Friday, March 12, 2010

Moving Through the Void

Whenever one discusses the concept of transitions, it is impossible not to discuss the "void".  It's that strange place just after you leave one thing and just before you start another.  The article below does a nice job of describing the void and its importance.  It is not a comfortable place to be, but it is essential if you are to move to the next stage.
The void is a place you go into when you’re “in between.”  It could be you’re in between jobs, in between relationships or you’ve just had a child leave home and you’re wondering what to do next. It’s a state of being when you let go of old things and prepare to move into the next level of growth. In the void, you leave behind familiar patterns, habits, thoughts, and actions. Think of a butterfly in a cocoon. The cocoon is the void. Just as a caterpillar enters the cocoon to be transformed into a butterfly, you go into a void to prepare yourself for your next level of transformation. You are preparing to fly high.
The void is a time when you’re shedding something that no longer fits the person you are becoming. It can be quite uncomfortable unless you learn to accept it as a natural and essential state.  It’s a time of transition and may feel like all of your foundations are falling away, leaving you nothing solid to cling to.  In other words, you know what the “no” is (what you’re leaving), but you don’t yet know what the “yes” is (what you’re moving to). The tough part is that the new is not quite here, but the old has not completely left.

This place of uncertainty, of not knowing—can be disconcerting, especially for those of us who like to plot and plan our life. It may feel like a time of not-doing or emptiness. Yet, it is meant to be a time to stop knowing in your usual way, so that you can begin to learn things in a new way. You may even feel that things are falling apart or that things that used to come easy to you, are no longer working.  This is because you are meant to move on.

The void is a time when you:
  • are expanding beyond your old habits and patterns
  • learn to think in new ways
  • replace things that are no longer working for you, with things that do
The following is an analogy I shared in my book, Professional Destiny…

“Imagine Tarzan swinging from vine to vine in the jungle. He can’t move forward on a new vine, without letting go of the vine he was on. If he holds on to the old vine and doesn’t grab the new one, he’ll go backward. If he tries to hold both vines, he’ll get stuck. He must let go of the old vine and grab the new one to ride forward to his destination.”

The void is that exact moment when you let go of the old vine and reach out to grab the new. You leave a place of security to venture into the unknown. The secret is to embrace this transitional time. It’s an opportunity to rest up, recharge, and explore an expanded range of choices. Don’t worry if the new direction hasn’t quite shown up yet. Your job is to be open to all of the new possibilities so that you can recognize the best one ahead of you.

Our time in the void can last for hours, days, months or even years.  Since all people go into a void at some point in their lives, and many of us experience it multiple times, how do we make the best of our experience there? Enjoy it! Just like the cocoon is to the butterfly, the void is a natural and essential state for your transition. It’s necessary to experience it to shake up your familiar structure in order to free you to think and act differently. You’ll move through it faster if you don’t resist. Rather than focusing on how uncomfortable you are, accept the unfamiliar and focus on the new opportunities that are open to you. You may not see the end-game at this point, but take the first step and the next steps will come. When you reach the turning point, circumstances will start appearing that are better and more satisfying than what you experienced in the past.

If all else fails, change your vocabulary. Instead of thinking of this time as a “void,” think of it as a “vacation.” You might as well enjoy it, because—like it or not—you’re going to be in it! Embrace it as your time to leave behind the old, prepare for the possibilities ahead of you and emerge fully ready to experience the new.