared a tall understated woman who had joined our Focus Group.   “It’s freeing. I feel like I can be anything I want to be.”  Everyone in the room nodded in support. “It’s also confusing.  It’s like being a teenager again. You know, when they ask you, ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’  Well, who knows!”  Everyone chuckled.  She was lighthearted. And yet mildly sad by the hypocrisy of it all.  Hadn’t she dreamt of this moment for years as she supported everyone else? Now a pivot.   To what?


To what?  I asked myself that same question in the early stages of my transition. At the time I didn’t have an answer.  Or I had too many answers.  Never short of ideas but no single one stepped forward.

I now realize that this stage of my transition required me to begin envisioning what might be.   It took me a year to get to that point.  I was distracted.  I consulted.  I earned some money.  I networked – but with limited results.   I took care of some minor medical problems that I’d been too busy to address.  I met the community in which I’d lived for almost a decade.  I laughed with my children.

“It’s very much like visioning,” remarked a women whom I was interviewing.  She agreed to react to some tools I’d developed for my book.   She was no stranger to transition.  She said it best, “I’m trying to reconcile how to be an achiever and the mother that I want to be.”   She went further, “That’s the example I want to set for my daughter.”

Have you ever done a visioning exercise?  For a company, an organization, yourself?   This women had worked with college graduates who were interested in entrepreneurship.   She shared the details of an exercise that she often facilitated with them.  In it the graduates had to create the ‘movie version’ of the businesses they wanted to build.

“Sometimes it was the first time they talked out loud about what they wanted.”  From there they wrote business plans about how to…

What’s the movie version of your transition’s outcome?

A neighbor who had volunteered for years at a women’s transition center made me tea recently.   It was the first time that she talked with me about the seminars that the center offered for career changers.   Women had to apply for the programs.  Many arrived at the application process  – deflated.  As if saying…what skills?

“The group that always surprised us were the teachers,” she shared.   “They struggled the most.  They didn’t recognize that their role as teachers translated into planning and organizational skills; public speaking skills; and conflict resolution skills.”

Maybe that’s the gate in transition’s “what’s next” quandary.  Thinking about our value or skills in component parts.

Can you unbundle your experiences beyond a high level summary.  Teacher?

At its simplest I think answering this ‘what’s next’ question requires two parts.  First, take an inventory of all of the components of you…those imbedded in your interests, volunteering pursuits, your jobs, etc.   Second, sit down and work through envisioning how these might come together to fuel your passions.   Passion visioning….?

Sound easy?  It isn’t.  But it’s worth it.

My very favorite course in college was American History Through Novels and Films.  So, this movie exercise might appeal more to me than most.   The real goal is dreaming about your next iteration….Try to keep in mind that if it leverages those things that you do that seem effortless and is directed towards your passions – you cannot lose – regardless of what state you wind up in.

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