Thursday, June 24, 2010

Transitional Transitions

They must often change, who would be constant in happiness or wisdom. ~Confucius

There is one thing that I am certain of at this point in my life - change is inevitable.

Simple as that.

It is officially the first days of summer, though in the deep south I believe we went from winter to summer back in April. However, officially the season did just change. Our fiscal year at work is winding down - and with that comes massive change. I am cycling into a new wave of comfort in my "new marriage." Friends are losing relatives (old age - sickness - death.) Marriages are happening. Divorces are happening. People are moving. Moving here - moving on. Change.

How well do you handle change? For me, I like it. Honestly! Or perhaps, I am just conditioned to handle it. As a child, we moved a lot. From birth to graduating from high school, my family lived in 7 homes. In college, I had 8 different room mates. I lived in 5 different places. As a young adult (and single) I lived in 4 different apartments. Once married I lived in 8 different homes.

I have lived with a guy, and married twice. I have had dozens of boyfriends, numerous BFFs, started and stopped a handful of jobs. All of my grandparents and most relatives have died. I have lost three friends to suicide (including one ex boyfriend) and two of my best guy friends died (one in an automobile accident, and one mysteriously in his sleep.)

I have been given bad new numerous times dealing with my health. I recovered. I have come close to making MASSIVE life changing mistakes - and saved in just the nick of time.

I can adjust to any given situation. I expect things to change. I am not sure if I could handle staying stagnant.

Which makes me think of people who chose to stay close to home, and pick (in my humble opinion) safe jobs and take root prefer things to NOT change. Perhaps they thrive on consistency.

I have dear friends, that chose to marry young, have babies, get a "normal" job, buy a house, go to church on Sunday (and Wed), attend softball tournaments on the weekend, and BBQ with relatives.. while saving up once a year for that quick trip to Florida. That's it. That's their reality.

Forever. And ever, And ever. WOW.

My life resembles NONE of this. How different would I be if I chose to settle down in one place? Would I be more peaceful? What if I picked a job that did not have the goal-oriented, fast past and creativity of media and settled for.. oh I don't know.. selling insurance or running a dry cleaners? Would I find satisfaction in doing the same thing day in and day out?

What if, I had chosen to have children (before the hysterectomy)? I suppose I would have to stay put (for school.) How does that work??

The skies the limit for me. The only person holding me back from forever changing is myself.

If you are a stranger to BIG change - I found some tips that could help you adjust:

*** source Psychology Today - the coolest magazine in the world. Written by: Alex Lickerman

When I was a child, I was afraid to go to summer camp. Most kids found the prospect exciting and the experience fun, but I dreaded it. What would the activities be like? Who would my counselors be? What other kids were going? Would I be made to swim if I didn't want to?

After a few days, the camp routine became just that—routine—and I settled down. But transition periods remained challenging for me throughout my adolescence. As adults, many of us still struggle with change-even good change, like starting a new job, moving to a nicer house, or getting married. Just what is it about transition periods we find so challenging and how can we get through them with less stress?

In my case, transitions were difficult because they represented a change from the known to the unknown. The unknown, for many of us, feels unsafe. We worry the unknown, once known, will prove to be more than we can handle, a problem we can't solve. It's easy to be confident when you know exactly what you're facing and how to overcome it, but far harder to be confident when what you're facing is unclear. So we try to learn as many details as we can about whatever knew environment we're about to enter, striving to make the abstract more concrete for the purpose of measuring ourselves against it, of finding ways to minimize any potential dangers.


But in doing this we sell ourselves short. Why not instead view transition periods as ways to exercise our ability to manage change? If the last time you faced a transition you found yourself a wreck—anxiously overreacting, struggling to get a good night's sleep, snapping at your loved ones out of fear—why not look upon your next transition as practice. Reflect on and catalog your reactions during transitions as they occur. Then each time you find yourself facing a new one, pick one thing you didn't do well during your last one. Maybe you belittled your abilities, failing to believe you were up to the job for which you were hired. Maybe you worried incessantly about how you were going to handle all the details of a move. Whatever reaction you had that you'd like to improve, during this next transition focus on it and it alone. Don't worry about failing to live up to any other expectation. Just strive to improve this one thing. If, when you're through the transition, you find you didn't, that's okay, too. The beauty of viewing transition periods as practice for improving yourself is that you get to keep trying until you do.

Just do it. It may be a cliche to say that half the battle is just showing up, but cliches are cliches for a specific reason: they're true. Remind yourself you don't have to be perfect and that you don't have to do everything at once. Just getting through a transition is the definition of success.

Look upon transitions—even negative transitions—as adventures. You can change poison into medicine. Even if you're fired. Even if you get divorced. Even if you become chronically ill. We all have the innate ability to create value out of hardship, and in so doing often add an enjoyable dimension to our lives we didn't have before.

Remake your reputation. A transition is also an opportunity to re-brand yourself. Perhaps you called in sick too much on your last job and want to become a better employee. Perhaps you allowed life's small inconveniences to irritate you too much and want to become a more carefree person. If you look upon a transition period as an opportunity to change yourself, you'll be able to introduce a better self to the new people you meet. But take care not to fall prey to the misguided notion that simply by changing your physical location you'll change anything else about your life. Unless you change yourself, you'll recreate the same old life you always had, just in a new space.

Transitions are part and parcel of life, in which nothing ever stands still or remains the same. To learn to navigate transitions therefore is to learn to navigate life itself. Take the time to reflect on how you handle transitions. Plan ways to improve. Because if you can learn to face transition periods with equanimity, not much else will be left in life to disturb you.

Let's embrace change - whether it is personal, professional, financial or spiritual. Change is good. Change is necessary.

How do you handle change?


Anonymous said...

I'm definitely not a person unaccustomed to change. That's for sure. In fact, I seek it quite often, and thanks to my willing mentality for change there are a whole lotta things I've done, that many people I went to high school with, will NEVER do.
Makes me sad.

Leanne said...

Great post, Nicole, as always!

I am BIG on change. It's the gemini in me, I guess. From furniture, to my hair, to my passions and creative spirit ... I am always changing (can't you tell? My blog header changes almost weekly). For me, change is not only important but a necessity. That is - except for my family. I need them near me. My husband (have no plan at all to "change" him) and my children. They are the one constant in my life. Great post!


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