Today, I want you to join me in a maze. We are going into an actual maze, and by doing so, finding the way through transition. Have you ever been in a maze? Corn maze perhaps? A maze like the one in The Shining? Yikes.
Does it appeal to you to be in a maze and find your way out? Does that feel all too familiar to your life right now? Let’s explore this analogy. How can we learn from the maze and use it ease our experience of finding our way through a change or transition?
What do you experience/feel when inside a maze?
When I have asked this question, I typically get answers like the following:
- I feel lost
- I’m confused as to which direction to go
- You hit dead ends
- You can get frustrated
- I’m excited
- It’s all about choices
- You feel like you’re not getting anywhere
I love mazes. I used to go to a particular maze down the Jersey Shore that had a staircase up to a viewing platform. From there you could see the entire maze, which way to go, and how to get out. If I could see that big picture first, I was more confident navigating inside the maze.
How much does this relate to life and transition? Especially for you who are in transition or considering a change (career change, a move, etc.). Sometimes we find ourselves in a transition we did not choose (being laid off from a job), and the same feelings exist in transition whether we choose it or not. Because, let’s face it, if we choose it, it is usually because we believe the path will be better and therefore easier than our current path.
Let’s break this down and dig deeper into each answer above. Change and transition can be scary and exciting at the same time. I am continuing with the example of career change, but the concepts apply to any change you are considering or any transition you are experiencing.
I can’t tell you how often my clients have this feeling and how many times they have used this exact phrase to describe how they feel in the beginning of transition. They are usually in a job that they know they can do, but something feels missing. They feel like they are on a hamster wheel and time is passing them by. Hence, they feel lost or adrift.
This definitely describes me when after ten years in my last corporate gig, I woke up to say, where did the last ten years go? I never wanted to have ten years fly by without stamps in my passport ever again.
When we are in transition, William Bridges, author of Managing Transitions (one of my favorite books on the topic), says that it isn’t the change itself that is tough it is the letting go, the saying goodbye, it is the moving into the unknown, when we can start to feel lost. This is completely understandable, right?
When we leave a job where we know what to expect every day, even if we hated it, we knew and were comfortable (in a strange way) with that situation. And now once we escape, there is initial joy…yippee! But, then comes the feeling of “now what” or “oh shit, what did I just do?”. You are in the middle. Lost at sea so to speak. You can’t go back to the known shore (your old job), but you’re not sure where you are going exactly. Trust me, everyone will want you to decide and to be sure of exactly where you are going. This is all based on what makes them feel comfortable. Keep that in mind, please.
Confused as to which Direction to Go.
If we have been hitting a lot of dead ends, we may start to distrust the maze. We may start to believe that there is no way out. Our minds are powerful and will help create the reality we believe in. If I truly believe there is no way forward or no way out, what options do I have? To give up? Or to go back? As soon as we believe we have no other options, we see no other options. We create our own limitations vs. igniting our creative and optimistic problem-solving capabilities.
Sometimes, and I have done this on more than one occasion, we come up with so many options that it can cripple us. We can be overwhelmed by choice and then can’t make any choice except to take to the couch and binge watch Dexter or Game of Thrones. Ok, that may have been autobiographical, but you get the point. It is during times of overwhelm that I come back to the power of breathing and the power of now, aka mindfulness.
Ask: What feels like the next best thing to do now? Ok, do it! It is like simplifying my next steps on my 500 mile pilgrimage, the Camino, to simply strap on boots and walk. That’s it. No need to overcomplicate things.
Hitting Dead Ends.
Yes. This will happen. Could be a test to see how much do you really want this goal. This job. To move forward. A dead end or a wall are sometimes placed there to test us. To let us know that we can overcome these dead ends. Like Dorothy and the ruby slippers, we had the power within all along. The power to turn around, to scale a wall, to not give up, to stay optimistic, etc. When we realize this power and really accept it, we can eliminate or at least minimize the feeling of frustration we experienced in the maze.
Ok, How about the Big Picture?
Great, when I could see and visualize and get excited about the big picture and where this was going, I was much less fearful going into the maze. I was much more confident that I would eventually find my way. I believed. I believed in me, and I believed in an eventual outcome even though I wasn’t sure of the exact path. Wow. How’s that for profound and applicable to life transitions?
Wrap it Up
I may not have been crystal clear on the path to take, but I knew that I was leaving corporate America behind.
At any one time, I may not know the right path, but I can strap on my boots and start walking and make adjustments along the way.
There will be dead ends, but they don’t have to stop me. I will feel lost or frustrated at times, but I can remember my big picture to fuel me forward. I can remember my reasons WHY. My reason for leaving and my reason for moving forward. In the end, the destination isn’t the real goal, but the feelings that I believe the destination will bring. Joy. Peace. Happiness. Adventure. All of those are available to me at every turn of my maze, and they are available to you too.