Accepting the pace of change

That in-between time, when one chapter has ended and the next one hasn’t come into being yet is a...
That in-between time, when one chapter has ended and the next one hasn’t come into being yet is a "chrysalis time’’. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
Change takes time. Sometimes we just have to let it, writes Jan Aitken.

Jan Aitken
Jan Aitken
I've come to the conclusion that the only constant in life is change.

The concept of change is definitely not new. Change is all around us. Day turns to night, the seasons change, relationships change, our health status changes. Perhaps our beliefs and values change over the years. We can face changes in our personal or professional lives.

Change ensures that things develop and adapt. If we don't develop and adapt then we'll die, literally and/or figuratively. As humans hopefully we don't just change or grow physically. To be our best, to live our best life we need to change, grow and develop emotionally and spiritually as well.

What I've noticed, however, is many of us avoid making changes. When we become aware that growing emotionally would be better for us or that shedding something that doesn't serve us well could make our lives smoother it seems logical that we'd just get on with it. But often we don't. Sometimes we don't get a choice though, change is forced on us and even then, some of us will shut it down and let the opportunity to grow and develop pass by.

I've learned over the years that it's usually fear that stops us from making the changes. Fear of the unknown, fear that the effort will be too great, fear that if we change, we might not be loved, fear that we might not be worth changing. There are many reasons people hold themselves back from growing and developing.

To me, change and growth is like the process that butterflies go through. They start off as caterpillars and develop into beautiful insects, often quite different to how they started. But the hitch is there isn't any magical wand waved and they don't just suddenly change from caterpillar to butterfly. There is a process, quite an involved one!

That process occurs in the space between realising things need to change and then after doing the work when you emerge newly minted. What is that in-between time, when one chapter of your life or work has ended and the next one hasn't come into being yet?

Tara Mohr, entrepreneur and coach calls it "chrysalis time''. The time spent in the cocoon, between being a caterpillar and becoming a butterfly.

This is the stage where old beliefs, values, relationships and maybe even your entire sense of self gives way. It's the bit after you've been blindsided by a life event and you know what you had has now changed forever but you're not yet sure where on earth things are headed. It's a messy stage of being neither caterpillar nor butterfly.

It's a state that can feel quite chaotic where everything you have known or believed in is up for debate. It's a state that can just be many things, from straight-up terrifying, sad, full of anger or grief to hopefully moving through to identify what's really important, who your friends are, reframing old beliefs, clarifying values and strengths, figuring out who you really are and how you want to live your life.

So, what can you do during chrysalis time?

• First know that it is "chrysalis'' time.

• Know it is normal in times of change, in fact it's helpful.

• Know it is universal, all of us will experience this at some time.

• Know it is temporary, being in this cocoon will not last forever.

• Allow yourself space and time to do the growth work.

• Have compassion for yourself in all the ways it's hard - the disintegration, the waiting, the discomfort.

• Remember you can't rush the process.

• But remember you can help the process.

Here are some tips to help:

We can't control the timeline, chrysalis time will take as long as it needs! Let it, you can't force this into a timeframe.

We can help the process by facing up to the things that have happened and bring into the light what is happening in us and for us, how and what we are honestly feeling.

Get help to support you through this time. Professional and your own support crew of friends and family.

Stop trying to be perfect, no-one is or ever can be perfect.

Look after your body - eat regularly, stay hydrated, get some exercise and stick to a good sleep routine

Look after your mind - be kind to yourself, have one or two practices or techniques to help slow, centre and focus your mind.

Remain connected to others, in particular those who've got your back. While it's important to have mental and emotional space to work through things, it's helpful to spend time with friends.

Write, draw, dance, meditate, ride your bike - do whatever you need to do to help you figure out what the next steps are. You don't need to know what the final version of you is, you just need to know the next step you're going to take.

Be courageous, be vulnerable. Together they make us stronger. It seems pretty counterintuitive but together they help us develop strength without becoming hard.

Accept that change is inevitable and have faith that you are adaptable, even when it's an uncomfortable place to be in. Renovating is always messy but done right, the results can be amazing and last for a long time. Be brave.

Jan Aitken is a Dunedin-based life coach.

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