Transitions can be difficult because when we experience a life transition we can feel that our self-confidence and identity are shaken. We can experience the world as unfamiliar and unknown. We may be afraid. Fear inhibits us from taking risks, yet it also alerts us to danger. Our feelings can be linked to making a positive change or to not being good enough to do what is needed.
If we want to cope well while experiencing transition, we need to be open to the challenge of changing. We need to be open to questioning our thoughts and feelings about the various aspects of our life. We do better when we allow ourselves to be curious. without harsh self-criticism, regarding the thoughts, feelings and beliefs we hold about our world.
We need to acknowledge this stage in our life, face our fear, navigate the unknown, and be open to assistance and support from others so that we can transition with grace. This can make the process less daunting. Instead, it can be an exploration and period of growth.
Over the years, William Bridges has written some insightful books about transitions. In them he differentiates between transitions and changes. Transitions are psychological and changes are situational. He refers to a three phase process in his writings:
1) An ending (letting go of a situation);
2) A neutral zone (the confusing or distressing area of in-betweenness);
3) A new beginning (launching into a new situation.
We toss off the old but have not yet found the new. Transition is that in-between spot where we find ourselves; out of our comfort zone, into the unknown, into the “what if?”
This is precisely the area where there is opportunity for growth. Self-reflection gives us insight into what we can learn from this moment in time and previous moments that have contributed to our arriving where we are. We can examine parts of ourselves that we most value and those that we would like to change (now that we are in transition). It is important to remember that for something new to happen in life, there is always something lost. Welcoming change means coming to terms with that truth: the loss of what was; what is no longer; what is left behind.
Among the most common emotions most people experience is grief. Shock, depression, and anxiety also appear. Why? The loss is great and the change is often unexpected. Other feelings include denial, worry, fear, excitement, joy, sadness, and regret. It is normal to feel any and all and at different times.
An important question to ask ourselves is, “What helps us to be resilient in the face of change and transition?” For most of us the answer involves working on being positive, patient, and proactive. We can strive to appreciate what we have even though we feel out of sorts. We can try to be flexible. We can recognize that things take longer than expected, or conversely, that things happen very quickly. We can offer grace – being kind to ourselves through the myriad slips and blunders and failures, allowing ourselves to grow as a result of the missteps – so we integrate everything to enrich our lives.
Ultimately, we need to learn to trust ourselves. During transitions we are malleable to change if we are open. Take this opportunity to explore, brainstorm, and consider new ways of thinking and doing before old patterns get reset again.
Accept the change.
Make time for reflection.
Take one day at a time.
Find a mentor.
Learn to be an optimist in the process.