6 Ways to Thrive Through Transition
Our lives are filled with in between places. We move from stage to stage, place to place, career to career, relationship to relationship…but we don’t talk much about the place in between. You were just downsized from a job you despised. But you have no idea what to do next. You made a commitment to quit yelling. Now you suddenly realize you don’t know how else to express anger. You made a decision to not be friends with that kind of person anymore…then you realize, almost ALL your friends are that kind of person. How do you make new friends (hard enough) without falling into old patterns? Crossing the stream when the rocks are mossy and wet is already a challenge. What’s the plan when you can’t see the rocks?
Being in an in between place, no matter of what sort, can touch on every single one of a person’s insecurities. An in between place can paralyze you, make you question the quality of your ideas, doubt your every thought, and wonder how you ever were that person who seemed to have it together. All of this is completely normal, despite the discomfort. It’s not you, it’s the in between place! These places are better known as transitions.
There are some really simple ways to help yourself through transitions. And simple turns out to be very appropriate because a common tendency while in transition is to over think things. Many assume there is one right answer, one chance to get it, pick the best fit, “figure it out” , so they expend all their energy researching and checking and panicking and regretting and it actually isn’t the most skillful or healthy way. No matter how hard it is to remember, there are always choices. Panic and desperation will just make sure they are invisible.
1) Meditation. Even 3 minutes a day of the thing people just can’t stop talking about. Just sit down, watch your breath, notice that your mind keeps producing thoughts that you seem to persistently want to follow, kindly return your attention to that in and out air thing. And again.
2) Better than usual self care. Especially if the transition is job or finance related, this can seem counter intuitive. But, if stress causes illness and discomfort and both almost ensure behaviors that take us away from our bodies. And, b, the information we need to move through the transition will come directly from listening to our bodies, doesn’t it make sense to take extra care?
3) Examine your relationship to fear (anxiety) I propose that fear be seen as a question. The less evolved part of you asking the more skillful part, “are things going to be ok?” “Yes, everything is going to be all right,” is the proper and true response. Can you think of a time in your life when someone has simply said those comforting words to you in the proper context and it was so relieving? Or perhaps you’ve been the one saying it for someone else and got to watch the soothing affect a little reassurance can have on a person?
During times of transition there is far more than the usual amount of “not knowing”. Therefore, a lot more trust is required than under normal circumstances, which is not always an easy thing. I invite you to try a simple practice for 3 days. Nothing can be completely destroyed in 3 days with a simple behavior experiment. Trust me. Whenever the completely appropriate fear arises, try simply telling yourself with some conviction that things are going to be o.k., even better than o.k. Then move on. Physically. See what happens for you. You can always take an onramp to anxiety if you feel the experiment isn’t working. It will be there.
4) Trust building. Transition is a great time to open your mental folder of memories where you’ve stored all the times you’ve been terrified, felt abandoned and alone, maybe even thought you wouldn’t make it and against all odds, you triumphed! (don’t have that folder? you have just made this “7 Ways to…” get a journal…make a list). This is the time to lightly touch those positive “moments of glory” memories, as you sift through them. I bet you might even end up smiling. This is NOT the time to pull up the folder of perceived failures or to make a sojourn back through your life using a particularly negative or shortage lens. Can you remember things that got you through during those hard times? Remember people that supported you that surprised you? Why not decide to see everyone as a potential friend right now? Why not look at each person you see each and immediately get curious about what transitions they have traversed? Why not tell people what you are going through, expecting support. WHY NOT ask for help? This is another practice. Try it for 3 days. Nothing can be completely destroyed in 3 days by a behavioral experiment. Except maybe a tendency towards delusional alienation. If it seems facile, like denial, your old habits are still available. But give seeing support and community a try now. Chances are, if you could make a small act to help someone else’s transition easier for a total stranger, you would do it. Why wouldn’t they?
5) Clear your head! However you do this best, the ideas happening for you need to be recorded and most importantly moved off the assembly line. If you think in pictures-draw the big one and the little steps. Lists? Macro & micro. And keep it up. Daily if possible. As the days go by, you will get more and more information on the road to your goal-get it down-don’t forget it. And clear your mental work space so it’s open and clear for the next great ideas already starting to spark.
6) Curiosity and being open. A last note on transition. Have you ever thought you knew exactly where you were going and ended up somewhere entirely different? How was that? Did you ever note later that it might have worked out better than your original plan? In a time of “not knowing” how open are you to learning from an unexpected experience or following a surprise lead? How ready are you to try new things on for size, from ideas to books to workshops in related fields to trips? The more a sense of play and excitement can be brought to transition, the more the body can relax and remain receptive to the information you need. The epiphanies will come, the connections will be made, the movement will happen. Sometimes without knowing it, the final shift will take place that has you looking back months later saying, “I was really in the middle of it then!” Because the in between places don’t last forever. Transitions all come to an end. And with all the mindfulness, positive focus, self care, experimentation, trust and sense of community, you might even find yourself missing it a little bit.