Every new beginning starts with an ending.

The new beginning will be much bumpier if the ending is incomplete. You’ll still be carrying baggage that will weigh you down and hold you back.

So if you are starting a new role, stepping up into a new leadership position, moving location or making any other change in your life, focus on making a great ending in your existing role or with your current team or at your present location.

What does that mean? William Bridges suggests that you focus on three things:

  • Deconstructing the old
  • Recognising losses
  • Celebrating the ending

You might want ponder on the following questions, and then follow through with some actions:

Deconstructing the old

  • What is different now that x has happened?
  • What is over?
  • What is not over?
  • What can you pack away in a metaphorical suitcase to place on top of the wardrobe for future use, even though it may not be needed right now?  Now shut the suitcase lid and put it somewhere safe.
  • What can you not take with you; and don’t want to keep for another time?
  • What do you assume that you need to let go of?  Is that assumption correct?
  • What will you take with you from your past, on your journey to the future?
  • What do you gain by travelling to this new future?
  • If you had to put a title to the chapter of your work life that is drawing to a close, what would it be?
  • And what is the title of the next chapter of your work life?

Recognising losses

  • When x happened, what did you have to give up/lose?
  • What do you miss since x changed?
  • How are you feeling?
  • What can be taken back to balance what has been taken away?

Celebrating the ending

  • What do you need to celebrate this ending?
  • How would you like to mark the ending?
  • Who/what do you want to say good-bye to?
  • Who do you want to thank?

The neutral zone – no man’s land

Once you’ve tied things up neatly, it’s time to move into the uncomfortable neutral zone, where you are neither here nor there. Generally, people want to get out of the neutral zone as quickly as possible, but this is a time for reflection – almost like a sabbatical – to let things figure themselves out.  You can’t rush this phase; things fall into place in their own good time, including the new attitudes and habits we need to adopt in order to make a great new beginning.

The kinds of questions that help in this phase might look like these:

  • How can you take care of yourself right now?  What do you need to do to sustain yourself during the transition?
  • How can you build your energy for the new beginning, physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually and administratively?
  • How can you surrender to the emptiness?
  • What do you want to call this period?  What would be a good and motivating metaphor for your neutral zone?
  • What attitudes, outlook, values, self-image, ways of working and thinking that were previously functional need to shift for the next chapter of your work life to be a success?
  • What has worked well and how might you build on that?
  • What has not worked well and what do you need to do to end or change this?
  • What is in your circle of concern right now?  What is in your circle of influence?
  • What kind of short-term goals do you need?  Are those goals and targets realistic for this neutral zone?
  • What are your training needs?
  • What/who do you need to help you feel connected?
  • What creative work can you do now that wasn’t possible before?  What opportunities are you seeing now?
  • What processes do you need to redesign?
  • What structures can you put in place to help you in the future?
  • How can you avoid the traps of fast forward and reverse? (the desire to move too quickly without a definite plan; and the desire to go back to the way it was)
  • How can you carve out regular alone time?  How might you use a retreat?  A sabbatical?
  • What is trying to happen?
  • What is your mood?

The new beginning

A beginning does not necessarily happen at the start of something new.  That might sound odd, but remember that we are talking about the inner workings of the brain here, and just because you are starting something new doesn’t necessarily mean that you are ready for the new beginning psychologically.

So the following questions might help:

  • What was the problem that caused this new start?  Who decided we would do this?  On what evidence?  What would have happened if nothing had been done to solve it?  What would have happened to us if that had happened?
  • What is your autobiography to date?  What have you learned?
  • What do you really want?
  • If your life ended today, what would be unlived?
  • What is the outcome?
  • If you knew you are going to be really successful, what do you want to have achieved by…?  How will you know?  How will you phase that outcome? What is your step-by-step plan?
  • How will you contribute?
  • What can you do now to stop getting ready and to act?
  • What is it going to feel like when you have actually done x?
  • What obstacles do you need to overcome?
  • What can you do to support yourself, be gentle on yourself, give yourself time for indulgences?
  • What puzzling or unusual things are happening?

These questions might feel a little overwhelming. So I’d encourage you to engage a coach to walk with you through the transition.

“Transition is an emotional and reflective process that can take many months,” Pamela McLean.

Credits to Diane Clutterbuck, William Bridges, Judy Oliver


Executive Coach and Coach Supervisor Clare Norman is based in Southampton and also works in London and Bournemouth. Clare works with clients who want to make high impact transitions from one company to another, from one role to another, and when stepping up to more senior leadership levels.