Posted by: ginalazenby | October 30, 2017

Constant change is the new normal – and we keep adapting

Our community gathering in September talking about career change and shifting identity

The subject for our second gathering of the Conscious Cafe community in Skipton was career change and the life transitions and shift in identity that come with it. Whereas we might have reasonably expected to be in the same career, or industry, for the duration of our working lifetime … now change seems to be the norm.

As well as all these career and work changes, life has its own natural transition points as our personal responsibilities evolve, and even our biology changes. Getting married or divorced; becoming a parent with a young family then years later, presiding over an empty nest; adapting to diminishing health, feeling the need to take it easier in later life … there’s a long list for why people reassess their lives and initiate change.

Even the smallest change can make us adjust our sense of self while more dramatic upheavals can completely ask us to shift our identity. Moving into a newer version of ourselves can be uplifting and exciting but not necessarily without its growing pains.Our community discussed how we might navigate a new future and increase our resilience and ability to living with what seems to be a life of great change as the new norm.

We opened our evening with a circle of sharing with people introducing themselves in the context of where they were in their own life changes and shifts of identity. In summary,

  • Career change speed: some people transition over a period of time, scaling down their professional work as they learn something new, while others take the leap and simply go for it. To sum up, it can mean keeping one foot in the old camp and have the other in the new life as well ….  in order to survive, it means swimming in two different life streams at the same time.
  • Some transitions seem to be quite dramatic:  with stories shared about changing from being a financial controller and moving on to being a yoga teacher, from marketing consultant to feng shui teacher.
  • Menopause: this is a natural milestone in a woman’s life which previously not many people have spoken publicly about. It can be a massive interrupter to a woman’s normal way of being and provide the impetus for a totally new look on life.
  • Taking on new challenges: as exciting and rewarding as these are and as experienced and mature as we can be, these shifts can still make us nervous and fill us with anxiety. Human nature has a need for both certainty and for variety that comes from taking on challenges! As much as we need to have certainty to feel comfortable and anxiety-free, there’s also a paradoxical need within us to want to bring on the new challenges, whether it’s seeking fresh opportunities, different clients or moving country.
  • Children & family: birthing and child-rearing is a massive interruption for some women. It’s not only about becoming a mother but also adapting to a new part-time work role in order to create a flexible life, or perhaps taking on a different job. All this can cause massive shifts of identity for women and potential loss of status in the professional arena.
  • Some changes defied description: Changing the job, moving from one town to another are clear and very specific. For others it might simply be a sense that something inside them is changing and they do not have a particular vocabulary to describe it. A new sense of self seems to be coming into being… And a feeling of newness “something pulling … can sense it but can’t quite touch it”.
  • Transition can be ongoing: Some people never feel as though they have landed or reached their true identity, the search continues and transition becomes a normal way of being… “Constantly becoming”.
  • Ill-health can be a major catalyst for identity change: shattering and devastating, significant changes in our physical and mental health present significant challenges. At the end of the health journey they can emerge as someone completely new as their lives are rebuilt. Looking back from this new persona and place, the choice may be to embrace that health challenge as a necessary gateway to a new life phase.
  • Bereavement: when we lose someone we love, human or animal, it can cause us to dramatically reassess our priorities and no longer tolerate being stuck in boring or unsatisfying jobs. We start asking different questions and to examine our values.
  • Most changes in careers come from within: our own voice starts to say this is not right, this is not me, and questions about who am I? emerge. Rather than the simple loss of identity through job loss, most job shifts were initiated by a stirring from within. Who we think we are becoming no longer resonates with the role we are playing or job we are doing. An inner voice calls us to ask new questions.

As usual, we shared deeply in the safe circle of conversation. Through that dialogue we realised we are not alone. What might seem like a confusing crisis that we alone are suffering, is actually being experienced by many other people and their articulation of it can make us feel more validated. We realise we are not lost and floundering but simply becoming something else. There is a sense that we are willing participants in the current culture of massive change.

Gone are the days where the main focus of an education was to prepare people for a life as a square peg in a square hole. This was perfectly suited to the industrial age. The formation of YOU as part of an industrial system. That era has long gone. We watched a short video called “Did you know?” highlighting the swift pace of change and learnt how we are now preparing young people for jobs that don’t exist to solve problems we don’t yet know that we have.

Now many feel that being a square peg is not quite right and we are shape-shifting into various other styles of peg. While we are doing that, the peg hole itself, once comfortable  and reliably square is itself now changing. So much no longer fits. As our own lives and desires and sensibilities change, at the same time the world around us is shifting beyond recognition in a very fast pace. How do we keep up?

The community broke into small discussion groups talking about their own experience of life shifts and strategies used. We returned to our big circle to share insights.

  • The need to belong, wanting to be accepted: We are aware that the labels we give ourselves are not who we are. When we are with different people from different social groups we can find a need to present ourselves in different ways. This can perhaps apply more for women, for example, after being a professional career woman and becoming a mother and having a period of full-time parenting, there can be a loss of identity in simply saying “I am a stay at home mum”. Some reported receiving a blank response in business situations to this statement and that can make a woman feel ‘less than’ as if she also has to say … “but I’m also a trained lawyer not just a mum!” (We touched on this subject in our discussion in June on caring economics, where we noted how society does not value the incredible role of motherhood).
  • Authentic self: We have many roles and different things that we do which make up who we are, and who we are inside. When you get to the point when you are comfortable in your own skin people will just get who you are, never mind having to explain what you do. They will see past the roles. In the words of the Navi on the Avatar film “I see you”.
  • We might need to think about working on how we project our true selves.
  • Being in the now:  We can learn to do this. Sometimes we can be too concerned about where we have come from, and where we’re going, looking back-and-forth can distract us from our present choices and feeling in the now. Being present. That’s the key.
  • Not fitting in can be uncomfortable:  that make it hard to present to others our authentic self, particularly while we’re in the middle of change …. in the process of becoming.
  • Not just one role – we are multi-faceted: As women we feel we can have many different roles perhaps more so than men. We want to share our authentic selves but it can be difficult to find a language to describe all that we do, all that we are. We can struggle to find a way to bring them all together and explain who we are. Perhaps we need to think in advance to create some phrases that describe us so we are ready to offer this to others when we move out of social situations to business situations.
  • Asking a different question:  The question “What do you do?” immediately put the other person on the spot having to identify themselves through their job role. If we ask them “What are you most passionate about?” … “What exciting things are happening for you this year?” … creative questions open people up to a new conversation about themselves, and about us.
  • Watch the critical self-talk: Don’t fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to others or society’s expectations for who we should be. Silence the inner critic.
  • It is so easy for women not to give themselves credit: Women have a tendency to underplay their talents. They often feel they have to sacrifice. Must see our own value because if we don’t, how will others? That’s a personal growth journey.
  • Understanding others helps us to understand ourselves and what we’re going through. Sitting in circles with others, being in community and having the opportunity to listen and learn from others helps us challenge our own views and assumptions.
  • Just take the first step to overcome fear. Once you can get started on the change process it is much easier.
  • Lack of change can make us restless: it is easy to get bored. Some don’t want to have life too steady for too long, they feel the need to throw it all up in the air and create change, actively seeking challenges and more diversity in their life to feel more alive.
  • Older and wiser? Perhaps with a we might find other ways to move forward by creating less external change and focusing more on finding ways to create the change internally. Self reflection, meditation, time out, mindfulness … all help to get us in tune with our inner self and true desires.
  • Letting go is a process:  Letting go helps us move on and manage change. Shedding aspects of ourselves and clearing out clutter is all part of the change process. Lisa’s friend watched Gina Lazenby’s clutter clearing video for inspiration on this and has taken on clutter clearing big time! Marie Kondo’s book suggest great questions like “Does this give me joy? Does it make my heart sing?”. This all helps to let go, and letting go helps us to move on, unencumbered.
  • Bereavement is pivotal: Sudden loss can cause us to re-evaluate and look at our priorities.  We might feel the need to ask ourselves different and bigger questions.

The next event for the Conscious Cafe Community in Skipton is Wednesday November 8th …. “What does it take to be happy?”

Our Three Questions for Discussion:

1 How do you describe yourself? As one single identity or as a number of roles?  And in what priority order do you list these roles?

2 What were the pivotal moments or occurrences that acted as the catalysts which caused the greatest changes in your life? A single moment or a series of events? What events might be happening for you now?

3 What are, or have been, your personal strategies for managing the change process as your life shifted so that you maintained your resilience?

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