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Starting over. - by TimC

Endings are filled with confusion, grief, anger, frustration, uncertainty, fear, anxiety and pain. There are always more questions than answers.

New beginnings are filled with hope, anticipation, energy, desire, adventure, excitement, joy and wonder.  The unanswered questions that linger in your mind are unimportant.  The future looks bright.

It is in the neutral zone, the time between endings and beginnings where the transition from the old you to the new you takes place.

It is in the neutral zone where people can learn from the past and prepare themselves for a better future.  And it is in the neutral zone where the seeds of new birth and the miracle of transformed attitudes, beliefs, expectations and values take hold.

Starting over in a new career, job, relationship, city or phase of life is not easy, but it need not be a devastating, catastrophic period either.

Endings, whether forced upon us or chosen, can be a signal for a new, more positive and rewarding direction in life.  They can be a wake-up call for life style changes that need our attention and action.

In his excellent book, Transitions, by William Bridges, he uses the analogy of the caterpillar who wants to be a butterfly.  The caterpillar must pass through each of the three stages of transition in order to become whole.

The three stages of starting over if to be accomplished successfully are:
     -declaring endings
     -spending adequate time in the neutral zone
     -embracing the new beginning
Understanding these phases and integrating their principles into your life can smooth the process from old endings to new beginnings.

It is unfortunate however,  many people who through ignorance or arrogance, are unwilling or unable to study this natural and on-going process of continual endings and new beginnings in life.  These people are doomed to repeat  old endings again and again in their new beginnings.  They become repeat victims rather than able explorers.

Life is.  Change is.  The future will be.  The past was. No one can change the rules.  We can however learn the rules and apply their teachings to insure a happy, fulfilling, peaceful and successful life.

Many people embark on a new beginning without ever declaring an ending.  Because they never put closure on the passing person, event or situation, they are doomed to relive these same situations in life again and again.  They will bring new people or situations into their lives that will help them learn what their previous teachers tried to help them realize.  At some future time however, in the new relationship, career or activity the opportunity for learning will come once again. These new people will have new names and faces but their teaching will be the same.  There role is to help us learn about ourselves and our reactions to life's events. These new events will be different in appearance but their lessons will be the same.

Each circumstance in life brings with it the opportunity for personal growth new insight, higher awareness and fresh understanding.  Each person in our life brings with him or her a mirror to reflect back to us our stuff and the opportunity to learn about ourselves.  People and events or circumstances are teachers to help us to see the areas in our life where we need more learning.

Without fully evaluating an ending, you will fail to discover valuable insight about yourself, your behavior and approach to life that brought this person or circumstance into your life, business or career.  There is learning in everything, but we must be receptive to it.  We must see life as an adventure filled with exciting opportunities to change and grow.

You can't manage your way out of circumstances or relationships that were brought into your life as a result of your beliefs, values, expectations or attitudes.  Reflection is a vital tool if we are to "self discover" those areas of our personality, psyche or consciousness that are contributing to our reality.

Life is dynamic, changing and evolving.  Endings are a natural by-product of the life process. Whether it is declaring an ending to a habit, way of life or a twenty year relationship or career, the rules are the same.

The first step is to declare an ending.  I mean really declare an ending.  If you still give energy to an event, condition, person or situation after you have declared an ending you didn't really declare it.  You can't fool life.  Declaring endings means really letting go.  Once and for all.

How can you declare  endings.

First, You stop giving the person, relationship, problem, career, event or circumstance, time, energy, thought, consciousness or control over your now moments.  Every minute you give to the person or condition keeps you locked in the past and out of the present, where your better future is created.

Second, you pick apart the feelings, conditions, and circumstances and look for the possible lessons to be learned.

Third, you survey how this current turn in the road of your life is consistent with your past life style issues, dramas or conditions. and see why and/or how it was necessary to propel you toward your ultimate destiny in life.

Fourth, you let go and become an observer of yourself in action. Become a witness to your thoughts, behaviors, feelings and emotions. How would you respond to your actions or thoughts if you were someone else watching you from a distance.  What would you tell you about the dynamics of the process that is taking place.

Fifth, stay in the present. Don't let the person, event or circumstance pull you back into the past, or push you into the future, with, "what could have been if only......."

Sixth, accept the reality of this change event.

Seventh, refuse to give up the power in your life  to this outside condition or person.  You must retain the right to grow and unfold at your own pace through this process.

Eighth, have a symbolic closing ceremony of some kind to bring closure to the ending.

Ninth, relax, the universe runs perfectly with or without your desire to modify outcomes
and circumstances.

Tenth, get ready to move forward into the next stage, the neutral zone.

Eleventh, recognize that there are predictable feelings or attitudes after any loss: shock. denial, anger and acceptance.

The second stage of starting over is spending adequate time in the neutral zone.  It is vital that you not skip this stage as you move from the old you to the new you.  The neutral zone is that stage or period where you spend  time in reflection and contemplation so that new awareness  can be born.

The time required in this stage is different for each individual and will vary depending on the type event that was the cause of the ending in the first place.  The time required here will also depend on your personal history, typical reaction to change, experience, your attitudes about personal growth and your emotional maturity.  There is no magic formula.  

I can offer some guidelines to consider as you enter this critical phase.

   1. Recognize that the quality of your new beginning, will be determined by the integrity
       of  your learning during this stage.

   2. Don't try and rush the learning or awareness.  Just let it come.  Pay attention to both
       the  inner and outer signals that you experience

   3. Trust yourself and the process of your life.

   4. Accept the fact that you may feel  less productive in the typical sense.

   5.  Stay focused in the present moments of your life while you discover who you were,
        who you are and who you are becoming.

   6.  Recognize that this will not be the last time you get to spend time in the neutral zone
        in your life.

   7.  Don't worry about other people's comments, attitudes, advice or feedback about
        what  you are doing or how long it is taking.  Trust your inner guidance system.

The neutral zone is comparable to the cocoon or crystalis for the caterpillar.  The cocoon is where the miracle of new life takes place.  Although you can't see the butterfly taking shape, it is happening none the less.  Your new birth, likewise is taking place in your personal
inner cocoon.

If the butterfly leaves the security of the cocoon too soon, its wings might not be properly formed.  It needs to spend adequate time growing into its new form.  You too need to spend adequate time becoming the new you.  If you leave too soon, and fail to emerge with all the new awareness necessary for new self understanding, you will most likely find that you will sooner rather than later experience another ending similar to the one that you just finished.

Many people are "anxious" to get on with their life and fail to discover all that was there for them in this time of reflection.  They never really give themselves the chance to truly transcend from the old to the new.

How do you know if you have spent enough time in reflection and contemplation?  You will know.

One way to know if you have failed to spend any or enough time in this stage in previous endings, is to just ask yourself a simple question.  Is "this" happening to me again?  If it is, you failed to learn what you needed to learn during your previous ending.

Life is very patient and persistent  It continues to send us people and events that help us  grow or show us the futility of choosing to remain stuck.

The success with which you complete the first two stages, declaring endings and spending time in the neutral zone, will determine the success and quality of your new beginning.  These two phases permit you to shed old baggage, modify outdated opinions, correct improper perceptions,  change attitudes, refine your life philosophy, revisit values and beliefs to insure they are consistent with who you are becoming and reexamine expectations to insure their integrity.

This is required if you want to be sure and take a "new you" into your new beginning.

Failure to accomplish the release of this old baggage or personal stuff will guarantee a continuation of the old you.

Starting over can be a rewarding, exciting fun-filled experience teeming with new people, views, knowledge and ideas.  It can also be a scary, uncertain and stress-filled time loaded with unknowns.

Which road you take  is up to you.

Which outcome you experience is up to you.

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