Five steps to navigating transitions
Life transitions can happen at any age, but my clients in their middle years seem to be dealt more than their fair share. It’s the rare person who gets through these decades without losing a parent or spouse, watching children start their adult lives, changing careers, relocating or downsizing.
Some transitions are planned and welcomed, others spring up on us. Here are techniques I use with my clients when a change is on the horizon:
- Take stock of previous transitions. How did they go? When I contemplated leaving my corporate job to start Minimologist, I thought back on having turning down a job offer in my hometown to relocate, and later quitting a job to go back to college. Of course I still felt intimidated by the idea of launching a business, but could remind myself of previous daring ventures. When have you faced a transition similar to this one? Remind yourself that you survived, even thrived, and that today you are more experienced and knowledgeable. You can do this.
- Take stock of your finances. Transition times tend to carry additional expenses. You might need to pay estate attorneys or realtors, incur travel or medical expenses, even eat out more frequently because you don’t have time to cook. By conducting an audit of your financial situation, you’ll be positioned to make better decisions when the pressure increases.
- Remember it’s temporary. I had a yoga teacher who would tell us that any discomfort we had in a pose was temporary. This was revolutionary for me. Too often I would be in a challenging pose and feel myself tighten up. With her guidance, I could see that my thoughts were increasing my discomfort. Reminding myself that I’d be in this pose for only a short time allowed me to relax and do the best with it I could, which of course increased the benefit from it. Sometimes that’s all we have to do — repeat “this won’t last forever” when a situation feels claustrophobic. Your grandmother was right, this too shall pass.
- Simplify going in, and expect cleanup coming out. If you’re lucky enough to have some warning of an upcoming transition, use the time to prioritize and simplify. When my mother was diagnosed with a terminal illness, I packed up my lower priority business projects and less favorite hobbies, and cleaned up and donated the clutter puddles around the house. My simplified home was easier to care for, and created space for managing my mother’s affairs. When you’re coming out of the transition, take stock again. Some aspects of your life will likely be changed permanently. Embrace it, and adjust your space and commitments accordingly.
- What are your strengths? Weaknesses? Just as with your finances, an honest assessment will empower you. Whatever we are under usual circumstances we are more so under stress. Are you good with money? Tend to overeat? Expect a more intense version of your qualities to show up. Your strengths will serve you well, and your family and colleagues will be grateful for your capacity. With your weaknesses, ask for assistance. Hire a skilled professional, and let friends help. Your job isn’t to do all the tasks, it’s to navigate the change. Capable leaders always have a team of trusted advisers.
Finally, keep connecting with the important people in your life. Go to lunch with a friend or watch a silly movie with your kids. Everything is easier with the buddy system.