Transforming the way you live and work in the world
Home / GISC Blog / December, 2018 /



December 2019

November 2019

September 2019


Posts Tagged ‘Transition’

Transitions – expected and otherwise

Friday, December 21st, 2018


Recently, after a 12-day trip in Europe I arrived home in Portland, Maine, to unexpectedly find a substantial amount of snow on the ground. A voice inside me screamed, “oh, no, I’m not ready. It’s not even Thanksgiving yet.” This was not only a knee-jerk emotional response but a practical one, too. You see, my garden hoses were still out, now inaccessible, buried beneath the snow. This unexpected climatological transition was going to demand more work than usual.

Many transitions, be they emotional or physical, are expected and give us time to prepare, adjust and manage, but some don’t. And even when expected, the adjustment may differ dependent on various conditions or circumstances. For example, research shows that our bodies adjust in time to colder temperatures. However, the same cold temperature experienced at the beginning of winter or at the end feels different. By the end of winter, we have adjusted and so we actually don’t feel as cold.

When transitions are expected, like going off to college or getting married, we are able to prepare and elicit the necessary support. However, the unexpected ones obviously present greater challenges. It is as if we are left flat footed and thus ill prepared. Some transitions require management and swift action–your plane gets cancelled and you have to find accommodations for the night. Some require not just swift action but a more complex readjustment and response as when your work place unexpectedly closes and you must find alternative employment. And then there are those that have a more profound emotional impact such as when a loved one suddenly and unexpectedly dies. Managing this last transition may take a long time and requires faith that the emotional wound will heal and life can get back to “normal.” Action, in this case, requires acceptance and an ability to elicit and receive support.

Many individuals who come to our programs are in the midst of transitions. Some are changing careers, some are undergoing lifestyle or relationship changes, some are seeking more meaning in their lives and in their level of self-awareness. Some just want things (whatever that might be) to be more fulfilling.

Having an optimistic stance supports us to look at what is good or valuable in any situation or relationship. It allows us to cope with the expected and unexpected changes that are the essence of our lives. And, even when transitions elicit disappointment and grief, optimism supports us to persevere and move forward in a positive direction. All our lives are full of transitions–small, insignificant ones and large, life-changing ones. Although we can never guarantee that we will not at times be caught flat footed, we can develop skills and emotional resiliency that provide the ability to face those challenges and learn from them.

Now to find those garden hoses!

Joseph Melnick, PhD



Closing Counts: What we can learn from Jon Stewart

Monday, September 14th, 2015

By Gwynne Guzzeau, Executive Director

Jon Stewart got it right: closing counts. For over fifteen years, fans of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart – the popular comedic news show on cable TV – have tuned in for a potent blend of fun and facts, myself included. During the past year, the final weeks, and Stewart’s last episode as host of The Daily Show, we were not only treated to his edgy brand of humor with heart, we were shown how to create a good ending.

In these final days of summer, as we look to the fall and year-end, how are you attending to the endings in your life, small or large? It may be the end of a summer vacation or the end of the third quarter with only one quarter left to meet the 2015 goals you set for yourself back in January.

What can we learn from Jon Stewart about creating good endings? A lot.

Here’s what I saw in the final episodes that speaks to the Gestalt practices we teach at GISC.

Stewart didn’t go cold turkey; he practiced leaving. Over a year ago, he took a leave of absence for several weeks. Whatever the reasons, it gave him experience letting go of a job, a role, and a routine that he’d held for over 15 years. During his leave, he tried something new by directing a theater production – more practice letting go of The Daily Show.

Not all of us can take a long leave and land a short-term gig in a dream role like Jon Stewart. But we can practice letting go of our work identity, role and routine in small ways. For instance, on your next vacation, what would it be like to truly leave behind all responsibility for work? What does that mean? Well, it could be as small as committing to: “on my vacation (or on the weekend, or after 5pm . . .), I will not check my emails from work.” The point is that to end well you need to start small and practice. Design a small test run of a bigger goal.

Get Support
I’m willing to bet a week’s pay that Jon Stewart didn’t cook up this plan on his own – he had help. Maybe it was his wife, colleagues, friends or a trusted advisor, but at some point there was probably a professional advisor – a coach or a therapist to support the meaning-making that leads to a good ending. How do I know this? I didn’t count, but in the final weeks of his tenure as host of The Daily Show, Stewart repeatedly said, “I had to come to terms with it,” that is, leaving and letting go.

As you and I plan and practice our own endings in the coming weeks, with whom will we meet and talk as we create endings for the year, the vacation, or even the weekend? It can be as small as a conversation with family about why the weekend, vacation or year mattered. Or we could hire a coach or reach out to work with one of GISC’s coaches-in-training who start their coach certification program in late October.

Endings matter and even the smallest degree of attention can support the experience of closure and our internal transition.

Take an Appreciative Stance
In his final episode, Jon Stewart ran long. The 30-minute show lasted 60 minutes. The way I see it, Stewart took his time. And he needed the time to both acknowledge his colleagues and, I would argue, to take in the acknowledgements and appreciation expressed to him by others.

As he said so often, “I had to come to terms with it.” If we can do that for ourselves by adopting an appreciative stance and perspective for what has been and what is, then we free ourselves to be available for the actual ending – the good-bye.

And it is in the smallest of gestures or practices that all our preparation and work on “coming to terms” with closure shows up. For me, Jon Stewart’s good-bye from The Daily Show is captured in the handshakes of thanks he took the time to make with each individual member of Springsteen’s band at the very end of the show.

Jon Stewart showed us how to create a good ending and that’s what we all need in order to make a good beginning. So I wonder, what’s next? For Stewart, for you and for me?


Gwynne Guzzeau, MS, JD, is the Executive Director of GISC. She teaches The Next Phase: Life Strategies for Navigating Personal and Professional Transitions.


The questions of spring

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

By Gwynne Guzzeau, Executive Director

Walking in today, the crocus were cheering.  They started last week, but then we had a blizzard and 4+ inches of snow.  Even yesterday, we had snow in the morning.  But today, sunshine and sprouts of purple call out from the earth.  As I look closer, I notice my urge to pull away the old growth, the sticks, pine needles and dead leaves.  But the contrast of new and old is part of the beauty in this picture. 

And I wonder, how will I know what to leave in place or what to clear away?

These are the questions of spring.

The questions of new beginnings.

What will we let go of in our lives and in our organizations?  What will we hold onto? 

There are small and routine ways in which we hold on and let go every day.  As I arrive at GISC, I am letting go of the morning school bus routine with my son and preparing to begin new conversations in my role as ED.  Stepping out of my car and walking along the path are moments of transition and an invitation to notice whether I’m present or distracted, ready to arrive or holding on to a morning problem that has come and gone but still stirs within.

I wonder about you and how you know when to let go or hold on.  The ground of spring is fertile for these questions and our course, Next Phase, is an opportunity to reflect, discuss and experience new ways of holding on and letting go.   Perhaps you’ll join us for this conversation.

In the meantime, please let me know what works best for you when letting go. 

Let’s create a collective wisdom to share with each other, whatever the paths we are on at the moment, in life and in leadership.

Dream Big, Start Small, Act Now

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

By Jodi Paloni

The only thing better than facing challenging life transitions with intention, is meeting them head-on with a room full of equally excited people confronting similar, yet unique, developing edges. You realize there is nothing to be afraid of. You’re part of an ever-growing “in” crowd.

Last spring, on the brink of turning fifty, I’d just about finished my coaching certification program at the Gestalt International Study Center, ready to start a new career after 25-years of teaching. My partner and I were recently engaged to be married, his father needing more and more care six hours away in Pennsylvania. If those weren’t enough transitions for one plate, we found ourselves shocked by news that I would become a grandmother by winter. Did I mention we had decided to put our house in Vermont on the market to move closer to the ocean?

As conditions gathered for the perfect storm, I received an e-mail invitation from GISC to attend a program called The Next Phase: Life Strategies for Navigating Personal and Professional Transitions. It took me about sixty-seconds to sign up.

But this four-day workshop turned out to be far more than a short-course in strategies for moving forward. Instead, I was asked to take stock of where I resided presently (emotionally, physically, mentally) in my life, by engaging in a creative exploration of the past that led me there. What struck me, as I spent time alone, remembering and sketching a pictorial view of “The Experiences That Shaped Me,” then shared my discoveries in a small group, was the tendency I had to assign meaning and value to particular memories. Water as part of place was definitely a factor. Surprisingly, the role my three grandmothers played in shaping my character emerged in great proportions compared to some other events such as travel and education.

The group sharing was powerful. When it was my turn to talk, I heard new ideas about my life coming from my own mouth before I had a chance to think them.  More important, in the careful listening to others’ stories, I found resonance with the meaning in their lives, again and again. The model of participatory learning fueled my growth whether it was my story on the table, or not. When others spoke, I gleaned aspects of myself that had not yet emerged. The experience was mutual. My excitement in this realization confirmed my passion for courageous conversation, supporting my new career path as coach.

The beauty of the GISC workshop model schedule is that there is loads of “free time” built into each day. A long walk on the beach at lunchtime to think about what my grandmothers mean to me, to dream about the kind of grandmother I want to become, for example, became invaluable for the integration of the morning material. The calming presence of the sea settled deep in my bones, substantiating my growing need to locate closer to water. My questions were complex, my style creative. The intricate all-encompassing design of the course met my need to immerse in a composite of experiences. Down time scheduled after morning work established energy for fresh work in the afternoons.

Mining the past readied me for “Mapping My Current Life” a visual memoir of the present. In activating the right side of the brain, the theoretical voice in the head, the part of the brain that thinks linearly, the voices that have solidified my default script all of these years, would be sidestepped temporarily to allow the true story to manifest from the sub-conscious.

I found my map resembling three over-lapping cloud shapes to represent my three roles in life: woman, mother, professional. The size of each cloud, unplanned, bore significance. I noticed the spaces marked mother and professional were diminished more than if I had made the map a few years back, when a single mother in a full-time career, allowed for little room for space me as a woman. Yet, when a large green triangle block signifying money appeared on the paper, spearing my professional “cloud,” I could see that it was time for growth as a professional to, once again, be considered as significant part of the future. Fortunately, the workshop allowed for process time to view the work, make connections, generate meaning, and use what I now understood about my overall journey to “Envision the Future.”

Getting back to the script I’d played in my head until now, The Next Phase workshop offers a powerful opportunity to challenge those loud-mouthed demons, the voices in our heads, that tell us why we can’t be or have or do what we want in our futures, the voices that keep us small. Instead of moving forward with our new ideas and plans, we were asked first to pause, to take the much needed time to validate the presence of negative thoughts and degrading influences. How might the past stand in our way?

Up to this point in the workshop, we’d used visual pictorial learning modalities and the more conventional communication skills to engage the curriculum. Now we found ourselves up on our feet, fully immersed in a potent role-playing session, in which we could, literally, “break-through the self-talk” and re-construct the messages we’d prefer to hear.

I’d attended three transition retreats, earned a master’s degree and a coach certification in the past three years from various institutions and centers with the purpose to discover my calling for the third phase of life, hone a purpose, see the clear path. I’d heard inspirational speakers, received one-on-one coaching sessions, made collages, read books, wrote in reams, and listened to self-help tapes. I had even worked with a clairvoyant who comforted me by confirming things I already sensed about myself. But it wasn’t until I was surrounded by a circle of new friends, comrades who held a sincere desire to support each other’s dreams and visions, who spoke the words that would not hold me by my ankles, but words that would lead me forward, that I felt clear-minded in my vision. With clarity, I bought in.

Recently my younger daughter purchased a digital camera that requires knowing how to use a lens. I stood beside her as she received instruction on the basics of aperture. My experience of The Next Phase was just that. Over the four-days, I scanned the landscape of self. I studied the background and honed the foreground until a figure emerged and became the point of interest. And like in the well-made photographs I favor, the focal point in a scene or a portrait becomes more notable when the landscape informs its position in the piece.

On the final day, I reviewed the overall composition of my vision once more, a “fattening of the figure” and developed an action plan, which included tangible and deliverable actions for achieving SMART goals. In a nutshell, the overall strategy I took away from the weekend, in the words of our facilitator, was this… “dream big, start small, act now.”

In writing this, I have spread before me the maps I made, the notes I took, the poems and journal entries crafted beside the sea, and the list of the seventeen participants in my cohort. It was difficult to say good-bye to a group that shared so deeply and generously, and the feeling of support we held for one another. I’m certain that if any one of them was to stop and think of me today, it would be with only the best intentions for my success and happiness, just as I think of them.

As for my plan, to believe in the gifts I developed and the dreams I’ve created and to offer them to grandbabies and the whole wide world alike, I’m working on it, step-by-step, every day, a little closer to the past, the present, and the future.

Gestalt International Study Center
P.O. Box 515, South Wellfleet, MA 02663
Phone: +1 555 123 4567