When it’s time to start over………………….

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom” Anais Nin.

For me this quote beautifully captures, the ‘struggle’ we can have with significant change and the risks associated with that change. When instead of moving forward with confidence, we are trapped, caught fast between the past and the future. Between the certainty of now, and the uncertainty of change.

Pain is well painful, but it can also be a useful trigger as without it we might well continue with the same old routines, down the same well-worn paths that are not leading anywhere and no longer serving us.

So, are you still ‘tight in a bud’ or ready to ‘blossom’? What will it take to get you moving, and what the hell are you going to do about it all, anyway?

Which leads me nicely on to my next quote:

“There are several times during our adult years when we find compelling reasons to create a new chapter — to launch our lives again. We live in a world of discontinuous constant change” –

The Hudson Institute, http://www.hudsoninstitute.com

Hudson’s Renewal Cycle is a model that I use extensively with clients and increasingly with myself as it seems effective in helping people to make sense of the changes they are facing or gain perspective on the changes they have made in the past.

People seem to grasp it straight away. It makes immediate sense to them and allows them to recognize in a non — threatening way; those times when they have been operating at their best and the times when they have not.

The model as conceived by Frederic Hudson describes our lives in terms of chapters, each with four phases or stages:

  • Heroic: or ‘go for it’
  • Disillusioned or ‘stuck in the doldrums’
  • Reflective or ‘looking inward’
  • Revitalized or ‘taking on/moving forward ‘

The model can relate to any aspect of our lives, but I use it primarily in relation to careers. How we move through each phase and onto a new chapter will be different for every single one of us.

Heroic or the ‘go for it’ phase, is a great place to be. In this phase we feel positive about our situation, we feel that we are exactly in the right place at the right time. Almost as though everything we touch turns to gold. This is our moment. We have the energy we need to meet the challenges that we face and are proactive in seeking out new opportunities and new challenges.

This is a phase where we are energized, focused and clear about where we are and where we want to be. We are likely to feel confident about our abilities and confident in what the future holds.

We might well find ourselves in Heroic, after settling into a new job, gaining a new promotion or starting a new relationship. Or it might be we have finally started doing the one thing we have always dreamt of doing. Indeed, we may find ourselves in Heroic after leaving work and deciding to live our lives in a completely different way.

But then, what happens to move us from ‘Heroic’ to disillusioned?

Well over time we might become complacent, too comfortable and stop stretching and pushing ourselves — we might even become bored. Or perhaps in our enthusiasm and our ‘energetic’ state we start taking on too much and almost without realizing it, move towards ‘overload’.

External factors can also impact on how we feel about our careers and life in general, a change in management or organizational culture might be enough to trigger discontent. Even a small change in our role might be enough to shift us across to disillusioned.

The disillusioned or ‘stuck in the doldrums’ phase is clearly not such a great place to be. Here we are likely to feel unhappy and negative about our career and feel that there is little we can do to change it for the better.

This phase is typically characterized by us as individuals knowing what we don’t want, but not being able to clearly articulate what we do want. It’s a phase that is very much about ‘holding on’ and refusing to let anything go, even the unhelpful stuff. This is the opposite of Heroic, in disillusioned you are likely to feel that everything you touch turns to sh*t.

However, I do get the odd wry smile from my clients when I point out that this phase can be curiously ‘comfortable’. It’s a known entity, something familiar even if it’s not great place to be.

Disillusioned is a reactive holding on phase, where we are not pushing forward, but are more likely to be ‘huddled up’ in a corner waiting for it all to go away.

Luckily most of us will reach a point where even we get tired of feeling ‘stuck’. We will have grown weary of hearing ourselves going through the same litany of negatives over and over. So, we decide to make a series of small improvements. We might change our working hours, routes to work, we might even take on new hobbies and training courses. And in the short term we are likely to find that we zip back to ‘Heroic’ at least for a while. And this is what Hudson refers to as a ‘mini transition’.

This approach may work for quite some time with individuals ‘zipping’ back and forth, between Heroic and Disillusioned after each small change. But at some point, we will again start to notice a pattern and recognize that perhaps a more fundamental and long-lasting change is needed.

Significant life events, such as a divorce, bereavement or redundancy can also shift us on from a mini transition and cause us to look ‘inward’ and ask ourselves, ‘what do I really want? What really matters to me at this time?’ This is when we then move into the third stage of the Hudson Cycle, Reflective.

Reflective, is a sort of ‘time out’ as we take the time to look for the answers within us. Here we are searching to uncover deeply held values, beliefs, aspirations and dreams. The very things, we may well have spent years trying to ignore or bury, because it’ wasn’t practical or we were just getting on with life.

Unlike the disillusioned phase which is all about ‘holding on’, the reflective phase is all about ‘letting go’. This is the stage at which we jettison those things that no longer serve us, the very things that might well be holding us back. This can be difficult, especially if they were an essential part of your survival kit. However, this is precisely the time to ‘declutter’ your head and get clear about what really matters to you. It’s a time to create the space you need to take on new insight and learning.

We may, at this stage decide to seek outside help as we begin to explore what’s going on for us internally. We might choose to talk with family and friends, or we might decide to talk with a professional. Someone outside of our immediate circle, who can offer an external perspective and has no direct stake in our choices.

In summary the reflective phase is very much about ‘digging deep’ — to uncover our dreams, hopes, aspirations, values and beliefs and accepting and letting go of the things that are no longer relevant or helpful to us.

So, now armed with greater self-knowledge and awareness and with a ‘spring’ in our step we move onto phase four, ‘Revitalized’, as we start to look outward for new opportunities, new training, new learning and new networks that will ready us for moving back into the Heroic phase of our new life chapter.

Now I find myself looking at the model from a different perspective as I review my options and consider the changes I may need to make.

Over the years, like so many of us I have had several of what Hudson refers to as ‘mini transitions’, ‘pinging’ back and forth between ‘Heroic’ and ‘Disillusioned’ making the adjustments to get back into ‘Heroic’ whenever I felt it was necessary. More recently I have become aware that my focus is changing and that I am being compelled towards making an even bigger change. It’s time to move beyond the ‘mini transitions’ and ‘dig’ deeper into what really makes me tick.

But, whatever it is, writing will be right at the centre of it.

Until next time

Janice Taylor


Career Coach and Writer on a mission to discover how people can thrive and flourish in life and work.

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