Welcome to the Neutral Zone

Welcome to the Neutral Zone

We’ve been waiting. Waiting for 2020 to end and 2021 to finally arrive. But the turn of the calendar didn’t solve our problems – in fact, not much feels different at all. If anything, it feels like a continued or even an increased sense of unknown, uncertainty, and chaos.

Since March 2020, I’ve often felt like I’m in the middle of a dense forest with no obvious way out. My “way” has become one of putting one foot in front of the other, literally taking the next step, and then the next. Most days, this helps me feel like I’m making progress, albeit slow.

My consulting and executive coaching work focuses on helping leaders and their organizations navigate change and transition. These days, I lean on my own practices…a lot. One of my favorite sources is the work of William Bridges and the Bridges Transition Model. In his book, “Managing Transitions,” he presents the stages of transition: Letting Go, the Neutral Zone, and the New Beginning. Let’s take a look at the Neutral Zone he describes.

The Neutral Zone

“It’s a time when all the old clarities break down and everything is in flux. Things are up in the air. Nothing is a given anymore, and anything could happen. No one knows the answers: one person says one thing and someone else says something completely different.”

Sound familiar?

This Neutral Zone is a huge chasm of discomfort between an ending and a new beginning. We’re waiting – for a new president to take office, for spring to come, for a vaccine to be widely available, to return to school and work, to hug our friends and family, and to travel. Waiting, waiting, waiting. Telling yourself it’ll be worth the wait, but also feeling exhausted, isolated, and worried because time can feel like a finite resource.

Bridges continues, “One of the most difficult aspects of the Neutral Zone is that most people don’t understand it. They expect to be able to move straight from the old to the new. But this isn’t a trip from one side of the street to the other. It’s a journey from one identity to another, and that kind of journey takes some time. The attitudes, outlook, values, self-images, and ways of thinking that were functional in the past have to ‘die’ before people can be ready for life in the present.”

So, what do we do in this neutral zone? What do we do while we wait? How are you in this zone? Probably like you, one day I’m up, the next I’m down. Some days I’m optimistic, others, I can’t find that optimism no matter what I do or how hard I try.

But hang on…there’s hope!

As we’ve sustained in this abyss now for nearly 12 months, I’m learning to be with it and also recognize it for its gifts and opportunity. Somehow, it helps to know we’re all in it together…it literally feels like there’s not one person on the planet with a “ticket” to escape this time of pandemic, social and racial injustice and unrest, and political turmoil. We’re faced with doing our work and living our life the best we can. What feels most right to me is openness, kindness, compassion, flexibility.

“This is not the wasted time of meaningless waiting and confusion that it sometimes seems to be,” offers Bridges. “It’s a time when reorientation and redefinition must take place, and people need to understand that.”

Yes, it’s a time of anxiety and even chaos, but also it is a time when we’re more open to new ideas and opportunity. I remind myself daily that there’s power in this place. For me:

  • Priorities have become clearer, and I realize what’s most important in my life.
  • I can do with less. A lot less, in fact: money, material things, activities, work hustle…all the busyness
  • Losing what “was” is teaching me to exercise my creativity and look for new opportunities to cultivate and apply myself – my interests, skills, talent, and experience. Coupling this with new insight around my priorities is giving way to a new and more aligned path.
  • I’m reminded to celebrate the highs and the wins, even the smallest wins (especially those!)
  • I look for the lessons in the lows and greatest challenges.
  • I realize that my happiness and power come from within. I’m developing my spirituality practice to help me tap into that.

Since March, I’ve discovered that not only does my old way not work now, but I no longer even wish for that way. There are many things I quite like about this middle place and how the present is informing what I’m building. I’m learning to trust myself and my intuition and inner voice much more every day.

How are you finding ways to maximize and leverage your neutral zone?


Hi, I’m Jeanie Duncan. I work with individuals and organizations as a transformation partner to help them unlock their Truth, discover authentic value, and create meaningful impact in the world. I believe when we are truly aligned with our purpose, we can live and perform at our highest potential. With over 25 years of experience as an executive, CEO, consultant, coach, and writer, I offer strategic, knowledgeable, and experienced guidance for those who are ready to take the courageous leap toward true transformation. 

Bearing Witness to Truth

Bearing Witness to Truth

When I began writing my book, I decided it would be informed not only by my own life experiences, but also those of many others. I put together a plan and timeline, began writing, and started the interviews.

Nice, neat, and tidy, right? As soon as I got started, I quickly realized this wasn’t going to be the orderly, paced project I had designed. My strategic, linear mind was clearly not going to have her way. Truth work is anything but a straight line…both the processing of my own and the witnessing and interpreting of others’.

Being with someone who’s sharing their personal story of knowing and living their truth is sacred. It’s mind blowing and heart wakening – a bearing witness to one’s humanity and soul. It’s not an “interview;” it’s a sacred conversation.

When planning out this work, I had no idea the gift I would receive in bearing witness to others in their openness, struggle, loss, joy, and deepest vulnerability. I hold it in the utmost trust. I get to do this work.

And about that plan and timeline of mine…I’m doing my best to stay on course and meet the necessary deadlines. I’m also learning to be open and allow the beautiful connection with others to be my guide. Whenever the battle brews between my heart and head – as it often does – may my heart prevail.

 


Hi, I’m Jeanie Duncan. I work with individuals and organizations as a transformation partner to help them unlock their Truth, discover authentic value, and create meaningful impact in the world. I believe when we are truly aligned with our purpose, we can live and perform at our highest potential. With over 25 years of experience as an executive, CEO, consultant, coach, and writer, I offer strategic, knowledgeable, and experienced guidance for those who are ready to take the courageous leap toward true transformation. 

Authenticity: No crock

Authenticity: No crock


I listened to a podcast recently featuring Seth Godin and his latest book, The Practice, where he proclaimed, “authenticity is a crock. Authenticity is overrated. Authenticity is a trap. No one wants you to be authentic.”

I’m a huge Seth Godin fan – I love his work and principles, but I completely disagree with him on this position. He professes that his position on authenticity is controversial, and I couldn’t agree more!

According to Godin, the only time in our lives when we’re truly authentic is when we’re an infant. When something doesn’t go our way, we spiral into a tantrum. Post toddler, we lose that raw, unabashed authenticity because our decisions and actions become calculated, carried out with intent and purpose (even if subconscious).

For example, you may not like something your boss does, but you’re not likely to go run screaming into their office, as that’s not likely to get you your desired result. What you do instead is weigh actions and consequences, navigate the political landscape, and moderate your behaviors. Godin considers this inauthentic – what you deep down most want to do is not what you end up doing in your actions.

“If you go see a concert,” he says “you don’t want the authentic musician. You want that musician (despite exhaustion from a 20-city road tour) to give you the best performance of their day, their week, their month. If you need surgery, you want the surgeon to ignore that they had an argument with their spouse and instead bring the best version of themselves. That’s what we want in every interaction.”

Godin continues, offering that people don’t want authenticity. What people want from you is consistency, humanity, and empathy…for you to deliver the best, most talented, skilled version of yourself. And the best way to deliver this is to do what comes naturally to you.

I read this. I hear this. And my response is, this IS authenticity – at least my definition of it.

For two weeks now, I’ve churned on Godin’s viewpoint that “authenticity is a crock.” I’ve wrangled with it internally and debated it with colleagues. Where I’ve landed is this:

  • I have a deeply held belief about what authenticity is.
  • To me, consistently delivering who you are IS being authentic. If humanity and empathy is core to who you are and you show up and deliver that, then you’re being authentic.
  • Authenticity is being true to who you are, aligning with and living your values, and delivering on your personal brand promise day in and day out, regardless of whether or not people are watching.
  • Being authentic is being the truest, realest me…the me-ist me I can be.

No, I’m not going to run into my boss’ office and throw a tantrum because something didn’t go as I had hoped. I refrain from doing this, not because I’m being inauthentic, but because my authentic self functions in a world where I’m keenly aware of rules, protocols, and the political landscape.

With this example and many more, I’ve learned about cause and effect, actions and consequences, and the culture of “this is the way we do things around here.” These lessons have saved my life, my career, and relationships. No, I won’t necessarily live out my unadulterated, unfiltered, raw self out on the street, in the boardroom, or even at my kitchen table necessarily, but it doesn’t mean that I’m not being congruent and authentic.

My clients know my skill, talent, values, and qualities. They know that when they work with me, they’re going to get these things fully and consistently. And I’m human, I can have a bad day, I can get overwhelmed and exhausted, and when these things happen, the impact can show up in my work. When it’s likely to, I name it, we adjust and adapt, change or reschedule…whatever the situation calls for. This is authenticity.

 


Hi, I’m Jeanie Duncan. I work with individuals and organizations as a transformation partner to help them unlock their Truth, discover authentic value, and create meaningful impact in the world. I believe when we are truly aligned with our purpose, we can live and perform at our highest potential. With over 25 years of experience as an executive, CEO, consultant, coach, and writer, I offer strategic, knowledgeable, and experienced guidance for those who are ready to take the courageous leap toward true transformation. 

Do The Work

Do The Work

Fear. Self-sabotage. Procrastination. Self-doubt. I’ll bet you know some of these “characters” first-hand. I do. I know all of them…and then some, sometimes all at once! Right now, this is where I am.

Earlier this year, I shared that I’m writing a book. It’s a book on knowing and living your truth. I’m embarking on this, my most creative undertaking yet, and as I do, it’s awakening Resistance (yes, with a capital “R”) like I’ve never experienced. I’ve done hard stuff in my life. I’ve done big things, creative things and things that have terrified me. But this venture has me searching for a new way, new tricks, props – anything! to keep me focused and move me through the process.

What’s helping most is a platform of sorts that I call “Do The Work.” It may sound ridiculously simple. It kind of is. And yet, it’s bullishly hard. So, I have little reminders, like the sticky notes pictured here, posted around my office and home to keep it front and center. This maxim is becoming my #1 defense to the Resistance – this multi-headed fire breathing monster – I experience every day.

First, it has helped me to acknowledge that this project isn’t really about writing a book. In the beginning, I thought I was simply writing a book. Instead, it’s a meandering, soul quaking undertaking to:

explore what it means and what it takes to know yourself at your core

understand and challenge your deeply held beliefs

get clear on what you most want and desire in this life

realize you’re always in choice to claim and act on that desire

know that it takes a hell of a lot of courage to take that action and live the life you most want to live

What I now know is that when you begin work like this…a deep, life transforming undertaking  – where you stir up the molecular juju within yourself – you awaken God and all her angels as well as the darkest dragons and demons. Daily, the battle between these allies and adversaries rattles my bones! If this sounds intense, it’s because it is.

This project as a whole is much less about the art and skill of writing (although this is important!) and far more about – Doing The Work – the discipline of showing up every day, committing this as a core part of my professional full-time business, and engaging in the physical activity of producing words on paper.

This project is also acknowledging a very important shift in me that writing is not my fluffy, amateur, side kick hobby. It’s my profession. I’m a writer. There. I said it. I AM A WRITER. My internal battle to slay the dragon is as much about claiming and owning who I am as a writer as much as it is the writing process and content itself.

Every. Single. Day. Resistance slithers in on my scene with a mission not just to slow my work or redirect it, but to derail and destroy it. It’s sneaky and cunning. It attacks not as a single strike, but rather as a slow, steady, relentless invasion. It’s deadly. And I refuse to be taken out by it. It requires me to be diligent, resolute. I engage everything at my disposal to slay the beast. In my world it shows up as:

  • my other work clients needing my attention
  • urgent (but not always important) project needs that spring up
  • my elderly mom and her many demands of my time and focus
  • a workout that I suddenly am hugely motivated to do
  • the compulsion to organize my bookshelf…again, this time by title and in alphabetical order!
  • monthly finances that must be reconciled NOW
  • the overwhelming desire take my dogs for a walk

Early on, it tricked me. I had no idea all the attractions and distractions were Resistance.

Some of the above tasks seemed like legitimate priorities, and I thought my unquenchable desire to read more, study more, and research more were all forces to sharpen me, enhance my work, make me better. While all these certainly are important – there is a time and place for them, and it’s not during my writing time.

Resistance is seductive. The more I fall victim to Its force, the more and more and more It wants.I see you, Resistance. I’ve learned. I’m smarter now. And you will NOT beat me. You will not win.

Do The Work keeps me focused. Do The Work centers me. Do The Work has me keeping the main thing the main thing.

Now, in the mornings when I rise, I imagine the hoodie, sweatshirt, or suit I put on as a powerful, protective “Harry Potteresque” cloak – an impenetrable “Do The Work” shield to all the distractions, chaos, and fires attempting to kidnap me from my writing. I put it on. Lace it up. It’s becoming my super power.

 


Hi, I’m Jeanie Duncan. I work with individuals and organizations as a transformation partner to help them unlock their Truth, discover authentic value, and create meaningful impact in the world. I believe when we are truly aligned with our purpose, we can live and perform at our highest potential. With over 25 years of experience as an executive, CEO, consultant, coach, and writer, I offer strategic, knowledgeable, and experienced guidance for those who are ready to take the courageous leap toward true transformation.