Self-Reflection Rituals for Transitional Times


Today’s big idea is that in this pandemic summer, when we still can’t really predict what the fall, winter and spring ahead will be like, and yet we theoretically are out of the worst of it, is a very transitional time to be. Another word for transitional is liminal, which means not in this place but not yet in that place either. I learned about this word during my very most favorite college course I took in symbolic anthropology. Turns out, cultures around the world have rituals designed to help us mark important transitions, like the bar and bat mitzvah, or the wedding ceremony, or funerals, as just a few examples, and a big role of those rituals is to steady us and ground us during those liminal moments.

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One of my mentors describes transitional periods as being between two trapezes

You’ve got one hand on the old way of being and one on the other, and you’re feeling stretched. Or maybe you haven’t yet reached out for the new one, but you can see it swinging toward you, and you’re scared to death to let go so you can reach out and grab hold. 

I am feeling this in my own life, big time, as I turned in a huge book manuscript for a client a few weeks ago and I’ve just hit the goal of reaching 500 episodes of this podcast, and my son finished up elementary school a few weeks ago and there is a lot of completion happening over here, yet I haven’t figured out what the new cycles I want to start are just yet. O r I know what they are (I mean, middle school follows elementary school, duh) but they aren’t here yet. 

So, it’s like that song in the Reservoir Dogs soundtrack: we’re Stuck in the Middle. 

Transitions are often uncomfortable. The human mind LOVES completion. It craves it. Uncertainty and that feeling of the ground shifting beneath your feet, not so much. 

In these moments, it’s important to keep in mind that without transition, nothing new and good would ever happen. 

Dreaming about what you want and getting clear on what you no longer want is a perfect way to take advantage of those liminal times and start ushering those new and good things.

Here’s a little ritual I often use when I feel in between.

To do it, get out a notebook and first ask, what went well about the previous phase? Then you write down all your answers.

Then ask, what sucked?  And write down all those answers. You don’t want to sweep anything negative under the rug–acknowledging it will help you process it. 

Then, looking at those two lists, list new things you’d like to create in the next phase that are within the realm of possibility AND that would be really nice.

So, this isn’t about sitting down and banging out a list of goals. There’s a time and a place for that–there’s a time and a place for everything, but this is more like shooting the shit with your bestie than it is making a plan for world domination. 

Just ask yourself, what would be doable and cool? 

The answers to this question may come out in a big rush. Or they might come out in a dribble, where you add them one at a time over the course of a couple of days. There’s no right way here. Just, at this moment, at the end of July, 2021, given everything you’ve experienced and realized over the last year and a half, what sounds doable and cool for the coming months? 

Some might be a continuation of things you’ve started recently, from your ‘what went well’ list. And some might be new, perhaps as an antidote to things on your what sucked list. 

Why is this exercise so helpful? Well, we’ve had to be what Esther Perel, famous therapist and host of the Where Should We Begin podcast, calls “enforced presentism.” Which Perel describes as “You can’t think two days ahead, everything is in the moment, and you’re dealing with this chronic unpredictability and stress.”

Daily Tiny Assignment

So let’s take a break from enforced presentism, and let your focus wander forward a few months to a year or so into the future. Your tiny assignment is to put some ideas down on paper that represent how you want to be, and how you want to live life during this transitional period and in the next 12-18 months. Now that you’ve lived through these past 18 months. 

As for me, the doable and cool things I want to create is some new structure to my schedule that allows for more time off, because part of what sucked for me during the pandemic was constantly feeling behind on work, and like I needed to squeeze in extra bits wherever I could just to stay on top of it. I also want to set up my new home office with an actual door that our recent renovation has made possible, because the lack of alone time was really hard on this introvert. And in that office, I want to create my first online, take anytime class, so that I can have something that I only create once and can sell multiple times, and that helps people be better people on their own timeline.

Is there something on your doable and cool list you’d be up for sharing?

Send me a DM on Instagram to @katehanleyauthor, or email me using the Contact Kate button at 

Here’s to acknowledging the hard things, celebrating the good things, and creating new things that are doable and cool.


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