Transitions are in vogue. Even if your job is not at risk as a result of the COVID crisis, you will know someone close to you whose job is threatened or has already gone. The headline news recently proclaimed that UK payrolls shrank by 649,000 between March and June this year. And as the government support packages start to rail back, many more businesses are in the process of downsizing their workforces.
The result is a slew of people in transition – whether from one role to another, from old to new companies, from employment to self-employment, from furlough to work or unemployment.
Our brains like to stay with what we know
If you are one of the hundreds of thousands of people who are currently or soon to be out of work, be kind to yourself. Being in transition to something different is difficult and very uncomfortable.
Our brains don’t like transitions and change because we’re continuously (but largely unconsciously) searching the environment for information that will help us predict what will happen next, as a matter of survival. Not knowing what will happen next requires extra neural energy, it diminishes memory, undermines performance, and disengages people from the present.
We like to stay with what we know. This makes it so hard to leave a company and transition to something new. Think of your current role like a familiar route, for example. It can be navigated easily because the brain can shift to autopilot, using well-trodden neural pathways to direct the way. In contrast, when we are diverted from our familiar route it demands more attention, concentration and conscious thought.
That’s why transitioning to a new role, situation, company or way of thinking about our lives is so difficult.
The long goodbye
And because transitioning is difficult, it’s so easy to get really stuck in the initial transition phase, struggling to let go. You waste precious time wishing for a status quo that will not happen.
If you are redundant, you do need to move on. For life is a journey.
But at the same time, you need to mourn “all that you thought you were” before you can step out on the next part of your journey in life. Bruce Feiler has aptly termed this transition the long goodbye. The long goodbye provides the time and emotional space to grieve for the old you and all it entailed.
The long goodbye is also an opportunity to take stock of where you are. It is an opportunity to work out what’s true about yourself. It is an opportunity to surface the lies you tell yourself too. The story of how you got here is relevant, with all its highs and tribulations. As is a piercing spotlight on understanding the things that hook you, limit you and stop you from blossoming.
So make sure, if you are transitioning to something new, you take a long goodbye.
The long goodbye enables you to mentally construct the container of who you are, right now. Like getting your house in order before you move, it is a very necessary step as you transition in your journey towards becoming you.
And learning to be our self is something, deep in our psyche, we all truly want to do.