‘The Cycle of Renewal’ - Navigating transitions in our lives: The Doldrums

‘The Cycle of Renewal’ - Navigating transitions in our lives: The Doldrums

by Kriss Akabusi

It was the Greek philosopher Heraticlus who noted ‘Nothing endures but change’, and how right he was.  In our lives, there are only two certainties we can rely upon – that we are born, and that we die – and the period in between is subject to change, every single day we spend on this earth.

The only constant in our lives is change, and how we navigate it can determine to what extent we live our lives to their fullest.

This post is the first in a series introducing and explaining a cycle that’s central to us all as we encounter any change in life.  It’s this – ‘The Cycle of Renewal’ – as identified by the Hudson Institute of Santa Barbara. (http://www.hudsoninstitute.com)

Whether we are re-evaluating our careers, our relationships or simply our sense of self, we can all go through this cycle to accept, plan and adapt to any change that occurs.  In this blog post, and in three more to follow, I’ll take you through each stage of the cycle, explaining each one and how to get the best from it.

Ultimately, this is the process that takes a person from where they are to where they want to be, and plays a key role in my coaching process with every client.  As a Life/Career Transitions Coach, I help make you conscious of the decisions you make, helping you ascribe meaning to your life.  By stepping back and helping you think about who you want to be and how you want to live, I can help you make the changes that will turn those thoughts into reality.

Today, I’m starting with Phase 2 – ‘The Doldrums’.  Why not Phase 1? Well, it’s in Phase 2 that we identify a need for change, initiating the process of transition.

Phase 2: The Doldrums

Ever find yourself feeling an urge for change?  You’re dissatisfied, disengaged, disheartened – in all, we see The Disenchanted Self. Whether it’s your job, your marriage, your friendships, there’s something you’re not quite happy with and you find yourself hankering for change.  This is The Doldrums, and it’s the point from which all transitions start.

The Doldrums (a sailing term meaning ‘no wind behind your sails’) feels like incarceration.   It is tied to the past – an old way of being, operating, living; a phase in life that is now not in synch, is going wobbly, and is just not working.

At this stage, we begin to re-evaluate our lives – and that’s not a bad thing!  As Socrates famously said, “The unexamined life is not worth living”, and it’s right for us to stand back every so often and analyse the present for our preferred and better futures.  

The Doldrums in practice

To frame a picture of someone in The Doldrums, take the example of a successful athlete who is now in his mid-thirties.  He keeps getting injured, suffers from bouts of viruses and even when fit (a loose term of the word), finds that he loses more races than he makes finals. He is frustrated, and finds himself in The Doldrums!

What used to be his strengths – his determination, his ‘never say die’ attitude, his belief in his innate ability – are now weaknesses, holding him back from the reality that a phase of his life has come to an end. 

However, what he can’t see at this stage is that a new career awaits him, where his eloquence, experience and enthusiasm combine in a unique blend that will disrupt the market.

Moving through The Doldrums

At each stage of the Cycle of Renewal, you will ask yourself different questions to help move you on to the next stage, and in The Doldrums, the key questions are “What do I need to let go of? What do I need to stop doing to make my life better?”  Great change happens because people dare to ask these awkward questions, and it’s here that a coach can be really useful in helping you ask – and answer – those questions.

Given the toxicity of The Doldrums, it is the only part of the coaching process where it is permissible for the coach or skillful advisor to ‘push’ the coachee to make a step into the next dimension. In The Doldrums, there can be a lot of ‘learned helplessness’ where the client can’t see where they want to go, due to the fog or trauma of their current dilemma.  My role is to prod, to probe, to encourage you, and to offer external guidance to help you reframe your ideas.  I’m trained to ask the questions that pull the best from you. 

Turning to a coach in this phase is not a weakness; in fact, it’s quite the opposite.  Asking for help to clear your thoughts so you can get a better perception of who you want to be and where you want to go symbolises strength – an acceptance that something isn’t working and a recognition that something needs to be done about it.

‘Building the wall of complexity’

In my coaching workshops, one of the most powerful exercises is ‘building the wall of complexity’. This is designed to show the things that get in the way of us living our dreams; those dreams of the idealised self that are blocked by this wall.

As part of the exercise, I will ask a delegate to hold out their hands and will load them with boxes (taken out of the wall).  Each is inscribed with an issue that the delegate has identified as getting in the way of their success.  I will then get them to articulate their dreams as I load up more boxes and whisper each objection into their ear.

The great ‘A-ha!’ moment comes when the delegate sees that, amongst many things, it is hard to do great work when carrying around the issues that stop them using their hands – including a barrage of consciousness that scrambles the mind.  As a coach, it is important for the person before me to understand “The past is for reference, not for residence”, encouraging them to let go of the things that serve them no longer and allowing them to navigate the transition using both hands.

These realisations lay the foundation to any transition, as without letting go, it’s impossible to move forward.  Only once you have that clear realisation and acknowledgement of your situation can you move on to Phase 3 of your transition – Cocooning.

The Hudson Institute of Santa Barbara is leader in the field of coaching, and has been providing knowledge- and skill-based coach training for over 25 years. For more information please visit: http://www.hudsoninstitute.com

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