How long do you do The Shuffle?


If you’ve ever experienced a major life change (who hasn’t?), then you know the feeling of shock, excitement, fear and bewilderment that ensues. Once the dust settles, there is usually an emotional hangover of sorts that follows. It’s like a valley you travel through after you come down from the high of the Toss-In and before you begin the ascent to your next summit.

Last month, I introduced the concept of the Cycle of Change and explained the Toss-In phase, which marks the end of one thing and the beginning of something else. The phase begins with shock, maybe some denial and any number of other emotions as you process the change. Then eventually you reach some form of acceptance. Once that happens you can move into the next phase... The Shuffle.

In a card game, The Shuffle is when you are thinking about what game you are going to play next, how many players there are, what are the rules and which cards are wild.

In life, The Shuffle is when you are assessing your resources and options. You're not taking any action yet, nor are you even deciding what action to take. You’re in a holding pattern of contemplating and theorizing. Just like the Toss-In phase, The Shuffle phase has a beginning, middle and end. If the Toss-In was a negative experience or something that your were at the mercy of, you may start by letting yourself heal and rest. If the Toss-In was something you chose, you are possibly coming down from the high of making a big decision for yourself.

In the middle of The Shuffle, you brainstorm and get clearer on which ideas are viable and which will be set aside. You’ll also figure out what resources you have available such as time, money, skills, and knowledge. Finally, you reach a point where you are done thinking and ready to make up your mind.

At the end of April, Andrew and I experienced a Toss-In when we decided we would leave Nantucket this fall and start a new life someplace else. Once the intensity of this choice wore off, it was time to start contemplating where we should go and how we might get there. We wrestled with the chicken and egg scenario of deciding if we should look for jobs then find a place to live or find place to live and then get jobs. What can we take with us, and what will we leave behind? Should we try to buy or just rent? We looked at our finances, made some phone calls and talked through every possible scenario together.

We weren’t pulling any triggers or committing to anything. We were just researching, discussing, and dreaming. (We aren’t in The Shuffle anymore, but that’s for next month’s blog post!)

The Shuffle is a healthy time to regroup, but it also can be a place where people get stuck. Which absolutely makes sense. The pain and/or shock of the Toss-In is behind you, and the discomfort of embarking on something new is in the future, so The Shuffle can disguise itself as a cozy place to settle in for a while. Beware of the murky gray area between taking time to process and avoiding a choice out of fear and complacency. Only you can determine where that line is because only you know the best choice for yourself.

It is an interesting phase and a tricky one. A lot can happen or not happen during this time. The choices, actions, and work that is done in The Shuffle will impact the rest of the Cycle of Change.

Like the other three phases, there is no right or wrong way to do it, and you’ll move through it one way or another. Here are a few tips for when you are (stuck) in The Shuffle:

  • Brainstorm all possible options without limiting yourself. There are no bad ideas!

  • Make a list of pros and cons. (Ask me about the Pain/Gain tool!)

  • Ask for help and support from people you trust who will be honest with you.

If you are struggling in The Shuffle or you can’t possibly wait another moment to find out about the next phase of the Cycle of Change, click on the "Contact" tab to schedule a free 20-minute call with me!