Have you ever experienced one of those times when you realize you don’t know what the &#%!@?! is going on and each next step is completely foreign? The one thing you do know is a major change is upon you, whether positive or negative. Maybe you’re experiencing one now? You left that painful but familiar relationship, now what? You got your dream job in New York and have to leave all your friends and family, now what? You took that “great opportunity” and lost all your money, now what? Your job has been amazing for years and now your new boss is an idiotic jerk, now what? You got the diagnosis you never thought was coming, now what? God showed up in your living room and told you to stop selling widgets and move to rural Africa to save the elephants (hey, stranger things have happened), now what?
Martha Beck, in her book Finding Your Own North Star, Claiming the Life You Were Meant to Live, calls these Square Onetime period catalysts. Suddenly everything has changed. They will spark changes that last anywhere from days to years depending on the extent of the event. They are usually overwhelmingly confusing and no one can tell you what to do…sorry friends not even Google has the answers now. However, Beck offers some very beneficial guidelines that can help you understand where you are in your journey, make you suffer less, feel at least a little less crazy and support you in uncovering a deeper mission.
So let’s get this straight. When you start to get the sense of, “Oh, no! I honestly have no idea what the &#%!@?! is going on. I can’t believe I am here!” and you’re REALLY not sure what to do next; you have arrived at Square One. One way of life always dies and a new one is always born and, you should know now, it is impossible to go back to the way it was.The following are answers to some typical questions you may have during Square One. You will also find specific tools to navigate this particular phase of life.
Why do I feel so confused, like I don’t have any idea what to do next?
You have experienced a catalytic event. You probably arrived here in 1 of 3 ways:
Life shocked you. In other words, an outside event, negative or positive, occurred that dramatically changed your life. It had nothing to do with whether you deserved it or not it just happened.
Life gave you an opportunity. Maybe you have been working for something for a very long time and it finally is coming to fruition and it’s time to act, now you must step up and stretch yourself like never before.
Life is transitioning. You have realized you must act on an inner yearning, you have dealt with frustration for far too long or a new exciting adventure is calling you. The way things have been is no longer working for you. You may be more fraught with indecision and shame during a transition since it will feel like you are acting solely on passion.
In any case, one way of life is over and another must begin. You are simply going places internally and externally you have not been before. Confusion is natural.
What can I expect now?
There are three phases to Square One. The first phase is when you must let go of what was and allow your old identity to dissolve and die, you may feel exhausted or bewildered. The second phase is when you are in-between an old and new identity, it can be a very unsettling time, you may feel panicky and have the sensation that you are working very hard but nothing is getting done. The third phase is the beginning of forming a new identity; you may feel elated and joyful, like the feeling of falling in love. It is also possible to cycle through these phases quite a few times before moving on to Square Two.
What do I do first?
Any catalytic event will bring with it some pain. Even when the event is positive, the first thing you want to do is to reflect and let go of what was, including any identity that you had. And particularly, if the event is negative then make space to grieve. If you skip this step and rush to the “next thing” the grief will get masked and come back down the road, often in unforeseen, difficult ways. But also recognize healthy grieving patterns. Don’t mistake pain with suffering and wallow in your grief for years, telling others and yourself the story over and over, practicing unhealthy habits to relieve the suffering. This will only keep you in a cycle of suffering. Learn to allow yourself to grieve in a healthy way, even if the changes are positive, and always stay away from unhealthy or toxic habits.
Who will know what I should do next?
You will be the only person who will know how to authentically move forward. One rule of thumb is that it is usually best to not make big decisions or commitments during this time. Give yourself time to adjust to all the changes. Hiring a coach can be a great way to get support in charting your new life and finding new ways to tap into your inner wisdom, guidance and intuition. Also, remember it’s ok to not know what is going on in Square One, don’t pretend to know something you don’t.
How should I make my plan of action to prevent and solve possible problems?
During this time your mind will probably be pulled into the infinite amount of ways the future could go. Running through these possibilities over and over can make anyone feel a little insane. The best thing to do in Square One is to become very present, how about just planning the next 30 minutes? Make small moves, try on new identities, play with new ideas but don’t make any specific plans around anything until it has become genuinely anchored in your heart and in your being.
This all seems really overwhelming, is there anything exciting about this phase?
Yes, there are very magical possibilities during Square One! When we are between identities we have more freedom then any other time. Let yourself relax into this space of limitlessness. Being nobody nowhere you can become anything and go anywhere.Plus, once you understand Square One for what it is, you can decide to take the good, leave the bad and choose to use your awareness to build a life that is authentic and exhilarating.
How do I know I am ready to move forward?
Once you have let go of all the labels and identities of what you should be or what you were and can complete the sentence of “I was always meant to be…..”, you know you have reached a crucial point. To get there all you have to do is notice all the things that you feel drawn to and which give your body positive physical sensations. Then you can narrow down what specifically is meant for you until you can finally give it a name and move forward.
Richard Nelson Bolles, author of the famous book What Color is Your Parachute: A Practical Manual For Job-Hunters and Career Changers, said “Your mission in life is where your deep joy and the world’s deep hunger meet”. Square One is an opportunity to find your deep joy and align it with a hunger in the world so that you can serve your greatest purpose and find your greatest fulfillment. Your task is to stop fighting the process, accept the foreignness of this time and allow something deeper to come through.
Square One takes patience and a certain persistent surrender but its gifts are infinite. What do you think? Are you in Square One? Did any of these answers give you a greater awareness of your situation? I would love to hear more about your Square One experiences and questions.
Wishing you happiness, creativity and purpose in all you do.