In my last article about career transitions, I touched on the subject of the neutral zone, the stage between your old life and career and your new life and professional direction. For many of you who are undergoing a career transition, this can be a terrifying phase.
You still have no idea where you are heading. You are confused, you lack direction, and you can be gripped by fear. Many of my clients have described this phase as a period of emptiness, suffering, and confusion.
Sounds like fun, doesn't it? Well, it isn't fun, but it is an absolutely essential step. It's important to experience this neutral zone because you first need to dismantle your old career, attitudes, and opinions, and then provide space within yourself for the creative act of constructing a new life and career.
Since it is so important to surrender to this phase of emptiness and stop trying to escape it, I often suggest that my clients get away for a few days and take a personal retreat. The solitude associated with a retreat allows you to see and experience the world differently and opens you up for transformation. In this article, I will focus on the importance of a personal retreat and time of renewal in helping you find clarity for yourself and your future career.
So, where do you begin? We already have discussed why a personal retreat is important and when you should go, now we'll review the how, what, and where of undertaking this time of contemplation.
Often, we'll have a few minutes here and there to organize our thoughts or plan our activities. And, we'll often feel as if we've done a good job planning out our day, or work week, or weekend. This type of thinking or planning is just scratching the surface on what you need to do for your time of personal retreat and renewal.
What you need to do is to get away from everything - both mentally and physically - for a long-enough period to really get to the bottom of who you are and what you want to do. Think of it as a period of inner reorientation where realignment begins to take shape, and that can't be done the same way you might plan out the next day when you're stopped at a traffic light while you're driving home from work.
Some people take a retreat that involves a week of silence and contemplation, others go on personal and group retreats involving meditation, yoga, writing, exercise, personal improvement, and even physical activities, such as camping, overnight canoeing, or rock climbing.
Your retreat could encompass some of these activities. But, any activities you use have to work toward your goal of getting away from everything and everyone. Yoga, meditation, or hiking might work for you, but you have to do it alone. You need the solitude to experience your retreat on your own without the accompaniment of any distractions.
First, get rid of your means of communicating. Don't bring your Blackberry or laptop. Do bring your cell phone, but keep it turned off. Then, pick a place that works for you, one at which you feel comfortable; a place where you can be yourself.
I love the mountains for the beauty, the isolation, and the quiet, contemplative setting that they provide. Others might like the ocean, such as the isolation that South Beach provides in Chatham, MA, or a cabin in the woods. It could even be an urban setting where no one knows you. It just has to be a place where you can isolate yourself with your thoughts.
These settings provide the opportunity for activities such as a hike up a mountain trail, a walk along an isolated beach, or sitting on a park bench where you can be more open to a transformation and finding clarity for yourself. In addition to physical activities, writing out your thoughts, listening to classical music, and fasting can kick off the contemplative thinking process that you need.
But, finding clarity can't be forced. You can't make yourself find clarity, you can't force yourself to think, "I'm going to be this or do that with my life." You must let that process come naturally. It must evolve from your activities (or lack of activity), your isolation, and your involuntary thought processes.
Finding clarity will come to you. You can't go to it. You have to create the proper environment for this to happen. And, that's why I recommend planning a personal retreat that will work for you.
Your goal is to provide space within yourself for the creative act of constructing a new life and career. By isolating yourself and clearing your mind of deliberate thinking, you will loosen up your inhibitions and open up possibilities you might not have thought about previously. You will come to this point naturally after experiencing an inner calmness. And, you are most likely to find a new direction when you least expect it.
This is not the end of your journey, rather it is a new beginning. So, there will be much more work to do. But, this process of retreat and renewal can start you on the path to a new career and new life.
Job-Hunt's Career Change Expert, Randi Bussin, founder and president of Aspire!, is a career coach and counselor with more than 25 years of business, entrepreneurial, and career counseling experience, including DISC assessments. Randi has experienced several major career transitions (from corporate to small business owner to career counselor to coach) and personally understands the effort and commitment involved. She has appeared on public television's "Job Doctor," and is a frequent contributor to Bridgestar's Leadership Matters newsletter, The Ladders job-search Web site (www.theladders.com) and her own blog, which offers advice on career transition, job search, and labor market trends. Follow Randi on Twitter @Aspire4Success.