One day James spilled peppercorns all over his concrete floor. He picked up a broom and watched as the peppercorns spread to the other side of the kitchen as he swept.
He then walked to the other side to try and collect them again and watched as they rolled around the dustpan. Recognizing the circular, never stopping nature of these peppercorns, he laughed at himself, and used this metaphor when speaking to his coach about being stuck in his career domain. “I feel like I’m sweeping marbles. Sweeping back and forth, getting nowhere. It’s just a really frustrating experience.”
James was ambivalent to change. The pros and cons were equal and when that’s the case, we get nowhere. Similar to sweeping marbles.
Like James, a lot of people in transition are stuck in the ‘I want to change but I don’t know how or I’m scared to mismanage it.’
Change is hard. Giving yourself the space and time to re-think your vision, strengths and values feel frivolous "at a time like this" or you freeze and do nothing.
Instead of responding carefully to change, we react. Bam! We find ourselves in the next job, next project, new role, having skipped over a crucial step.
In fact, it’s really important to move through EACH of the 3 phases of a transition:
Letting go of the old ways
Go through the in-between time (neutral zone transition)
The new beginning
Source: Bridges, 2009
The neutral zone, according to William Bridges, Ph.D. and author of Managing Transitions, is “is when the critical psychological realignments and repatterning take place.”
James is no longer sweeping marbles. He is managing the neutral zone with a growth mindset. Knowing career change doesn’t happen overnight he is diligently collecting information, networking, and completing informational interviews. Most importantly, getting the support he needs to manage a big life change.