“The Neutral Zone.“
Introduced to listeners of ZigZag, host Manoush Zomorodi shares the term originally coined by William Bridges to help organizations understand that cloudy area between an ending and a new beginning. (Listen to the podcast here).
Who knew Semisonic was onto something so profound in their song Closing Time in stating “every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”
While this concept was originally developed for organizations, it can be applied to all transitions. The notion is that transitions start with an ending, or a loss of some sort – relationships at an old job before moving to a new one, the family of 2 before becoming a family of 3. Then there’s the Neutral Zone, this in-between time of the old being gone and the new not being quite “normal” yet. It’s the birth of a new identity before your beginning phase where you have clarity on the new identity.
This Neutral Zone is often characterized as muddy and exhausting. Some days it may be exhilarating, the possibilities of what’s next seem endless. And then it’s confusing again because how can you possibly navigate both muddy and exhilarating with any sort of clarity and peace?
As coaches, we hear things like: “If I KNEW I would be OK in six months, I could breathe a little bit easier now;” “I wish I had a time machine and could just BE in that next role,” or “I hate this in-between time.”
We get it – the black and white is easier. It’s clear. It’s… comfortable. So we’re always rushing to get to the next thing. From one vacation to the next. From the current role to the promotion. We’re looking at these black and white milestones as these big, defining moments. But nothing is that clear or binary in life. The GRAY between those black and white moments — that’s where life happens. That’s where the growth happens.
Let’s say you’re preparing for a marathon. Today, you can’t even run 1 mile (hi, it’s me, Shereen). You make a plan to train for the 26.2 miles. It will be exhausting. You’ll want to give up. And then one day you hit 3 miles without stopping. And then it’s the 5 mile mark, the 10, 12, 18, 22, 24. And all the while you’re doubting if you’ll ever make it to 26.2. And then… you do.
You look back and you’re so proud of how far you’ve come. How much you’ve grown since that day you made the decision to say goodbye to your old routine and introduce something new into your life. That growth started the day you decided to ditch the old habits and introduce something new.
We make the mistake of trying to hurry up our growth, our healing… our lives. But you can’t go from 1 mile down to 26… not without some shin splints, back pain and A LOT of self doubt.
And you know now, the growth didn’t happen at the finish line.
It happened in the Neutral Zone.
To get there, you have to be purposeful, intentional and present. You have to sit in the gray.