So you’re in Square One of the change cycle. First off, I’m really sorry. I know it’s not pleasant, but I hope identifying your potential death, liminal phase, and rebirth last week helped to at least make it feel like it’s survivable. Today we’re going to go through some strategies to make this as painless as we can, and we’re diving right in:
Expect Things To Suck
Well, maybe not expect them to…because what you expect is likely to happen…but be aware that suckiness is a natural part of Square One. So is confusion, loss, grief, anger, and overwhelm. It’s all normal, and it’s all okay. I think we back away from change sometimes because we start to feel like this and panic.
Instead, I like to think of it like going on an international adventure. You know the adventure will be incredible, but a necessary requirement is a long, often dreadful flight and some jet lag upon arrival. I’ve yet to meet anyone who relishes the actual day-long plane ride. However, after you’ve done it once, you know it’s going to suck and prepare for it as much as you can. Then, it’s just not that bad.
In our manager to director example from last week, implementing this strategy would look like relaxing around employees, new peers, and bosses, knowing that everyone is just adjusting to a new role. (This may actually help to make this transition easier for all of you.) Know that there is going to be a period where you know nothing at all, and let it be okay. You’re learning. No one expects you to master it immediately.
I find that it helps a lot to identify what it is that I’m losing, and make time to grieve for it intentionally. With small changes like we’re discussing, many times I’ve taken on a “just get over it; it’s nothing” attitude. This has never helped me. I still feel bad, and now I’m shaming myself for feeling bad. I’m almost guaranteed to go hang out in the Stagnant Pond when I’m shaming myself, and then further shame myself for that. It’s an entirely lose-lose situation. These days, I try to see what’s happening within me and let myself grieve the change. It doesn’t take a lot – these things are not life’s major blows – but it helps to let it flow freely.
Let’s look at our weight loss example for this. It’s easy to get into positive, “rah rah this is great” mode when it comes to weight loss. Everyone on the face of the planet will congratulate you for this decision. However, you probably have some things to grieve. Mine, for example, would be the mindless comfort of inhaling peanut butter cups. Or the convenience of throwing jalapeño poppers in the toaster oven and having a meal.
Create a Shame Box
As you may have guessed from the grieving strategy, I can shame myself for just about anything. This is particularly unhelpful when in the fragile space of square one. I’ve tried to find a way to at least delay this self-shaming until a point where I’m better able to address it. This idea is to create a shame box – whenever shame creeps up during square one, just write down the shaming thought and throw it in a box to be dealt with later. This acknowledges your inner shame voice while protecting your fragile, emerging new self at the same time. When you’ve moved into a later square and feel solid in your new identity, you’re welcome to read the shame statements and address them. Or laugh at them. Or set them on fire. Whatever feels right to you.
Let’s look at our rejected suitor. This is just ripe with shame potential – so all of the “but I thought she was really interested in me” and “it must be because I’m balding” and “I should have known it would never work” all get thrown into a box. This requires grieving, not shaming.
Schedule Pond Visits
Square One is hard, and you really do deserve a break. Intentional visits to the Stagnant Pond are awesome, welcome survival strategies. I use this one all the time, for all squares. In fact, I’m in Square Three on a couple of fronts, and for nearly a month I’ve had all of next weekend scheduled for Pond visiting. Brandon Sanderson’s Words of Radiance is coming out, I have a pizza shipped from Chicago in my freezer, and I plan to have three straight days of pure bliss escapist reading and delicious convenience food. It’s only when we’re mindlessly hanging out in the Pond, pretending the change isn’t happening when things get dangerous. Intentionally visiting turns it into a lovely pristine lake!
So…by all means, close the door to your new office, and instead of pretending you know what a director does, play Candy Crush. Stop thinking about your weight loss journey long enough to watch Real Housewives. Stop processing your romantic let down in order to read 50 Shades. Enjoy every minute of it.
Remember You Know Nothing (or Be Jon Snow, for fellow GoT fans)
The fundamental element of Square One is becoming someone you have never been. It can only make sense that you have no idea how to be this person. That’s okay – you’re doing this to learn to be that person. It’s fully expected that you will have no clue what you’re doing in Square One, and that is exactly how it’s supposed to be. Acknowledging – if only to yourself – that you have no clue what you’re doing and that’s okay goes a long way towards making this square bearable.
Loosen Your Grip on Your Identity
The more attached you are to your ideas of yourself, the harder Square One is. If you’re a hardcore Democrat and think all Republicans are in league with the Devil, you’re going to have a really hard time when you realize you want to vote for the Republican mayoral candidate. In fact it might send you into full crisis state. However, if you’re used to voting your values, regardless of party definitions, this won’t even send you into Square One. It will be no big deal. The more you can let go of your self-labeling, the easier change becomes.
What have you used in the past to negotiate Square One? Leave a comment below and let us know how you’ve dealt with it.