By Jim Neudorf
A job posting had come up and I was pursuing it. The process was going like it was supposed to: a strong resume, my networking was connecting, the telephone interview went well and led to the in-person interview. Everything was fitting together for a mid-life career change … and then the phone call, “Sorry, we went with the other candidate”. My expectations suddenly lay in pieces on the floor. It pushed me to a place of disorientation.
In CREST, I had learned about transitions. Let me tell you how it helped me navigate through this difficult time.
I had learned that to have a new beginning, there must be a necessary and clear ending to my previous career. I had had an ending, and was waiting for the yet-to-happen. I was in-between, experiencing what William Bridges, in his book Transitions, labels the “neutral zone.”
Here’s what I learned:
- A transition is different than a change. Change is the external event or circumstance, while a transition is what occurs internally, at an emotional level.
- Since transitions are internal, the same change for one person can be totally different for another.
- The neutral zone is an uncomfortable place.
- It is the time when subtle and sometimes profound internal shifts need to occur.
- Because it is uncomfortable and seemingly directionless, our tendency is to try and avoid it or shortcut the process.
- I was in CREST at the start of my two years in the neutral zone and I remember my coach encouraging me to “stay in it as long as you can – don’t take the easy way out.”
At the time of the “I’m sorry” call I was reading a book by Walter Brueggemann called, The Message of the Psalms. Brueggemann proposes that we can understand the Psalms as being of three types: Psalms of Orientation, Disorientation, and New Orientation. Each of these orientations represents real life. There are times when everything seems right, God is in control and life is fair – orientation. Suddenly circumstances change and life is turned upside down and disoriented; injustice and unfairness seems to be the norm and God has conveniently stepped out of the room just when you need him the most. Read Psalm 88 — the disorientation is raw, visceral and desperate, with God being blamed for the problems and for not doing anything about the situation.
In my disorientation I went on a personal retreat and I gave God a piece of my mind, just like the psalmists. In those torrents of emotion God quietly and patiently listened. When I was done he began to teach me the difference between expectations and expectancy through a book called Your God is Too Safe, by Mark Buchanan. In my experience, when people impose their expectations on me the relationship does not do well. Here I was imposing my expectations of what should be happening on God!
In contrast, a posture of expectancy is expressed by Psalm 37:7, “Wait quietly for the Lord, be patient for his coming.” Expectancy is about trusting God. In one of the CREST Encounters we examine what makes someone trustworthy. There are two key parts to trust: character and competence. Living in expectancy is choosing to trust both God’s character and competence.
When you read a Psalm of new orientation there is usually an element of surprise. Bridges makes a similar observation about new beginnings – they often come from unexpected places. “Unexpected” – my expectation was wrong. My new beginning came from a field I had not really considered and it has been a gift that allows me to use my strengths and live consistent with several of my core values.
I am glad I followed my coach’s guidance and wrestled through the neutral zone of my transition.