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Is this the new normal or are we still in the neutral zone?

Yes, and yes!  For many of us, both are occurring at the same time.

While day-to-day life still feels uncertain and uncomfortable, we are starting to create patterns and habits that are becoming our new normal and forming the basis for our new beginning.  At the same time, it remains unclear how our lives will be, look, and feel in the near and longer-term future.

Last month’s newsletter discussed the phases of transitions, focusing on the neutral zone phase and strategies for coping with it.  As a reminder, the neutral zone is the phase in each transition that can feel like the no-man’s land or limbo between the ending of something (life as we knew it pre-covid) and the new beginning (not yet defined in the time of covid).  It is a time of discomfort and uncertainty, but also a time for exploration and experimentation.  It is also a time to question old habits and to contemplate change and new approaches.  Last month, I suggested a hypothesis, that the neutral zone in the time of covid might have a long duration.

Over the last few weeks, I have watched myself, and others, develop plans, put systems in place, and start to approach the current period as not a time for waiting but as a time to live, work, play, and plan.  In other words, this neutral zone might be the new normal and it might be around for a long time.  So the question becomes, how do I create routines and structures, future plans, and life in this prolonged unknown?  Rather than waiting it out and putting life on hold, perhaps it is a time to explore, experiment, and create a new beginning.

This graphic, from Dr. William Bridges’ work on transitions, illustrates the phases of transitions and shows that they do not occur sequentially, but most often, simultaneously.

While we may stay in the neutral zone for some time, it is also likely we will begin to create our own new beginnings, whether we realize we are doing it or not.  We humans do not like the unknown and uncertainty, so it is normal to try to formulate direction and structure to move forward.

The coronavirus pandemic is a life transition thrust upon us (as many other life transitions are), so this time of uncertainty and unknown is even more distressing.  Our natural search for explanation and meaning will likely propel us to define some structure and new normal, in as many places and parts of our life as possible.

While this is likely and inevitable, and also useful and helpful, it is worth remembering that feelings of being unsettled and unsure will persist as we live in both the neutral and new beginning phases (while also still living in the ending phase and letting go of the old).

As you take steps (consciously or not) to both navigate the neutral zone and to create your new beginning, here are some questions to reflect on:

  1. Which parts of my former personal and work-life do I want to retain (if I can) and which parts no longer serve me and would be good to leave behind?

  2. What new approaches to my work or home life have I tried?  Which do I want to keep?

  3. How do I want my new normal and new beginning to look and which parts can I control?

  4. What remains uncertain or unknown for me? How am I coping with these?  What support would be helpful to me in continuing to deal with these uncertainties?

Whether you are more in the neutral zone or your new beginning, or both, please remember to take care of yourself and reach out anytime.  I love hearing from you.

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