Provision #254: Shift Happens

Laser Provision

Shift is an inevitable part of life. From the cradle to the grave, we experience one shift after another. Whether we’re the proactive drivers of shift or the reactive passengers, the results are always the same: we end up in a very different place than where we started. Given that shift happens all the time, it behooves us to learn how to handle shift well. This Provision launches a new series to help us learn how to do just that.

LifeTrek Provision

With this issue we start a new Provisions’ series on Navigating Life’s Transitions. Given that life is all about transition, until the final transition of death, one can hardly find a more universal topic. It has particular relevance to my life and work as we prepare to move our home and office from Columbus, Ohio to Williamsburg, Virginia in the United States of America.

We’ve already signed contracts to sell, buy, and move property. But this barely scratches the surface of what this transition portends. For one thing, this transition represents the start of the empty nest, as our youngest child goes off to college. For another thing, it represents a shift from a more urban to a less urban environment. Our new place is on a lake with a dock instead of in a city with a bus stop. And then there’s the matter of taking LifeTrek on the road, from the Midwest to the Mid-Atlantic region of the country.

Even though these transitions all represent very exciting challenges and opportunities, they also represent the kind of upset and uncertainty that can make even a grown man cry. Bringing to a close nine years of life and relationships, let alone 21 years of hands-on parenting, is a challenge in even the best of times. In the wake of global economic and political instability, it becomes an even more formidable task. Transitions may be the universal stuff of life, but that doesn’t mean we can take them for granted. It behooves us to gain perspective and wisdom on how to make them well.

Even small transitions can prove to be challenging. A few weeks ago I participated in a spirited running of the eighth annual marathon in Rome, Italy. It was a glorious event that I definitely ran as tourist, carrying a disposable camera with me and taking an entire roll of pictures along the way. Running through the narrow cobblestone streets of Rome, with cheering spectators and magnificent sights around every corner, made for a very grand experience indeed.

The next day, I had tickets to fly from Rome, Italy to Larnaca, Cyprus. My wife made the flight, on a direct connection, in two and a half hours. It took me two days. A delayed flight in Rome caused me to miss my connection in Milan. That got the airline scrambling to figure out another way and they ended up routing me through London • only I couldn’t get on that flight either. So they put me up in a hotel for the night and started over the next day. 36 hours after I left my hotel room in Rome, I arrived at my hotel in Cyprus.

(To put these distances in perspective for our North American readers: this would be like flying from Cleveland to Boston via Chicago. Not bad, except that when I missed my connection in Chicago, they flew me to San Diego in order to get me back to Boston.)

I was not the only passenger in this situation. There were two others, a couple, who suffered through the same fiasco. It was fascinating to watch how we each handled this comedy of errors. I saw the comedy. They only saw the errors. Of course it helped that I didn’t have any time pressure on the other end. I could relax and look for good things to enjoy. Like my ending up in an English-speaking country where I could buy a great, award-winning novel (Man and Boy by Tony Parsons) or like my finding a hot tub in London the day after running a marathon.

My traveling companions on the other hand could only see the ways they were being inconvenienced and put upon. They could not believe the ineptitude of the airlines! They were going to write a vehement letter of complaint! They were never going to fly that airline again! As we flew around Europe, getting further and further away from our destination, their faces got redder and their tempers got hotter. This was one transition they were not making well.

That, it seems to me, represents a profound coaching lesson. Through every transition, we have the opportunity to either ride the beast or to be thrown to the ground. And the choice is up to us. What we look for and how we focus our attention determine whether we navigate transitions well. Focusing on what should be happening and what we have to do at our destination detract from our ability to enjoy the ride. They may even derail us altogether.

Focusing on what is happening and what we have to do in the present moment can produce all kinds of serendipities along the way and a better outcome than we ever imagined possible. William Bridges in his now classic book Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes, describes transition as “the natural process of disorientation and reorientation that marks the turning points of the path for growth.” Rather than fearing transitions, Bridges encourages his readers to welcome them as the opportunity for accelerated growth and self-renewal.

The emphasis here is on the word opportunity. Transitions do not automatically produce growth and self-renewal. Shift happens. But whether we experience shift as a blessing or a curse is up to us. How we navigate life’s transitions determines whether we spiral down in despondency and despair or spiral up in ascendancy and hope. For the next few months in LifeTrek Provisions, we will learn together how to spiral up. Whether you are in the throws of a transition right now, or whether you’re between shifts, this is one Provisions’ series you won’t want to miss.

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form on the Web for a complimentary coaching session.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob.

This is my first visit as a new subscriber. I sure can tell I struck pay dirt by finding your Website. Thanks a bunch! Motivation is a biggie. I think it first requires a purpose. I refurbish old computers and give them away. Sometimes I procrastinate, but if someone is waiting for one, I hurry to get it finished. I think second, it requires a target goal broken up into a lot of easily accomplished goals. I used to paint the interior of rental houses. Sometimes the interior would be so bad I would feel like turning around and going home. The task looked too big. So I would focus on one wall in one room and pretty soon the interior would be finished.

Too many emails, too much to read, too many decisions, too much stress……..for now can I suspend my address from your list? Thanks and hopefully, life’s trek will be easier in August…..ciao. (Ed. Note: Call us to work with a LifeTrek coach.)

I am glad that your coaching work seems to be going so well, at least by what I can judge from your weekly e-mail message. The number of subscribers has grown enormously. It’s as though you are writing a weekly “sermon” to a huge congregation. I think that you bring an important spiritual dimension to the coaching field.

May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School
Immediate Past President, International Association of
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

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