When you are in between jobs careers, relationships, or phases of life you are in a state of becoming. It’s a state that we all experience, but rarely discuss as a stage. This makes it even more challenging to navigate.

The School of Becoming is a place where we seek to understand how to navigate this space, learning from experts and people like you and me about what it means to become, professionally and personally.

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I am looking forward to welcoming you all as Student of Becoming, hear about story, and supporting you on your journey.


Fuel Your Becoming

I was sitting down with a coaching client not too long ago. Starting our conversation with “What would you like to get out of this conversation?” she responded that she would like to figure out what she wanted to become next. Exploring what she tried in the past, her strength, and actions she casually shared with me that “I always wanted to become a novelist … “. Sharing this, she smiled, which was immediately followed by a lough, and a sigh after which she added: ” … but I can’t, because I am too old and I need the money from my job … I don’t think I’m good enough since I haven’t been writing much since colleague … [and] nobody would read my stuff anyway.” As we continued our conversation, we discovered that her issue wasn’t a lack of clarity regarding who she wanted to become next, but that she lacked trust in her abilities and that it would work out. In other words, she lacked confidence.

We often expect ourselves to change and be good at things overnight. I see it every time I’m thinking about trying something new. I intuitively know that I can’t perform at the aspired level, so I don’t engage at all, and instead distract myself studying and learning more which usually only makes me feel less confident in the process. This is because confidence does not come from studying or knowing. If anything, the Dunning-Kruger Effect shows us that we are the most confident when we don’t know anything. Trust in self, and therefore confidence, stems largely from us, experiencing ourselves performing a task and getting better at achieving the desired result.

I guess we all know this, intuitively. We all picked up a skill like riding a bike, snowboarding, cooking, or skiing at some point in our lives. None of us would have announced “I am a cyclist! I am a skier! Or I’m a chef” after watching a couple of other people do it or reading about it. We intuitively knew we had to practice, we had to try, and learn with every iteration. We knew we had to fall a couple of times before we could confidently master challenging terrains, slopes, a sauce hollandaise, or challenge our friends. Yet, when it comes to career and life transition we sometimes seem to forget that we have to develop our trust in ourselves, and thus our confidence step-by-step. It does not come overnight.

Thus in addition to ask “what do I need to know” we could start to ask ourselves:

What experiences would help me to trust myself?

In case you wonder, the person I worked with started writing longer emails to family and friends she trusted. She eventually became confident enough to create a blog and share it beyond her inner circle. Even though her friends and family encourage her to “write more” and “finally draft her book proposal” she tells me that she is still not trusting herself 100%. She currently works on finding an idea for a book she trusts, sharing one “teaser story” at a time.

Journal Prompt #9

“All through life we are balancing things. We balance work and family. Health and sickness. There is always something pulling us this direction or that direction and I think that the key to transitions is to think that is not one factor alone that makes the difference. There are a lot of self-help books with one factor, … but it is really the balance of your resources in relation to your benefits at any given point in time. And that will explain to you why sometimes you handle something very well, and other times you are overwhelmed.”

Nancy K. Schlossberg – Transitions Through Life (Video 21:50)

To identify and balance the resources that can aid us, Schlossberg and her colleagues suggest that we investigate the four S’s: situation, self, support, and strategies. 

Researching how to identify these resources, I found Schlossberg and Nancy Kay’s affordable transition guide. Further, I found a paper by Lesly Meyer that suggests that these resources can be identified through interviews. This made me think that one could use the four Ss as prompts to identify resources that can support us in our transitions. Here a couple of prompts and a worksheet I’ve created based on the book by Anderson, Goodman, and Schlossberg.

  • What major changes have happened in your life during the past year?
  • What situations supported you in going through these transitions?
  • What traits (think talents, skills, mindsets), helped you manage your transition?
  • Which external support helped you?
  • What strategies did you learn or use to navigate your transition?

If you want to know more about Nancy Schlossberg and her work, check out this video covering her background and the 4Ss Framework. Her books “Counselling Adults in Transition,” which she co-authored with Mary L. Anderson, and Jane Goodman, is certainly worth a read to, in case you are interested in helping adults in transition. 

Transition Resources Worksheet

Transition Resources Worksheet (PDF)

Fill in the following information to get your free copy of the worksheet.

I just finished watching a video featuring Nancy K. Schlossberg, who is one of the pioneers of life transition research. Schlossberg, far from a dry academic, tells us what she sees as the key in managing transitions successfully:

Do other people see us for who we really are? Do we know what they think of us? Last week we asked, “Who are you, really?” This might make us think there is only one “me.” In reality, however, we all have multiple social identities, depending on whom we interact with. We have our work self, our family self, and our weekend-with-friends self. Thus everyone who knows us only knows a part of us. In the worst case, they don’t know us at all.

Knowing how others see us allows us to compare it to how we see ourselves, and thus helps us to improve self-awareness. The first step in the process of cultivating “external” self-awareness is to think about how others see us. The second step is to ask others and compare it to what we noted. Happy journaling!

Journal Prompt #8

According to research by Tascha Eurich and team, self-awareness is not only how well you know yourself (internal self-awareness), but also about how well you how others see you (external self-awareness). To quote Eurich:

Self-awareness isn’t one truth. It’s a delicate balance of two distinct, even competing, viewpoints.

Tascha Eurich

Only by knowing both, we can be truly self-aware. If we are lacking internal or external self-awareness we fall into one of four categories.

  • Seeker – I don’t know whom I want, not how others understand me. As a result, I am directionless.
  • Pleaser – I know how others see me but I don’t know who I am. As a result, I end up doing what they want most of the time.
  • Introspector – I know who I am but I don’t know how others see me. As a result, I struggle with relationships and don’t see ways to improve myself until it’s too late. 
  • Aware – I know who I am and I know how others see me. Surprisingly only 10-15% of us are truly (self-) aware according to Eurich.

Tascha Eurich and team, who developed these categories, suggest two simple approaches to improve your overall self- awareness:

  1. Ask for what instead of why? This allows you to find out what makes you happy and seek these events and moments out, intentionally.
  2. Ask for honest feedback from loving critics. Tell them you really want to improve and are looking for new perspectives as it is sometimes easier to see what is going on when you are not in it.

If you want to test your self-awareness, you can take Tascha Eurich’s test. The test will make you answer a couple of questions (internal self-awareness) before you are prompted to invite a person that knows you to provide their answers to the same questions (external self-awareness). In the best case, both align. In the worst case, you know what to work on! You can find the test, here.

We all think we are somewhat self-aware when asked. But it turns out, that we are self-aware to different degrees. This results in four categories of self-awareness: Aware, seeker, pleaser, and introspector. Which one do you fall into?

Are you special? Are you “some one”? I love these questions which Nilofer Merchant just raised on LinkedIn.⁠ Nilofer contributed to our speaker series last year with a session on Onlyness. I really appreciate her for her thought provoking ideas which inspired today’s journal prompt.

This prompt is a great follow-up to last week’s prompt and a reminder that our becoming starts and ends with us. Not the next job or the next lucky break but with who we uniquely are. ⁠

When I think about “How am I special?” I am thinking about what makes me uniquely me. I think that being special comes from a unique combination of qualities including a persons’ values and the resulting attitudes, strength, and purposes. Thinking about it this way made me realize that I am special, while I’m also the same.

I am similar to others as I value education and hanging out with other nerds (at university). I love adventure, exploring and living in new places. I enjoy the freedom to create what I find meaningful. Taken by themselves these things are not that special. However, I think that the combination is. It is the combination that makes me a misfit for the university as I love adventure and the freedom to create new, meaningful, things. I am a misfit for larger organizations as I hate repetitive tasks and hierarchies – although I acknowledge their value. The list goes on.

But knowing that I am a misfit that does not fit 100% in any of these places makes me realize that I am special. It made me move on pushed me to discover who I am. It also made me realize which places I can uniquely occupy in the world. And while the journey wasn’t easy I am happy to have found a place where I can be the “special” person I am today 😉

This brings me back to you and the question:

How are you special?

Journal Prompt #7

Every time I hear the question “What is your purpose?” I want to ask “What do you mean by purpose?”

Most of us are challenged by this question, and I was too. Researching the topic, I realized that three myths that stop us from finding and answer and recognizing that we might already experience purpose in our lives.

Myth 1: It has to be big!

When we think about purpose, we often think about “saving the planet” or “ending slavery.” But a purpose does not have to be big. At the end of the day, purpose is about believing that your action contributes to what Prof. William (bill) Damone (Stanford University) calls “super goal” or “ultimate concern”. In comparison to everyday goals, purpose can never be achieved and it goes beyond personal interest. As such it has to be about other people and you believing (and feeling) that what you do has an impact. This could be you supporting your kids with homework, contributing to your community by shopping local, or you volunteering at a local organization that works towards a cause you recognize as meaningful. 

Myth 2: There is only one purpose.

Research by Damone has shown that only 20% of people can identify a single purpose. 80% have either none or multiple purposes. So yes, you can work on gender equality and support your kids and find both purposeful. Further, it means that you don’t have to have a purpose, although it might benefit your motivation and give you a feeling of meaning in life.

Myth 3: You can rationalize it.

Various exercises seem to suggest that we can rationalize our purpose. These exercises can indeed help us increase the chances of finding purpose. After all, researchers have found ways to assess purpose which allows us to understand some of its “components”. However, rationalizing purpose is no substitute for experiencing it. Experiencing purpose is also about an emotional response. That response is hard to conceptualize and is mostly experienced in the moment. Thus, in case you have a hunch of what it is, be mindful the next time you work towards your “super goal”. What you feel will help you to understand if you are on the right path or not.

You probably got the question "What is your purpose?" at some point in your life. The question is not that easy to answer, partly because of the following three myth.

We all have our standard responses to “Who are you?” But who is the person behind the title, the achievements, and the physical features? Who are you, really?

I recently read the book “In Love With The World – A Monk’s Journey Through the Bardos Of Living and Dying” by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche and Helen Tworkov. In the book the authors describe Yongey Minguyr Rinpoche journey from living in a monastery to sneaking out and spending the next four years on a wandering retreat without a title and a role.

Early on in the story, the author found himself wondering about who he was, beyond titles (I am a monk), his name, his skills, and physical appearance. Asking himself numerous times, he tries to peel back the layers of his identity in an effort to figure out his essence.

Inspired by this story, I started to ask myself “Who am I, really?” I have to admit, it is not easy to answer. In the past, I made it easy for myself. Based on the situation, I would refer to an appropriate title such as professor, designer, or student. Starting to journal on this question, I was tempted to do the same and I feared running out of words. But, to my surprise, I didn’t. There are things that I forgot and took for granted that surfaced, and although I feel that I am at the beginning of this journey, I enjoyed peeling back the first layer.

Based on this experience, I can already tell you that this prompt is worth pondering about, as knowing who you are is the first step in finding what you want.

So, in case you want to challenge yourself, ask yourself:

Who am I, really?

Journal Prompt #6