Struggling With a Transition? Time to Change Your Approach
Transitions are the best times to look at how you are running your life.
Posted Dec 26, 2020
Ed has just retired after 30 years. After cleaning up all those home projects, he's struggling with what to do next. Carly is going through a terrible divorce. Peter has graduated from college and is still trying to land a good job.
These are life transitions. Difficult yet normal times in the course of our lives. They can feel like a ton of bricks hitting you at once, or that you are walking through a fog unsure of what is ahead or where you are going. How do I close this chapter of my life? What is ahead? And not knowing or feeling unsure, the feeling that you are walking on unfamiliar and unsteady ground becomes its own problem.
The process is never simple. I’ve met folks who retired or divorced or graduated and had clear goals mapped out. They push ahead for a while, but then often crash: The retiree cleans up all those house projects or volunteers for a couple of years but then runs out of steam; the newly-divorced feels relief and energy, but after a few months of being alone or having too many date-rejects, collapses; or the new graduate finds a job, but life post-graduation, post-job isn’t turning out the way he imagined.
This is not unexpected, yet challenging. But what is often needed is not finding that new retirement goal, meeting Mr. or Ms. right, securing that perfect job but instead a shift in how you run your life. This is about process, rather than content. About approaching your life is in a slightly different way, and those opportunities to do so only become apparent when you are in the middle of a transition.
What does this mean?
When you’re in the middle of a transitional time in your life, you are most open to changing how you run your life. It’s like shaping the wet concrete before it has time to solidify. Ed was always hard-driven, pushing himself to make money or advance his career. This hard-driven approach to life was his default. Similarly, Carly was one who was always accommodating or always in control in her relationship, or Peter has been the good student for so many years—he learned to react well to what was handed or asked of him.
Transitions are often a struggle because whatever you did before as a way of coping and dealing isn’t working anymore. It is like old software on a computer that no longer works the new system. Time for an upgrade and transitional times are the best times to upgrade.
For Ed to lean into his retirement and appreciate it, he may need to not find more projects or volunteer opportunities, but instead, give up that hard-driven lifestyle. It is not about not doing, not having projects and purpose, but about shifting what drives him. Focusing more on what he wants rather than what he should do. Focusing on appreciating the present rather than always looking around corners and worrying about the future.
For Carly, it may be about experimenting with being more assertive and less accommodating or experimenting with giving up control and taking the risk of letting go. For Peter, it may be learning to be more proactive, not waiting for things to come to him or others to tell him what to do, but to step up and define and act pre-emptively on what he wants to do.
Again, this is not about retirement, divorce, or graduation but stepping back and looking at how you run your life—what works, what doesn’t, what needs to change, upgrading the software—so that you adjust your stance to fit your reality, that you become more flexible to your approach to life, that your new way of enabling you to become the new person you want and need to be.
How do you need to run your life differently? How can you use this time of change to change who you are and what you do?