It’s OK to feel scared

When you have left the Mothership and are starting out as a post-executive, you may be feeling a bit scared. I want to tell you that’s OK. Actually, it also OK to feel lonely.

And confused.
Frustrated.
Powerless.
Lost.
Overwhelmed.
Anxious.
Stressed.
Disconnected.
Confused.
Useless.
Bewildered.
Out-of-touch.
Fragile.
Incompetent.
Cowed.
Behind the curve.
Impotent.

And upset. (this is just my list – feel free to add your own).

All these feelings are completely normal. Everyone feels them at times, even if they don’t admit them. It’s a natural response to the change you are going through as you re-invent yourself.

Let’s look at that process, using William Bridges’ model of transition. I like it because it is simple and only has three stages, which are:

  1. Ending. Losing and Letting Go
  2. The Neutral Zone
  3. The New Beginning

The first step sounds really easy but is  often more of a challenge than we expect. You’ve been on the Mothership for a long, long time and have got used to that environment and it’s seeped into your bones. It is hard to walk away from what has become your comfort zone and accept that it is really over. You have to go through a grieving process for what you have lost.

As you break free, you move more and more into the Neutral Zone. This is a period of uncertainty, confusion and frustration. Nothing seems to be working. The tried and trusted ways of the past no longer apply, whilst the new approaches come awkwardly to you and you are still struggling to master them.

Gradually, the New Beginning emerges and your confidence and energy increase. Your skills grow and you start to see some success as you move confidently towards your new future.

The thing is, there’s no time limit on the process of transition. It takes you as long as it takes you, from a couple of days to a couple of decades (yes, really). Whilst you are moving through these stages, you will feel all the things on the list above (and any others you have added). This is a necessary part of the process, without feeling these emotions and acknowledging them, you cannot progress.

This is not a process of change, which is external to you and, in any case, has already happened. You have left the Mothership, after all. This is about transition, your internal psychological process to come to terms with that change.

It is about our emotional and psychological journey and our feeling are central to that. Unfortunately, many of us have been socially conditioned to suppress our feelings, and our time on the Mothership has probably re-inforced this. Emotions are often unwelcome in the workplace and seen as a sign of weakness, so we push them down and ignore them. This denial is totally counter-productive and will block us, keeping us in the process of transition for far longer than is necessary.

So it’s OK to feel scared. In fact, it essential that we do and that we acknowledge it and all our other emotions. It’s a sign that you are making progress, that you are on the path to re-invention.

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