Transition through Fear

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    I want to follow-up on my post from last week about taking down your house board by board. Before you can re-build your house, you’re left in the Void. Many people can’t sit in the place of the void. It’s too scary, too lonely, too unsettling. Why is that? Some people resist change (at work or in their lives) because they fear what the new outcome will be. Others resist change because they fear the nothingness before the new form takes shape. I heard an interesting quote recently, “In order to make changes stick, you have to transition through fear more than you fear transition”.

    I. The Void

    In order to move from what once was to what can be, you have to go through territory of the Void or in some spiritual traditions it’s been called The Wilderness. Those times when we are without home, without moorings, without a sense of direction or purpose. Living in the emptiness, the nothingness. Yet in that emptiness is spaciousness- space to grow, space to plant new ideas, and space to explore new possibilities. It can be a time of fear or a time of opportunity.

    Someone bravely shared a comment on my last blog about taking steps to recognize and accept portions of himself that he hadn’t wanted to own. I suspect from his comment he knew the change would be for the better and so he was able to navigate through the void. For those of you experiencing change that you didn’t ‘volunteer’ for, here’s a framework for you.

    II. Change Process

    Kurt Lewin, the famous social psychologist, described the change process in 3 basic steps – unfreezing, change, re-freezing. Ahhh if it were only that simple. There is a missing step, the void. Between the unfreezing and the change, you have to leave the old familiar ways and step into the unknown before the change can take place. The void is where fear germinates, where our doubts linger, our ‘what ifs’ mess with our mind. That void can last for a week, a month, several years. A wise friend once said, “Change happens in an instant. Getting ready for the change may take a lifetime.”

    You must transition through your fears to keep going through the void. If you fear transition too much you won’t make it. And many people don’t ever ‘unfreeze’ precisely because of that fear. Change, especially meaningful and lasting change, doesn’t happen overnight. We have to have courage and faith to make it through the void before the change takes place.

    III. Faith

    Most change in organizations take 3-5 years for ‘re-freezing’ of stable, sustainable new systems, structures or culture. If you are going through a change now and feeling in the void, don’t panic, breath into the spaciousness, stay open to receiving the new. Sometimes you just have to be in that void with nothing else to support you but faith. One definition of faith I love is ‘going to the edge of what you know and taking one more step” – Stepping out into that void and knowing that when you step, something or someone will support you or guide you to your destination.

    What changes have you gone through lately where you didn’t know what your next step would be? How have you transitioned through your fear so that you could make your transitions?

    If you are in the middle of such a transition now, with work, at home, in relationships, take heart and have faith. Ask for guidance and support on your journey. It will appear, perhaps in ways and places you would least expect.

    I love this quote from Mother Teresa – “God never gives me a task I cannot handle. Sometimes I just wish He didn’t trust me so much”.

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    For more resources, see our Library topic Spirituality in the Workplace.

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    Linda is an author, speaker, coach, and consultant. Go to her website www.lindajferguson.com to read more about her work, view video clips of her talks, and find out more about her book “Path for Greatness: Spirituality at Work” available on Amazon.