Tag Archives: Personality

Books that will change you life: “Transitions – making sense of life’s changes”

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“People change and they forget to tell each other” – Lillian Hellman



The book

I can’t remember how or why I came across it in the first place, and I don’t know much about the author, but I’ve personally found it very helpful in the last few weeks as I’m going through rather a lot of change at the moment.

“Transitions” is not specifically about careers, more about all the big changes that make an impact on our lives. It was first published in 1980 and it has since been revised several times… so one can only assume it’s helped a number of people since.

Have you already had periods in your life when you’re no longer the “old you” and whatever you enjoyed previously (your old friends, your job, your city, whatever) suddenly no longer satisfies you? Or times when you felt empty or depressed for “no reason”? That’s the signs of transition, baby.

The big idea

According to the author, since Western society has evolved over the centuries to be primarily focused on productivity/ efficiency, we’ve had a tendency to view humans as “mechanical”. People are seen to evolve like on a production line: they are born, grow to their adult size while being equipped via education, and at the age of 21 they are fully-formed adults who do not change until the end of their lives… except for the fact they get old.

Yet we all know from experience that it’s not really true – I personally don’t feel like the same person I was 15 years ago, do you? Not only do our external circumstances change but we also evolve with regard to our identities, who we think we are, and what we want for ourselves.

Understanding the psychological transition that goes on around major external changes can help us figure out why we sometimes react in inexplicable ways… especially when we find ourselves getting depressed “for no reason”, or following a positive external change like a big promotion at work or the birth of a child.

“Change is situational. Transition, on the other hand, is psychological. It is not those events, but rather the inner reorientation and self-redefinition that you have to go through in order to incorporate any of those changes into your life. Without a transition, a change is just a rearrangement of the furniture.”

Ending before beginning

In ancient societies, people didn’t have smart phones but they were more in touch with their internal lives than we are, and they had rites of passage to help individuals go through major life changes.

Whatever form they took, those rites usually involved a “dramatic ending” to the old familiar situation, followed by time spent in a “neutral zone”, and finally a “new beginning” when the person returns with a new identity. (You might have heard of such rituals in tribes when boys were sent to spend time on their own in the wilderness, as a symbolic rite of passage in order to become men? If not they’re copiously described in the book, alongside ancient Greeks myths and the life of Jesus and other spiritual figures).

Crucially, the “new beginning” comes right at the end of the process; it won’t happen until the person has A/ fully accepted that he/she can never go back to the old situation (which may cause considerable grief) and B/ spent the appropriate time in the neutral zone doing some soul-searching.

Why it will change your life

We’ve all heard about the mid-life crisis (and the red sports car clichés), but it’s not true that all of us will go on a major identity crisis at 40 – rather, our identities evolve constantly in our own time, and we may well go through several such transitions depending on our circumstances.

Each of us will be faced with several periods of “floating” and readjustment which may be extremely painful, especially if we have no clue what is going on… so understanding the process can help us navigate it more easily and gracefully.


In transition

P1060009 low resHi friends, I’ve been absent for a while and I’ve missed you. I’ve had a bit of a rough patch in the last few weeks – few months in fact – and so lately I just haven’t blogged as much as I wanted to.

Do you ever have times in your life when things feel a bit empty, when you go through your usual routines – at work, at home, with your friends – but nothing seems to make sense anymore? Things don’t feel as fun as they used to be, like you’re floating around, not really there? Well, that’s what I felt like. Exhausted physically as well as mentally. Vacant. Burnt out.

Thanks to speaking to wise friends (if you’re reading: you know who you are) and with the help of a brilliant book (“Transitions” by William Bridges), I’ve managed to make sense of the situation, a little bit. I’ve made some adjustments – went down to part time at work, set aside more time to look after myself. I let myself off the hook with my usual to-do list and indulged in more restful activities.

As I spent more time in this void – this neutral zone between the old me who was fine and happy, and the future me, who’s not found a new way to be quite fine yet, I’ve learnt to let go. I’ve tried to enjoy the experience and not worry too much about what things might bring.

As for blogging, I realised I’d become so worried about doing stuff bloggers are “supposed” to do – gain readers, share posts on facebook, build an email list – that I was spending more time on that than on the writing itself. Don’t get me wrong, I like to share. But I like to write more.

I feel like a different person now, but I’m in a way more me. I’ve rediscovered old joys I hadn’t experienced in years. I want to do stuff I like and find out what I’m truly good at. It feels like going back in time, but also like moving on.

I’m finally growing into myself, and I wonder what took me so bloody long.

I still want to write. I don’t know if I still feel like bloggin regularly though. I’ll have to take it a day at a time and see.

Meanwhile if any of you out there are feeling out of sorts and a little bit lost – I’m right with you. And we’ll be fine.


Releasing your inner rockstar: how to make the most of personality tests

P1050520_low resAlong with reading self-help books, one of my favourite guilty pleasures is taking personality tests.

Why guilty, you might think? Because, on some level, I can’t help but feel a little embarrassed for liking them so much – I mean, what sort of a loser needs a questionnaire to tell them who they are? (ahem, my sort it would seem.)

On the other hand, I find they are a good tool for self development, and so far each of them has brought its small dose of enlightement – and as we know, every little helps.

When I say personality test, I don’t mean the type of tests you find in girly magazines, the ones that tell you whether your husband is cheating on you, or if you need a haircut (ok, these can be fun too). I mean the more serious profiling tools used by people like psychologists or human resources, and others like me (perhaps you) who would be keen to make the most of their talents, if only they knew which they are. 

So having already done a few well-known test like Myers-Briggs, Strengths Finder, Eneagram or Wealth Dynamics, I was more than a little excited to hear marketing guru Marie Forleo recommend a new one called the “Fascination Advantage Assessment”. What was exciting about it (apart from the glamorous title) was that, unlike other tests, if focused not on how you see the world, but on how the world see you, on how you “fascinate” others.

I thought it would be useful personal branding, for both self awareness and career prospects, so I gladly paid the not-so-cheap fee of $37 to see what my profile was. I found a quiet 15 minutes to complete it, eagerly awaited the verdict among completion… and ended up sorely disappointed by the results.

You see, I usually think of myself as a quiet, calm, borderline boring character. I typically enjoy writing, reading, and drinking herbal tea; I dislike like loud music and loud people even more. So I did feel a little cheated when the profile that came up was “the rockstar”, with primary trigger: rebellion.

My first response was “I need to get a refund”. My second response was to tell my boyfriend about it, who found it so funny he is probably still laughing as your read.

Then I remembered what coach Marianne Cantwell (of Free Range Humans fame) wisely says to her clients: our main challenge is often to accept the results of our personality tests, and act upon them, even if – especially if – we think they are wrong.

It is very easy not to take those tests seriously. No matter how good they are, it is virtually impossible for them to describe us accurately. Most of us will usually think that we fit SOME of our profile results, not all; or that different profiles would describe us at different times. Or we just don’t like the type of person it says we are. So we dismiss the results with a shrug (or if you are French like me, a shrug and a “pfff”), and move on to something else. After all, why did we expect a stupid questionnaire to know who we were in the first place.

And that’s where we are wrong. Of course, no questionnaire will ever being to capture accurately the entirety of our character, our uniqueness, our quirks. But that’s missing the point, because what those tests DO aim to tell us is roughly what sort of person we are, particularly in relation to other people, and where we fit in the incredibly wide spectrum of human personality. What we are mostly like, a lot of the time.

Our challenge is to reflect on these key points, and see how we can use them to our advantage.

So mercifully, my scoring as “rockstar” doesn’t mean I should trade my office job for an electric guitar. But perhaps it means I should be proud to think a little differently from others, rather than try to hide it?

When I think about it, I do enjoy being bold and saying things as they are – especially if it includes swearwords. I also love people who are daring and eccentric, and tend to find traditional characters a bit bland. I always assumed it was a bit of a problem because it means I don’t “fit in” so well in some situations, especially at work. But thinking about it now, perhaps it’s all ok?

That’s one more thing personality tests do: they give you permission to be who you are.

If the only way to be truly great is to play to your strengths, you don’t have to waste your time trying to be someone else. And that in itself can be a huge relief.

Do you know what your super-strengths are? Perhaps they are not what you think? Whatever you are great at, make it a real asset. Take it as a challenge to focus on it instead of hiding it and you will truly fascinate the world.