Not in his goals but in his transitions man is great. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

The people in my inner circle know that I am constantly seeking change and the value extracted from the change process. It is part of my mission and focus as a coach - making change meaningful to so that clients land in a place beyond their wildest imagination. Change is the common thread woven through our lives. Building an intentional relationship with change will serve clients forever.

As part of this work, I am on a constant quest for new perspectives and frameworks for navigating change. I involve others in this quest at every opportunity. It is not surprising, then, that I received the same suggestion to read Transitions by William Bridges repeatedly over the last quarter. The decision to finally read it was handed to me, literally, by a friend dropping a copy of the book off at my house.

This excerpt caught my attention:

For “what to do” consists not of ways out but of ways in -- that is, it involves ways of amplifying and making more real the essential neutral zone experience. The way out is the way in, as it happens. When the wheels spin in loose gravel, you need more weight. Tempting though it may be to do something else and wait for the experience to pass, it turns out that it is one of those things that is going to wait around until it gets your attention.

William Bridge’s framework for transitions is fairly straightforward.

  1. Ending, Losing, Letting Go
  2. Neutral Zone
  3. New Beginning

This framework is less about the change in actual circumstances and more about the transition of identity we’ve created as it relates to those circumstances. Change happens to you and transition occurs within you. Transition lives in the neutral zone.

And yet, nearly everyone wants to skip over the neutral zone. It is uncomfortable. We live in a society that celebrates having the answers and setting forward on a clear and well-defined path. The stories we hear from those we admire are representative of their new beginning after they have wrestled with their own neutral zone. We hear about the change itself, but rarely the transition. Few share what it was like to be in the sticky middle. We are conditioned to hurry into action by creating change, without sitting with the underlying transition. When we skip over the middle, we get the same results, because we have not transitioned. Without time in the neutral zone, there is no transition. Our patterns persist.

Coaching is a space for the neutral zone. Change can happen quickly, but transition takes time and intentionality. Coaching is a mechanism for the transition. Only in this way can new beginnings lead to new results.

This week’s wisdom is an invitation to sit in the middle of things. To be with the space between the ending and beginning. Resist the temptation to “do something” or “solve this.”