The stuff in between: the journey from intention to outcome

Guest post for Spirit Moving Narrative Consulting

A few years ago I felt the need to explore what else might be possible in my career. An opportunity presented itself and I made a courageous decision. The big change included not only a new job, but also a move from my hometown of Vancouver to Toronto. I had not intended on moving across the country, but given the quantum flirts and multiple synchronous moments that I continued to experience, I intuitively knew I was meant to be on this journey.

I accepted the new position (a one year contract) in mid January 2012 and planned to arrive in Toronto Mar 1, 2012. Six weeks to pack up my life and move … no time to overthink. I was burnt out before I even left. The transition process had begun. My grounding mantra was, and continues to be ‘faith’.

In retrospect, what I was not prepared for was what it would take to GET to the intended outcome, the resilience I’d have to tap into to navigate this stage between the old and the new. William Bridges refers to this stage as the neutral zone when people can “experience a higher workload as they get used to new systems and new ways of working”. I can attest to this – too much change, in a short period of time and not enough support.

What I discovered was the enormity of the gap between intention and outcome –this, however, is where the real work of change and transition takes place. In my experience, I failed to be mindful and adjust accordingly resulting in a serious stress related illness.

So, what does it take to journey through change and transition, and arrive on the other side feeling more whole, grounded, resourceful and creative?

1. MANAGE EXPECTATIONS
A couple of factors took me down an unintended path of high expectations. Unconsciously, I prioritized my work and supported everyone else but myself. Also, as a woman of color, it is so ingrained in me to work extra hard to get recognition for my work. The social conditioning goes deep. Social pressures (external and internal) to perform resulted in tilting the balance and eventually creating a health crisis.

I was so over-stimulated that my capacity to think and communicate clearly, make good decisions, … was compromised. I had expended an enormous amount of energy and essentially bankrupted my system. As a self-preservation move, my body began to shut down in response to the unrealistic levels of stress. In retrospect, I realize the value of setting limits, boundaries, and reasonable goals.

The lesson here is to manage the expectations of others … and my own. If they’re not realistic, achievable and sustainable, then it’s time to re-assess.

2. COMMUNITY/SOCIAL SUPPORT
I threw myself into my work … I didn’t have much of a community so it seemed alright. The problem with this was that I lost touch with what was important for my wellbeing – maintaining a balance between masculine and feminine energy. Once the pressure hit, I put on a brave face and chose to fake it ‘til I made it – bad choice!

I now know that changes, small or large, require a support team. What I needed to do was establish and draw on community for support, access regular reality checks, be authentic and vulnerable, and ask for help. I needed to allow others to be a resource for me to keep me grounded and supported. I have no doubt that people appreciate being called upon, and to feel needed. It’s a win-win situation.

3. WHOLE BODY AWARENESS – Signals
I was only superficially aware of the stress signals leading up to the first 5-6 months in the new job, the new city. I failed to pause, to be still long enough to inquire what the signals were communicating and what needed to shift and re-balance. I had every intention of getting back on a work/life balance in the fall – but by then it was too late. The ‘cosmic shouting’ stopped me in my tracks.

This was a great reminder that even when it feels counterintuitive, the wisdom of the mind, body and heart, the cues and signals, are the body’s way to communicate that something needs to change. I have to constantly remind myself to stop, pause and listen to the ‘cosmic whispers’ – failing to do so, the dial WILL ramp up to ‘cosmic shouting’.

4. WHOLE BODY ENGAGEMENT – Resilience & Energy Management
I actually enjoy change! But what got in the way, and that I now understand physiologically, is that our brains capacity to function effectively is compromised when we’re overloaded and over stimulated.

Experience is such a great teacher! I had forgotten that managing my energy (physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually) is the currency that enables me to be resilient and extraordinary. But sometimes, wonderful gifts show up when we struggle. One of these gifts, and one of my best discoveries that supports a wholistic approach to managing energy is the practice of recalibrating our nervous systems. This is a practice of extended savasana and meditation, essentially a regular time out to reestablish normal physiological functioning. Brilliant!

Change and transition is constant! This past year I started my own business and also lost my Mother. I am simultaneously grieving & letting go AND creatively manifesting a new career. Personal care and self-compassion now take precedence.

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