This is what stands between where you are and where you want to go.
Essentially coaching is taking someone from Point A (where they don’t want to be) to Point B (where they do want to be). It sounds simple enough, but between Point A and Point B lies The Void. It’s a no man’s land where nothing is familiar, your go-to strategies are ineffective, and you are enveloped in an existential fog, unable to see your destination or your first step.
The biggest trick of The Void is that people don’t even know they’re in it. Typically, they believe something has gone wrong. Even more painfully, they believe they’ve done something wrong to have become so disoriented.
I have heard the relief in the voices of so many clients when they realized they were in The Void and that being there meant that they were on track, not that they had fallen into a unresolvable hole of their own making.
Voids follow disruptions – both good and bad ones.
A disruption could be any external life event – graduating from university; getting married, getting fired, the death of a loved one, divorce, illness, injury, moving to a new city, a promotion. You can step into the void when you lose something, and you can step into a void when you gain something. It’s a different kind of void depending on whether you’re gaining or losing, but it’s still a confusing, lost, unsettling time.
A disruption can also be an internal one, where someone is asking what’s the point of life. They’ve worked towards something for years, they arrive, and then start to think, “Is this it?” They begin to question everything. On the outside, everything might look great, but on the inside, there can be an incredible amount of angst.
The disruption itself can be painful. And then being thrown into The Void adds another layer of suffering. We can’t get our feet under us and things that have worked in the past, no longer work. “The Void” is just one name for it. Martha Beck calls it a Square One, which you can read more about here. I like nature metaphors, so I’ve equated it with Winter below and called it Magic Dark.
Whether you call it The Void, Square One, or The Magic Dark, it all means the same thing – you’ve been thrown into a place where it’s hard to get your feet under you, where you’re often lost in a fog and nothing you try works (if you can even try something).
It’s very easy, at this time, to make it mean something about us and that there’s something wrong with our lives. This meaning-making can be really painful.
You are Here. A map.
When you know where you are, you are better equipped to know what works and what doesn’t work. This Change Cycle, developed by Martha Beck, provides a map for when you’re going through a change in your life.
What you need when you're in the Void
- A realistic assessment about your Point A (where you are, what you need). This helps you prioritize as you make your plan.
- A Point B for yourself (where you’re going) (While Point A is about assessing with your left brain, Point B is where you use your right brain to imagine the future you want for yourself)
- An inspired Attitude (Telling yourself a better story than your default one; looking at your current mindset to realign it with where you want to go.)
- Faith (You need to develop this skill because as you set out, there is no physical evidence of your ability to get from Point A to Point B)
- A plan to share (Helping others helps you lean into your strengths)
- Support (When you’re navigating a Void, it’s helpful to have someone who has been there before and is standing outside the confusion and fogginess.)
A Framework to get you where you want to go.
While the Change Cycle helps you understand where you are, you also need a framework to guide you forward. This is the framework I use in my coaching.
It's not a linear process.
When you read a book or take a course, the process is often described as Step 1, Step 2, Step 3, etc. However, navigating change is not a linear process. In 1:1 coaching, we begin where you are and jump around a bit as we try to alleviate some of the stress and pain you’re in. Here are the principles:
- It’s hard to know what you want when you’re not really being yourself in the world.
- If you use only your left brain (e.g. pros and cons lists) to figure out what you want, you’re going to dream too small and end up making a parallel move.
- We all have some degree of shame and guilt about who we really are. Clearing that up can clear your path in significant ways.
- Your stuff will come up as you get on your pathway. Guaranteed. It’s your own, customized self-development plan.
No matter where you are in the process of change, you’re likely to encounter The Void, Square One, or a Dark Magic period. Knowing that you’re in one can bring some relief, even if you’re still stuck there.
Just know that this too shall pass. The faster you stop trying to escape it, the sooner you will.