The world today has shifted beyond anything expected, predicted, or imagined. It should come as no surprise that many major personal life changes happen very suddenly in these times as well. There is a great need to understand change and transition in an increasingly changing world. Frightening as this is in the wake of an uncertain future, the good news is that we can now refocus our attention on the one and only thing of which we can be certain—ourselves. How we change or transition will determine our personal future, and collectively, when many of us do it individually, the future of our planet.
Many of us are poorly equipped to cope with and effectively process all that is happening around us. Yes, we’re surviving, but we don’t have the basic necessary tools to adapt to change and thrive in the process. Simply put, we need to find a way to take back responsibility for ourselves, in essence, to shift the way we think about how we want to be in the world.
Transitions are not just meant to be endured, but rather to be welcomed and embraced with anticipation and excitement for the potentials they tap into and for the unlimited possibilities they make available to us. Ultimately, it is our cumulative transitions that become our life.
Transition is an internal process that informs us that it’s time to move on, that we are ready and committed to leave behind old behaviors and patterns. This ability to let go strongly suggests our volitional control over what happens as opposed to just letting things happen of their own accord. What we leave behind are an old identity or status, if we’re talking about social change, or perhaps an outdated part of our self that is no longer in sync with our developing personality and emerging persona, if we mean psychological change. An anticipated ending, and certainly one we have initiated, may be dealt with more smoothly and with less angst than an ending that surprises or shocks us by its sudden appearance and dramatic presentation.
As part of the process through transition, we shed an old identity—-who we’ve thought we were up until the change. Essentially, the energy that has powered an outdated role, status, or persona needs to be released in order for it to be available for what we are to become. This process may leave us wondering, “If I am not who I once thought I was, then who am I?” A real sense of loss for what once was may accompany the process.
For transition to do its magic as the process unfolds, we have to begin to question what we once called our reality. For most of us, what is real is fixed and absolute. We are invested in believing that what we experience is incapable of being changed, probably because we feel reassured and safe when life continues on in the same way it always has. But reality is, in fact, illusive. As we let go of the people and events to which we’ve been attached, we also let go of a thinking that has imbued these specific people and events with special significance and meaning. This is the process of stripping away the veil of idealism surrounding the world we’ve created for our own purposes, in order to reveal things as they truly are. So in the process of shifting our focus, shifting our consciousness begins.
Before we can find and anchor ourselves in something new, we must go through a period of not knowing. We may know we are moving forward but we don’t know yet where we’re going. Beyond the difficulties experienced in transition is the promise inherent in anything considered to be a rite of passage; we move forward into the unknown in a simple, yet deeply profound act of faith and trust that we will be lead to where we need to go. If making change is to be effective, the initiate, the hero, YOU, must undergo a “death” and “rebirth." This process includes a disintegration, or a taking apart (without falling apart), and a reintegration, a putting together, of the pieces of the new changed self.
In this transitional place, we have the opportunity to turn back, but not to return, to view what once was with a perspective altered by time and distance; we can see all that was for what it is, rather than for what we wished it had been. Each re-view broadens our perspective on our life; the cumulative effect of this is learned wisdom.
Oddly enough, the place of not knowing, where we don’t know how to belong because we are between identities, is also the place of greatest authenticity. When all is stripped away from the identity that is “you,” the realization may hit that what you refer to as my life is just simply the core of who you are, your “real” self, wrapped in the “stuff of life,” all of the external things that make up life as we think about it. When these are peeled away layer by layer, what is left is all that really matters—-who you are. When people say, “This is just who I am” as if it were written in stone, what needs to be added is, this is who I am given the set of circumstances. Given totally different conditions, who knows who you would be.
The “life program” most of us have already in place by the time we are very young includes limiting beliefs and attitudes about change. My book, SHIFT : How to Deal When Life Changes, published in 2010, is an invitation to transcend that, to embrace change as an opportunity to explore, not only what lies beyond our familiar reach, but also the possibilities and untapped potentials waiting for us, and to push our perspective outward toward new frontiers of thought and consciousness—-and especially now in these rapidly changing and challenging times that seem to be testing many of us.