I’ve learned over the past four years that the word, ‘transition,’ is a loaded term. We use it to describe everything from the vital first efforts of a new presidential administration, a.k.a. a transition team, to the heavily scrutinized transition of celeb, actress and athlete Caitlyn Jenner. What does transition mean for you?
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It has been a long time since I fought back tears to get through a day. Have you ever had one of those days? Or weeks? It seems as if I am holding on by my finger nails of late. What could possibly be going on? And more importantly, why is this happening now?
“You’ll be one of the best next year,” offered my son. Unprompted. He is eleven. We were in the kitchen. It was Sunday three weeks ago. I’d just decided to not participate in a sprint triathlon, an event for which I’d been training for months. A quirky injury sidelined me. I was crushed. In the grand scheme of things this was minor – hardly a blip. If I was still pre-transition, I would have simply gone on that day and not said a word about it to anyone. Instead, my transition inspired me to give voice to my disappointment. I was struck by my son’s humanity and emotional intelligence. Our typical exchanges are single words conveyed over an electronic device. His pivot made me reflect on how much of myself I can bring to interactions with others. It is my choice just like it was his. I can mimic the sentiment of his single word responses or his deft comment. How much of my voice do I choose to engage? Continue reading
“I don’t know,” said my twelve-year-old daughter earlier this week in response to a benign question I asked her about choosing a movie. Her tone was light-hearted if not a little distracted. My heart fell as I listened to her response. How could she not know? I hoped we’d avoid this unknowing if only for a few more years. Have you ever heard yourself say a similar statement? I don’t know. Continue reading
“How do I know I am ready for all of this?” asked a woman who attended a talk I gave on Tuesday evening at our local independently owned bookstore. Picture folding chairs tucked in and around narrowly arranged aisles of books. Her question was an honest one. Transition seems like a big undertaking. Full of risk. Is it for everyone? Continue reading
“We need your voice,” I said in closing a workshop with about a dozen women on a Saturday in early September. I was making a connection between an exercise we’d done on developing our own voices and the needs of our national economy. I view the development & expression of women’s voices as fundamental to our country’s long-term economic well-being. For me it’s an easy and obvious linkage – although I won’t bore you with the details here. What surprised me in that Saturday moment was the reaction I got. The attendees were honestly touched. My comment seemed to elevate our work. It connected every one of us to something greater. Our voice work was instantly relevant. Meaningful. Continue reading
A grad school classmate of mine and I were at dinner last week with another friend, Tricia, who had an undergraduate degree from UPenn. Tricia mentioned that she’d recently attended an informal get together for women from her graduating class. She’s been out of school just over twenty years. “Shame” she offered in summary of the get together – immediately capturing our full attention. “Many women weren’t doing anything because they were ashamed that they hadn’t done more since leaving school.” I understood her remarks to mean that negative self judgment played an enormous role for many of these women. It impacted their choices and their beliefs about success or failure because they hadn’t done what they ‘should’ have done. Wow. This discussion left me wondering, what role shame? Continue reading
Who wouldn’t give their right arm for more hours in the day? When faced with the prospect of newly available time, most of us instantly think about what we could do. The possibilities are endless. Think about it. An important ‘to do’ for work. A laundry list of actions in support of children, spouses, or dependent elders. A few minutes for long deferred personal care or even a personal interest. Maybe even a few moments dedicated to a long overdue job search. What would you do with ‘found time?’ Would wishing make it to your list?
Time was on my mind this week as we enjoyed the Summer Solstice. Celebrated on June 21st, the day marks the true start of summer for me. It is our ‘longest’ day of the year in the Northeast, offering six more hours of daylight than its astronomical opposite on December 21st. It makes me think about time and how I choose to spend it. A concept, I might add, that I rarely thought of pre-transition.
Solstice derives from two Latin words; sol, or sun, and stare, to stand or stop. Early astronomical observers believed that on the solstice the sun stopped its progression in the sky. Its literal translation is the day when the sun stands still.
The solstice’s definition caught my attention this week because I’ve been noodling a presentation I gave earlier this month. On June 9th I hosted a luncheon ‘dry run’ of the key messages from my upcoming book, Women & Transition: Reinventing Work and Life (Macmillan Nov 2015). The outset of the conversation was standard fare: transition’s definition, its anatomy, and an overview of a process that I created to help women navigate transition.
What really caught my audience’s eye was a list at the end of my remarks about what surprised me most in my research. For those unfamiliar with my research, I spoke with two hundred women in various forums about transition over an eighteen month period.
Before I share the surprise, let me give you some background. It’s a bit of an oversimplification so please bear with me.
Thanks to my research and my own circuitous path, I found that transition requires us to navigate an iterative two-stage process. The first stage is ‘envision,’ during which we develop a hypothesis of what ‘might be’ possible for us. It goes by many names. A dream. A wish. A personal strategy. You can choose the vocabulary most comfortable for you. This stage asks us to think beyond our assumptions about what we could or should do – staring down boundaries set by ourselves and by other’s expectations of us.
The second stage is ‘validate,’ a stage during which we test and retest and learn about our ‘envision’ hypothesis. This stage is experimental and flexible – progressing in increments designed to fit our own circumstances. At the end of all this you get a refined wish and real life experiences to give you the confidence to move in that direction. I referred to the transition process’s cycle at the June 9th lunch as the dream/do loop.
The surprise I shared on June 9th? I’ve witnessed again and again that women shortchange the work in the dream stage, preferring instead to do. The work of thinking – wishing – is difficult, non-linear and uncertain. Let’s face it most of us would rather clean the refrigerator on a sunny day than undertake such a task.
Wishing seems fanciful. This is only partly true. Here’s what I’ve learned: Dreaming requires us to trust our instincts – and most importantly to dignify what we hear. There is a competency we build up in the process – we learn to quell the negative internal voices that instantly pop up to extinguish whatever those instincts may be telling us.
In the summer weeks ahead be aware of the shortening days as we begin the long cycle towards the Winter Solstice. If you find yourself with a moment or two, dream. I’ve found it’s the most useful do you can do.
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Last week my ten-year old son and I watched the replay of the first game of the NBA finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors. We were rooting for the Golden State Warriors, his stand-in team given that his beloved Celtics will sit this one out. Thanks to his interest, I stumbled onto a terrific example of one of my favorite transition tools – reframing.
Last week I was struck by a quick comment made by Joyce, a mid-forties marketing czar and parent. She’d lost her job just prior to year-end 2014. A mutual friend asked if I would have coffee with her. “I’m ready,” she said as we settled into our seats at roast, our local Starbucks alternative. She wanted to initiate a job search. There was something else I heard – her tone and demeanor didn’t quite match. “I put all that stuff behind me,” she said. As if saying, ‘isn’t that what I’m supposed to do?’ Continue reading