Since the time you progressed from crawling to walking as an infant, life has been a series of major and minor transitions. There was growth from one school year to the next. There were interests, traumas, and accomplishments that impacted future decisions about career, hobbies, and adventure. And there were changes in relationship status from single, married, divorced, dating, or widowed. Each shift brings new challenges, opportunities, possibilities, and potential failures.
Sometimes the transition is gradual, while other times it more drastic. Parents often fail to see the gradual changes in their child, something for which is complained about by the kids. But they don’t miss the major changes in graduations, weddings, moving, and career. At work, there might be gradual shifts in responsibilities, management, and co-workers. But there might also be larger changes such as being fired, changing professions, and retiring.
So how is it that some people seem to morph through these changes seamlessly while others get stuck and perhaps even stop? The key is in the 7 steps below. Even if these were not modeled by effective parenting or through teachers along the way, it is never too late to learn a new process that could impact your next successful transition.
- Acknowledge the shift. In John’s mind, retiring was no big deal. He had been working towards this goal for the last 50 years and now it was finally here. So he was shocked when a couple of months later, he was diagnosed with depression. How could something that he wanted for so long cause him so much sadness? He failed to recognize the impact of not having a place to go everyday and people wanting to know his opinion on matters at work. He viewed his retirement as a minor change instead of a major one.
- Attitude is everything. Sally knew she was graduating from college and while she was excited to finally get her diploma, she was fearful for what came next. She spent hours worrying about trying to get a job, find a place to live, and adjusting to adulting. When the anxiety got too much, she resorted to hiding in a fantasy by playing video games. Her attitude needed a major shift from fear to excitement. Positive attitudes during this time don’t come naturally, rather they need to be put on like a piece of clothing. By focusing on the good possibilities instead of the negative, Sally was able to improve her attitude.
- Be forward thinking. One of the keys in helping John to overcome his depression was to look towards the future. In the past, the goal of retirement was his future. However, he never really thought much past that moment. So John started to make a bucket list of the places he wanted to visit, things he wanted to do, and new experiences he wanted to have. By thinking forward, John was able to lift his most of his depression.
- Embrace the present. One of the trappings of looking to far ahead and too much in the past is missing out on the current moment. After two long years, Emily’s divorce was finalized. The abusive relationship that lasted over 10 years had finally come to an end. She decided to mark the moment by spending a few days alone at the beach. This gave her time to rejuvenate after a long battle and embrace her new future. By living in the moment and allowing her emotions to flow, Emily felt rested and encouraged.
- Learn from the past. In every situation, there are opportunities for growth. One of the best ways is to reflect on the past and learn from any mistakes, failures, or missed opportunities. While on the beach, Emily took a couple of hours to ponder her missteps. She discovered that she often did not ask for guidance from others and instead tried to do things on her own. This was one of the contributing factors in her unknowingly entering an abusive relationship. So she set a new intention of getting feedback from her closest friends on a regular basis.
- Set new goals. Sally recognized that she needed her own goals, rather than her parent’s goals for her, about her life. When she sat down to write them out, she realized that she hated her major and did not want to work in the profession for which she had a diploma. She also made a decision to live somewhere other than her hometown. After spending some time searching her heart, she discover that she wanted to travel and decided to become a flight attendant. While this was not her final profession, Sally saw this position as good stepping stone to other opportunities.
- Begin. For John, Sally, and Emily the most important step in this process is this last one. All the planning, growth, positive thoughts, and good intentions can amount to nothing if it is not followed by some sort of action. John left for his new adventure in hiking. Sally completed the application process to be a flight attendant. And Emily set up regular times to meet with her best friend to get some feedback. Each of them successfully transitioned through their major life event by beginning the next phase.
So how will you transition from one life phase into the other? Good transitions tend to make way for other positive shifts in the future. Once it is done successfully, more than likely you will not want it done any other way in the future.