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How to Be Awesome at Transitions

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I hate to break it to you, but just as soon as you get settled into a rhythm in life, something is probably going to change. Life is full of transition points. In fact, in reflecting on the people in my personal life, I know more people currently undergoing life transitions than those who are not. Receiving a promotion at work, first-time parenting, taking care of elderly parents, dealing with divorce, returning to work after maternity leave, sending kids off to college, transitioning from student to full-time employee, getting laid off from work, being diagnosed with a disease or illness, pursuing a dream, marrying for the first time, dating after divorce, retiring, losing of a spouse, winning it big in the lottery.

All of these are major points of change; some positive, some negative. (Alright…I don’t actually know anyone who won the lottery. But if you do, I’d be happy to help you through your tough time of transition.) We don’t always get to pick these life transitions. Some happen to us yet others are more of our making. One thing is for sure: your ability to handle these transitions well can determine a lot about your happiness in life.

Here are a few things that will keep you grounded in the midst of life transitions:

  1. Stay flexible. In my opinion, flexibility is one of the secret keys to success in life. The more you train your mind to be flexible in how you view your role as a human, the easier points of transition will be. You are first and foremost a human. Over the course of your life, you will wear many different hats. Not allowing your identity to be too wed to any one role, and expecting things to ebb and flow over time are both important components to flexibility in transition. The opposite of flexibility in a transition is rigidity. Hunkering down, digging in your heels, fighting the transition. It’s not good for you, and it’s certainly not good for anyone around you. What do you say we skip that part, take a deep breath and just strive to roll with the changing of the roles
  2. Acknowledge the grief/loss. As mentioned above…whatever you transitioned from had a degree of expertise associated with it. You knew what to expect. You were good at that role. And stepping away from that “safe zone” is a loss. Even if it’s a great transition, like adopting a baby or getting engaged, there is still a sense of loss associated with leaving behind the familiar, especially if you were rocking it. It’s totally normal. Don’t feel bad about having a little twinge of sadness about leaving your old role behind. Take some time to reflect and appreciate the things you loved out of the role that you’re leaving before you jump head-long into the new transition. Doing some journaling in terms of chapters and phases is great for this.
  3. Have reasonable expectations. Most transitions tend to mimic learning to drive a manual transmission. Lots of lurching forward, awkward starts and stops. What I would call “spurty.” Whatever role you transitioned from, you probably enjoyed some degree of expertise. You looked and felt like a pro, but this new role feels weird and unfamiliar. Don’t expect to operate at optimum level right off the bat. Cut yourself some slack. You didn’t start off feeling like an expert in your old role either and nobody transitions like a seasoned professional. Just keep your head down, learn the basics, and you’ll find your rhythm soon. You’ll know where to find the best coffee and secret bathrooms before too long.
  4. Keep the lines of communication open. Regularly check in with yourself to assess how things are going. Then, schedule a meeting for a few months out to check in with someone else. Who you need to have that conversation with depends entirely on your new role. It may be a boss, your spouse, your parent, your doctor or your counselor. This type of check-in proves invaluable when it comes to feeling successful in mastering your new role…and helping you seem like you “give a rip.”
  5. Find a Yoda. You’re going to need someone with the inside scoop that has been in this role for a while. Find a Yoda who is further down the road than you are and just watch. You’ll learn tons! If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to ask questions. Most importantly…say “yes” to Yoda. Lunch? Yes. Special event? Yes. Seemingly inconsequential errand? Yes. Yoda will help you become strong in the force…I mean, get established in your new role.

While life transitions are inevitable, your ability to transition well is largely a choice and a skill set. Learning to roll with the punches can really determine your happiness in life. Whether good or bad, changes can throw you off your game for a bit. Transitioning well means less anxiety, frustration, depression, irritability, and isolation. You owe it to yourself and those around you to learn the skills of transitioning well.

Any time you need to process any of these types of life changes, give me a call!