Navigate Through Life-Changing Transitions

Hand and butterfly hand painting, tattoo, over a blue skyThe intention of this article is to guide you through the four stages of every transitional cycle and provide you with strategies to support you as you move through each moment of your experience. Begin the New Year with a deeper understanding of the four stages of life-altering transformation.

Whether you have made the choice or have been forced to significantly alter your life, understanding how to navigate your transition will save you from the discomfort of twisting in the wind. This is it. This is your one and only precious life. You can’t afford to waste a moment looking over your shoulder. Take the lead and navigate through your change with awareness, honesty and as much grace as you can call up.

The first stage of any significant transition begins with some pain and discomfort. You know a radical change is coming, but you might not be sure what to do about it. Chances are you will be down in the dumps. You may feel frightened, angry, uncertain, or like you’re reeling out of control. During my career transition, I remember feeling completely lost in a fog and freaked out by the fact that the ideals around which my whole former life had been built were no longer acceptable.

During this challenging first stage, I recommend staying with your regular, comfortable routines. When you are swimming in a black hole of uncertainty, the best thing you can do is create a nurturing luscious list focused on self-care. Try to cut back on extraneous commitments at home or work, and take the time to be gentle with yourself.

Items on your luscious list might include: inspirational reading, watching a magical sunset, choosing fresh-cut flowers for your desk or dining room table, playing on a swing set, soaking in a hot bath, listening to great music, practicing yoga or Tai Chi, playing outside with your family, preparing a tasty meal, or writing in a gratitude journal. Joyful activities like these help to balance out the stress and anxiety of a significant change.

While you’re nurturing yourself through your discomfort, remember that nurturing is not running away from your reality. Look in the mirror, and be honest about what’s happening inside. Accept the fact that you’re suffering, but don’t accept that your suffering is permanent. Ask yourself what really separates where you are from where you want to be. Honesty is key to healing and flowing through a monumental change.

The second stage of transition involves deep introspection. You may start to withdraw from the world, retreating into a safe and private emotional space. Initially, this might be a way to protect yourself from the pain and uncertainty you’re feeling, but this retreat can also allow you to begin to let go of old patterns and behaviors which stand in the way of your positive transition. You may feel contemplative, curious, spiritual, detached, or highly emotional – sometimes all at the same time.

Writing your thoughts in a journal is a good activity to try at this stage, especially if you’re feeling withdrawn and are having trouble talking to the people around you. If you’re still unclear about where you’re really going, try making a simple compare/contrast chart. Fold a piece of paper in half, and label one column “Want” and the other “Don’t want.” Then, fill in the blanks. Knowing what you don’t want is just as important as knowing what you do. It helps you set boundaries and build a solid foundation for your ideas.

Another helpful suggestion is to spend time in nature, soaking up the beauty of your surroundings. Plan to take a walk along the beach, hike in the woods, or visit a local park. Allow yourself plenty of time to heal from the pain and anguish of the first transitional stage.

Remember that the second stage of transition is about healing and nurturing your mind, body and soul, but it’s also a time for examination. Find the activities that keep you focused, not distracted, and don’t be afraid of the deep work. Becoming who you really are means surrendering to change.

The third stage of transition is a big shift from the first two. It’s filled with positive energy and includes research and exploration in the outer world. When you reach this stage, you are finally starting to feel like you have some direction. You’ve gotten an inkling of what the real nature of your upcoming transition might be. You are ready and eager to move forward, and you are curious about all the new possibilities. You become secure, optimistic, and confident. You are uncovering a new path and ready to walk through the doors of a ripe new opportunity. In this stage you will want to explore the Internet, read about new topics of interest, and continue to write in your journal.

Your discovery period is also the perfect time to explore new connections and talk with trusted confidants. Immerse yourself in the discovery of anything that interests you. Sometimes, even things that are unrelated on the surface can work themselves into your new path in unexpected ways. Allow yourself to play on a brand new playground!

When you have navigated the first three stages – fear and discomfort, going internal, and exploring new frontiers – you are ready to move into the magical stage of creative renewal.

The fourth stage of transition is a good time. When you reach the creative renewal phase, your vision has become clear, and you’re ready at last to create life on your terms. You are highly energized, committed, and optimistic. You are also determined to make significant changes quickly. Things seem to flow quite naturally for you. Mentally and physically you feel unstoppable because you know that everything is possible.

When you experience your creative renewal, allow yourself to be in the flow of the moment. Allow your plans to unfold without force. Become enamored of your new path, hang loose, and enjoy the magic carpet ride! I declared my new path almost eight years ago on New Year’s Eve while surrounded by my friends and family.

Each stage of a significant transition can last from a few weeks to several months. Honoring and caring for yourself, and allowing the process to unfold naturally, will help you move through the difficult stages of transition quickly.

I have navigated the choppy waters of an enormous career and lifestyle transition and have successfully reinvented myself – but I couldn’t have done it without the love and support of my family, friends, and a couple of world-class coaches. No matter what stage of transition you’re in, don’t be afraid to reach out for support. You don’t have to go through your experience alone!

Creating your life on your terms is really about allowing for grace through your next transition.

  • What stage of transition are you experiencing right now?
  • How long have you been in this stage?
  • What do you need to do right now to honor the stage you are experiencing?

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