I realised this week how in the midst of the move to my new website I was feeling rather wistful about letting go of the old one; Fresh Ways Forward (aVara came a little later and was more of a brochure website). I wanted to pause and honour FWF and all it stands for. It was as Fresh Ways Forward I established my business just over 10 years ago. It was the first website I ever created, it was where my transformational-change work was born, and the essence of that brand has been the foundation for my work for many years. On one hand, it is just a brand and a website, but at its heart has always been the power of transformation. I salute you my lovely brand.
Letting go of Fresh Ways Forward has been a bigger deal than I imagined, and actually it’s possible that a deeper reluctance to let go has slowed down my transition to Start With You.
As I always say, hindsight is always stunning!
It shows how important this stuff is to acknowledge and to guide our deeper self through, or at least give it some spaciousness to process the change. And as I often talk about with clients, bringing gentleness to that process, as opposed to just doggedly trucking on.
Holding on to the old and familiar
If we’re honest, don’t we just love our comfort zone? Even if you’re someone who likes to discover interesting new things, or change things up a bit at home or work, do you notice how getting the old noggin to catch up with your new approach can take some time? Or perhaps you sense trepidation about looking for a new job, or attending a new yoga class?
The fact is, our body at its most primal level is geared for sameness and consistency – all in the name of safety. It likes to stick with what it knows. Sometimes we need to consciously take those trepidatious parts of us by the hand to support the changes we want to make. Gently.
Allowing for vulnerability
And do you notice how quick you are to impatience around this stuff at times? The typical Kiwi approach to pull yourself up from your bootstraps and get on with it, often gets an airing around this time. But it’s not the answer. That practical, can-do attitude can be a strength, but it also often ignores the emotional journey we’re on during the change process. It can make us hurry and sometimes we just need some time to assimilate the changes and prepare ourselves mentally and emotionally.
We need to acknowledge the emotional journey.
One of the loudest voices around this topic right now is author and speaker Brene Brown. She believes we too easily gloss over the struggle we’ve been through and jump to the happy end/I survived part, and do a disservice to the mettle it took to get there. She says:
“Embracing failure without acknowledging the real hurt and fear that it can cause, or the complex journey that underlies rising strong, is gold-plating grit. To strip failure of its real emotional consequences is to scrub the concepts of grit and resilience of the very qualities that make them both so important — toughness, doggedness, and perseverance…
… If we are brave enough, often enough, we will fall; this is the physics of vulnerability.”
Stages of change
Virginia Satir, one of my therapeutic heroes, talked about the stages of change that we typically go through. The moment we move out of what she termed our ‘Status Quo’ (how we’ve been up to now) we move into what she called Chaos – where we open ourselves to new possibilities and also become more vulnerable. As we move out of the status quo (perhaps to review a relationship or project, to leave or start a new one, or to start working with a coach or therapist) everything we knew and were accustomed to gets thrown up in the air, and while it’s busy reorganising itself, we’re often in the discomfort of not knowing quite how it’s all doing to land.
Things can feel less predictable, we might not be sure what’s going to happen, even if we have an aspiration or goal. Feelings often arise of fear, doubt, excitement, optimism, anxiety and so on. It can feel a bit like an emotional soup. Often the old way of being no longer fits, but new ways of being haven’t yet evolved or settled. Those balls are just up in the air busy swirling around in front of you.
Having someone to support us at this stage is very helpful, and taking care of ourselves is important too. Taking time to breathe, centre yourself and self-soothe through the journey gives you strength to move through it.
When I feel the pressures of change, I now default to one of my favourite questions – What do I need right now? It could be anything – a walk around the block if I’m at work, a hug, or an afternoon off to rest and take stock.
Others expectations and self-soothing
If we’re in a stage of change or chaos, the people around us probably feel that journey too – whether it’s our spouse, parents or friends. The discomfort of the chaos, not knowing or incompleteness of the process can be uncomfortable for them. I often see this with my clients and what their other half is hoping they’re going to ‘fix’ in coaching. Impatience is popular at this juncture – they will say (or think) ‘just hurry up and sort it out already!’ Unfortunately this can create pressure on us that we often don’t need. Asking for space and understanding here is helpful. Sometimes reassuring the other person that you’re working through it can help. Looking at ways they can support or help in some way might be useful.
It may also be that they have their own anxieties or expectations about your process that are theirs to take care of. Dr David Schnarch, author of Passionate Marriage, talks a lot about the importance of being able to self-soothe at times like this. That means each of you taking care of your own emotions and not relying on the other person to make you feel better. Humbling stuff. In the context of committed relationships (and frankly I think this applies to all relationships) he says –
‘We are self-soothing animals, and we are able to control our own emotionality. We are able to control our own minds. That’s certainly what meditation is all about. That ability to hold onto ourselves is what gives you the basis for having a close, stable, intimate, rewarding, and also growing, living relationship with another human being.’
In honouring the path I’ve tread thus far, I had a small ceremony at home on the weekend. Just me, a candle and my Tibetan bell. In that ceremony I also gave thanks to all those who have journeyed with me so far in my work – my friends and family for all their support and often very practical and wise help. And I gave thanks to my clients – it has been a privilege to work with hundreds of people in this time, and to play a small role in the extraordinary journey each person is on.
I am grateful for all that has been and I’m super excited about what’s to come.
There is so much more to do in this life!