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Are you one of several million people who has recently left your job? Or, are you thinking about making a career change? Or are you, perhaps, hoping to switch roles or responsibilities in your current workplace? Whatever the case, it’s crucial to start thinking about and preparing for the transition ahead. Smooth transitions are usually not accidental. They take a good deal of reflection, forethought, strategy, and adaptability. Today, I’d like to discuss three keys to a successful transition.

Before we dig in, I need to give credit where credit is due. Dr. Jean Davidson, an experienced coach and consultant, is the originator of the “Three Keys” concept. She founded Davidson Consulting and Coaching in 2004, and has helped many individuals and teams step into the best versions of themselves. Dr. Davidson’s eBook, 3 Keys to Finding Hidden Treasures in a Difficult Transition, discusses transitions from a unique angle, and in this blog post I’m going to paraphrase some of that information. (If you find this information helpful, I highly encourage you to download Dr. Davidson’s complimentary eBook from her website!)

Let’s dig in to the “3 Keys.”

1. Notice where you are in the journey

There is power in observation. It pays to slow down, reflect, and think about where you are in your transition journey. Do you think you’re close to the beginning of your journey? Toward the end? Or somewhere in the middle? What roadblocks are you facing now, and which ones do you anticipate in the future?

This intentional reflecting is important, as it helps us identify our current state, where we’d like to go, and what might be standing in the way of us getting there.

2. Look for treasures and use them

Though you might not realize it in the moment, there are valuable lessons to be learned during a transition. Oftentimes, we’re too busy trying to get through the transition that we don’t absorb the life lessons and wisdom we gain from experiencing it. And this attitude makes sense—transitions can be difficult and uncomfortable. The last thing most of us want to do is dwell on them!

But that’s precisely where you’ll find the lessons, the “treasures,” buried in the folds of uncertainty and stress. What types of lessons?

Perhaps you’ve learned about your personal resiliency. Maybe you’ve shifted to a career that pays less but grants you more time off, thus teaching you how to appreciate personal time. Or maybe your transition has taught you something about your support network—those important family members and friends who have your back (and, conversely, maybe you’ve learned who doesn’t have your back and who you might need to distance yourself from).

All of these lessons are true treasures. We simply have to look for them. (Dr. Davidson goes into more detail on how to do this in her eBook.)

3. Identify what to let go of

As you move forward in your transition journey, you will likely discover that some things no longer serve you. Some of your habits, tendencies, attitudes, or even relationships may no longer fit into this new chapter of your life. Reflect on your new path forward and consider what you need to leave behind. Some of your decisions about what to reject might be relatively easy (ditching your habit of overworking, for instance, or ridding yourself of the tendency to be too much of a people pleaser). But other decisions may be more difficult (Do you let go of that harmful friendship, or do you attempt to repair it? Are you really ready to put an end to certain bad habits?).

I challenge you to be frank and honest with yourself. What do you need, going forward? And what will inhibit your progress or, worse, drag you back to square one? Cut the things from your life that will only weigh you down—the self-expectations, the harmful relationships, the toxic beliefs, the bad habits.

After you determine what to let go of in your life, follow through! Make a plan for how to rid yourself of these things and take action. Communication and honesty will go a long way in this process.

Transitions can be tough, but they can also open new doors and provide an opportunity for you to reinvent or rejuvenate yourself. Take your time, learn from your journey, and let go of anything that is harmful or holding you back. Walk forward on your new path with clarity and confidence.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE. 

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In the northern hemisphere, we are entering the darkest time of year. For many of us, we wake up in darkness and finish work in darkness. And that absence of sunshine can be difficult, even if you’re surrounded by the twinkle of holiday lights or the love of family members or friends. For some, this is an immensely difficult time of year—a time characterized by Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and/or isolation. While some people enjoy “hibernating” in their home during the winter months, others find it difficult and yearn for human connections.

In truth, people can find themselves in “dark patches” at any point during the year. We might find ourselves depressed or frustrated with our personal life, finances, or career, or we might simply be grappling with burnout. But actual darkness can amplify those feelings and frustrations, and make us long for any sliver of sunshine (metaphorical or not!) that we can get.

How can we find light and levity amid all the darkness?

Aside from taking steps to aid your body (exercising regularly, taking Vitamin D), there are several ways to boost your spirit and your mood. Let’s talk about some of those mood-boosting methods:

1. Focus on Gratitude

This might sound a little…squishy, but gratitude does work. According to Harvard Health, “Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”

If you’re thankful for what you have, you develop a more positive mindset, and that can go a long way (it even can affect your physical health!). Foster gratitude by setting aside time each day to reflect on the positive aspects of your life. What is going well right now? What are you thankful for? You might also choose to jot down some of your thoughts in a gratitude journal.

2. Fight Pessimism

Many of us have negative narratives that constantly run through our brains. I call this your “saboteur.” This is the voice that tells you you’re not good enough or capable enough; it tells you to sit down and stay quiet because you don’t have anything valuable to contribute. It’s time to start talking back to this inner voice!

Start by paying attention to your thoughts. When you catch yourself thinking pessimistically, hit the pause button. Reframe your thinking so you focus on the positive and start seeing solutions, instead of barriers. And don’t forget to be kind to yourself. You’re smarter, braver, and more capable than you think you are.

3. Tune in To Positive Media

What we surround ourselves with makes a difference—the daily TV shows, movies, music, podcasts, and radio shows. Attitudes of fear, anger, mistrust, or sensationalism can easily leak into your subconscious. Even if you believe you are immune to negative news stories or terrible TV shows, you probably are not. We tend to become what we consume.

Make a conscious choice to read, listen to, and watch media that is affirming, productive, or uplifting. That doesn’t mean you have to tune out the news, but it does mean you should be mindful of your time and what you’re allowing into your life. Balance trashy TV shows with more thought-provoking content. Sprinkle in informative podcasts in between celebrity gossip. Think of the media you consume as nutrients that nourish your brain and emotional wellbeing.

4. Tap into Your Network

You don’t have to slog through your slumps on your own. Dare to reach out to trusted friends or family members and seek their support. Let them know what you need from them—someone to listen, someone to grab a cup of coffee with, someone to lend a little support—and be honest about what you’re going through. If friends and family members are not enough, consider seeking support from a licensed therapist.

5. Busy Yourself with a Hobby

Adopting a productive hobby can be a healthy way for dealing with dark periods. Do something that interests you and lifts your spirits. This could be baking, woodcarving, learning an instrument, practicing photography, painting, writing—anything that captivates and energizes you. If you’re not sure where to begin, try browsing through online course offerings through Udemy, Coursera, or Teachable.

(My online leadership course is hosted by Teachable. Feel free to check it out!)

6. Breathe

When you feel the weight of the world pressing down on you, take a time out. Pause whatever you’re doing and focus on yourself for a few minutes (or longer, if that’s what you need). Concentrate on your breathing. Take a deep breath in through your nose, hold it for several seconds, and puff it out through your mouth. Do this several times, counting to yourself as you go through the motions.

You might also try other relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation (apps such as Calm or Headspace can help you get started), listening to relaxing music, stretching, or going for a quiet walk. Recognize when you’ve hit a wall and need to practice a little self-care.

Though we’re entering a dark time of year, your mood doesn’t have to match the night sky. Try a few of these techniques and let me know what worked for you. And remember to seek additional help if you need it. You’ve got this!

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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In this blog, I have often talked about “love leadership” and being a compassionate, caring leader. That is vitally important for fostering open communication, developing an atmosphere of trust, and keeping your team energized and engaged.

Leading with love, however, does NOT mean being a pushover. It is crucial to not only show empathy and genuine concern for your staff, but to also create a culture of accountability. How can you balance the two? Try these five steps:

1. Communicate with Clarity

Aim for clarity, every step of the way. Set clear goals and expectations, and be transparent about the consequences if those expectations are not met. If a deadline is not met, for instance, it should come as no surprise that the person or team who missed the deadline will need to work overtime to make up for their tardiness. Or, if someone is consistently turning in sub-par work, that person should know what is coming (a probationary period, perhaps, or working with a mentor to improve their work).

Communicating with clarity also means encouraging your team to ask questions. Be transparent, create an open line of communication, and be open to modifying expectations if new information comes to light.

2. Be Consistent

A work team can always spot favoritism. Make sure you’re holding everyone accountable, not just certain team members. There will be times, of course, when some people need a little extra time or assistance to complete a project, but that doesn’t mean they are exempt from expectations. Be fair, but also be consistent.

3. Know When to Make Exceptions

Even if you’ve made your expectations clear, there are times when exceptions are necessary. Use your judgment on this and take all aspects of a situation into account before enacting consequences. If someone shows up late to a meeting because their car broke down while driving their kids to daycare, give that person a little understanding and grace. If, however, that same person is consistently late to meetings, it’s a good idea to sit down with them, discover the root of the problem, and strategize ways to help them become more punctual (perhaps their children’s daycare doesn’t open until later, in which case the solution might be to push back morning meetings by half an hour).

4. Make Sure the Consequences Match the Shortcoming

There is a big difference between turning in an assignment a few hours late and yelling at a customer. If the offense is minor, usually it’s possible to work past it. Sit down with the person, talk about what happened, and come up with a solution, going forward. If the offense is major, you may have to take extreme measures. It is never pleasant to do this, but some actions are inexcusable and go beyond a simple strategy session.

5. Know When to Make Hard Decisions

If someone repeatedly falls short of expectations or makes serious errors that affect the entire team or company, they should know that their job is potentially at stake. If you have tried several different approaches to work through their troubles, they should understand when they’re on their “final chance.” Know when to draw that line in the sand. You can be a compassionate, empathetic leader, and still dole out consequences when necessary. As long as expectations have been clear every step of the way, a probationary period or a dismissal should not come as a surprise.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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