Life is a process of beginnings and endings, with many doors opening and many doors closing. The question is, “How can we approach change with an open mind and actually embrace uncertainty in a world so desperately seeking certainty?”
Change is never easy, yet, ironically, it’s one of the few things in life we can count on. Sometimes transition approaches us hard and fast with an unexpected death of a loved one, or an “I didn’t see that coming divorce.” More often, major transitions are planned; like with retirement, getting married, or moving across the country for a job. Other times, they’re a bit subtler, where your inner voice whispers, “Something just isn’t right, perhaps it’s time to shake things up a bit.”
One of the major challenges with transition is that not many people truly embrace change. In fact, in the six human needs, as discussed by motivational speaker Tony Robbins, ‘Certainty’ is one of our top needs. The funny thing about this is that certainty is actually an illusion. If you really think about it, what can we really be certain about? Gravity? That Pluto is a planet? That you will wake up tomorrow? Exactly!
On the other end of the continuum, we have our thrill seekers who are addicted to the adrenaline rush, and who thrive on change and adventure daily. So clearly the extreme sport enthusiasts will have a very different perspective on uncertainty, transition and radical change than your average person.
Facing the future
Being in transition can be challenging because it forces us to let go of the familiar and face the future with that feeling of being vulnerable, not a popular feeling with the masses. As a TedX Speaker and author of the book “Daring Greatly,” Brene Brown says, “When we lose our tolerance for vulnerability, we lose the courage to be joyful.” So here we are as a society, resisting the one thing that could be the doorway to our inner joy and true freedom.
As a Transformation Coach, and Business and Life Strategist, transition is one of the most common reasons clients come to me, albeit indirectly. What I have experienced time and time again is that the clients who are living extraordinary lives are the ones who learn how to lean into the discomfort, and who are able to stretch and adapt to their surroundings while embracing the unknown.
Learning to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. This translates loosely to the following:
If we don’t address the emotions and issues at hand they will eventually come back to bite us in the ass. Learning to stay in our body while experiencing difficult emotions, while tracking sensations, equates to being present with what’s happening on the inside instead of checking out and using outside sources to numb the pain or fill the void, like food, alcohol or excessive television.
Respond and adapt
Transitions can be unexpected or planned, but the adjustment stage can be stressful even when we ask for new opportunities in our life; for instance, with the birth of a child, moving to a new city or starting a new vocation. With many of these situations we need to find extra time in our day to learn new skills with which to adapt to the situation. We know that stress is the physiological response of the body triggered by the reptilian brain when we perceive ourselves to be threatened in some primal way. But it is actually in our heads, a pre-conditioning.
You may have heard the saying, “Change your mind, change your life.” Typically events by themselves are not stressful. It is the belief we have created around them and the perception we hold about them that creates the stress. So, two people can experience the same event and respond to and handle it very differently.
Does that make sense?
I understand the challenges of transition all too well. Not too long ago, I had a rewarding job, lots of flexibility, and a great place to live. Everything looked awesome on paper, BUT something was missing, and I could feel it. The grasshopper showed up and literally told me it was time to take the leap and make a change. The Universe was saying, “Jump and we will catch you.” Can you say vulnerability?
So, I listened to my soul and quit my job, relocated to a new state and began the next leg of my journey without much of a financial safety net. I quickly realized that my way of doing things in the past was no longer cutting it. I had to come up with a completely different game plan.
At this moment I am still in mid leap. Practicing what I preach, I am leaning into the discomfort and learning things about myself that I never would have known had I stayed in my little box of certainty and to be honest I wouldn’t change a thing.
So, whether you are in transition by choice or by fate, here are some of my powerful resources from my own personal toolbox. I would like to share them with you to make your in-between-phase a bit smoother.
1. What we resist persists. Suffering is enhanced if you resist the inevitable in a situation in your life. For example, deep down you know your marriage is over and you have exhausted all your resources yet you’re still hanging on due to fear of the unknown. The Buddhists say most suffering comes from wishing things were different than what they are. Learn to let go when need be, or be prepared to be dragged.
2. Have tea with your soul. Begin to explore your own Spirituality, your connection to source – whatever that might be to you. What gives you meaning and purpose in life and what gets you out of bed in the morning? Your WHY! If you don’t know what it is, this is a perfect time for some deep inner discovery. Spend time unplugging in nature and just being. Oh, and bring a journal.
3. Move your body. Do something to enhance the mood, increase endorphins and increase blood flow to the brain which will boost mental clarity and focus. Dance, Hike, Bike, Yoga. Do whatever it is you enjoy doing and commit to it.
4. Practice Mindfulness, the art of being super present with everything and everyone you come into contact with, including yourself. When you are able to be present with what is in the moment, it keeps you grounded in the here and now. Major life transitions can often have a side effect of chronic anxiety and depression. So, working with this simple practice of being mindful can help you stay rooted in what’s actually happening versus the story you may be embellishing in your head.
5. Look at events and life transitions from a place of neutrality. Not good or bad or right or wrong, it just is what it is. Become the silent witness. See if you can step outside the situation, and hold a space of being objective and impartial. Practicing non-attachment while remaining open and curious throughout life will give you a much different experience than if you are holding on to a controlling mentality.
6. Create a strong support system. It’s important during these times of major transition that you have a community of people to lean on and to bounce ideas off of. Let the people closest to you know if you are going through a challenging time and remember it’s ok to ask for help.
Parting words of wisdom for you:
As you prepare or confront a major shift or change in your life, remind yourself that this can be a place ripe with possibilities and excitement, or of massive restriction and intense resistance. So, why not make it an opportunity that holds the space for you to become even stronger and more resilient in life? Shed the old parts of you that may no longer serve you as you step into a fuller, passionate and more purpose driven life. It’s your decision. You always have a choice! Which will you choose?