This whole month, on the coaching side of my business and website, I want to focus on life transitions. Most of us experience at least some dread when facing any kind of major transitions in life, like going away to college, getting married, getting divorced, having a child, relocating, changing a career or job, and, changes that happen because of illness, injury and death of any kind. It is perfectly understandable and reasonable to be afraid of the unknown, uncharted territories that lie ahead of us because of these transitions. Fear, anticipation, nervousness, anxiety, and a whole host of other emotional experiences are natural in such circumstances. Yet, it is also undeniable that the boldest and most beneficial transformations usually happen during these life transitions. This is not to say that people’s transitions are comparable to each other, even within the same person’s life. They are not. And it also needs to be said that the true power of the experiences of our life transitions lies within our mindset and our ability to see growth. Some of the most sustainable lessons we can carry forward with us happen during our life transitions, and because of them. In a very broad sense, life transitions help us realize the impermanence of the status quo in life, and, of the inevitability of change. These very necessary teachings inform us that transitions could be monumentally valuable to our personal growth and development, as long as we invest the time in ourselves to understand these benefits. Here are a few:
1.) Life transitions are the right moment for us to take control of our own mental wellbeing.
Transitions are hard because they tend to destroy any routine or predictability we may build up to those moments of change. Even annually expected seasonal changes have been known to be correlated to psychological and mental wellbeing challenges such as Seasonal Affective Disorder, and increased bouts of depression and anxiety. So it should come as no surprise that the really enormous changes that happen in our lives – especially if they are unexpected and involve death – wreak havoc within us. It can be thoughtlessly simple and automatic to get lost in the emotional chaos that comes with change, especially with any type of negative, unanticipated transitions that we might be forced to go through.
However, our life transitions – positive or negative; anticipated or unexpected – can also be exactly what we need to realize our strengths, reframe our mindsets, and truly gain agency and responsibility over our own emotional states and mental health. They are moments in which we can maximize our own growth by being brutally candid, honest and transparent with ourselves, about our feelings and motivations. These episodes of evolution can enable us to shine a very high powered spotlight on the exact things in life that drive us forward, and those factors that we use as excuses or reasons to hold us back.
2.) Life transitions can help clarify our focus on what is really and truly important to us.
Transitions are usually times when our lives may feel especially rushed, unplanned, and out of our control. They are often the times when we feel like we are just bounced around by the various forces exerting external control over our situations. And, they are usually when we feel a lack of focus and clarity as we blindly go into the changes that are in store for us..
However, all of the countless little annoyances that we go through when we have to drastically change aspects of our life can be learning moments, if we frame them as such. When we realize this, we can gather a lot of personal data about ourselves with regard to our identities, values, passions, purpose, mission and goals. In a sense, our transitions can be our own KonMari-esque purges. We can take the time to reorganize our lives and our priorities, in ways that make sense for our progress and growth. We can get rid of all the senseless routines, limiting beliefs and roadblocks that we naturally build up along our journeys. By doing this, we can get back to our cores and strengthen our personal foundations.
3.) Life transitions can empower us to identify the opportunities in our lives for growth and development.
Once our focus has been clarified and strengthened, we start seeing opportunities through the changes we have to go through. We can even start guiding our growth and development in the directions that would benefit us the most. We can identify areas that we want to, or should grow in, and those where we are focusing too much attention unnecessarily. Transitions in life are powerful at reminding us of the permanence of change. In giving us this reminder though, transitions can also profoundly effective at empowering us to take control of the changes we want to make in our lives, by making salient the possibilities and potentials we have in our futures.
Take my dear friend, Kristin, who runs Joy Scavenger. Through her absolutely unimaginable tragedy and loss, she found the strength within herself to create joy for herself and her two sons. Here are her words of wisdom:
4.) Life transitions are the perfect time to create, amend or fine-tune all the systems in our lives to maximize our success.
The great thing about transitions is that they are not just the ends of the previous chapters of our lives; they are also the beginnings of new ones. Because of this, they are uniquely powerful in helping us focus on our habits, behaviors, attitudes, and systems that we have in our lives. Whether these systems are about happiness, productivity, efficiency, success, or growth, the very nature of change highlights the pros and cons of all of our operations. Once again, we just have to pay attention to this aspect for us to be able to see the value of examining ourselves in this way. Once we do, transitions shift from being frightening to being an exciting and limitless exploration of our never-ending transformations of growth and development.
My biggest transition in life (even more than recovering from death) happened several months after I became a first time mother. When my daughter was born, I was suddenly responsible for the life and growth of a whole new (albeit quite wrinkly) human being; and she did not come with a manual or guide of any kind. I had an incredibly tough time making sense of my new role in life, or accepting the drastic changes it entailed. There was no maternal instinct to rely on because I had zero experience with newborn babies until I had my own child. So, I spent the first six or seven months of my daughter’s life in a complete fog, operating on autopilot, while I simultaneously learned how to be a consistent caregiver and battled hormonal fluctuations, migraines and post partum depression.
When she was about seven months old, I remember the completely eventless afternoon in August 2016, when I was watching her try to roll around in her playpen. A thought suddenly struck me that at some point in the future she is going to grow up to be a communicative child with questions. She might ask me what I do, what I like, what makes me happy, and what I think my purpose is. That moment in time, and that transformation catalyzing thought will always be permanently engrained in my mind because that was the instant that my the way I saw my life changed. Everything I am today and the foundation of everything I want to become in the future goes back to that transitional moment. I could have continued to wallow in the negativity that I hadn’t even realized I sank into until that point in time. Instead, by reframing the change and by realizing the untapped potential within it, I was able to realize some fundamental things about myself.
Today, I shared four of these benefits in hopes that they might help someone else. These benefits don’t make me perfect; they’re not meant to make any of us perfect. In fact, they are a strong and constant reminder that we will always be works in progress. And, that is what the transitions in our life are meant to be – reminders of the regular and intentional work we need to put into our own growth and progress. They serve to affirm our previous growth, while simultaneously acknowledging the paths that lay ahead of us. In my post next week, I will share some of the other tips and thoughts I picked up along this journey.
Until then, here are two things to think about: what are your patterns during your transitions in life? How have you acknowledged your growth and transformations through all the changes you have had to go through to get to this point in your life?