Making Sense of Life’s Changes

By Stephanie Camins, LPC

Have you ever had a time in your life when you thought to yourself, ‘why is all of this happening to me all at once?’ We’ve all heard the common phrases describing this phenomenon; when is this going to stop, I need a win, bad things happen in three’s, there must be a dark cloud hanging over me, what have I done to deserve this, why is God punishing me? Sometimes, what looks to be a negative turn of events paves the way for exactly the change you didn’t know you needed.

Whether you’re aware of it or not, you may be in a rut. You’ve settled into a comfort zone that may not be serving you anymore. And then something happens to shake things up, or many somethings happen all at the same time. When it rains it pours!

Change vs. Transition

There are natural times in our lives that lend themselves to big transitions such as graduating from school, starting your first job, having kids, empty nesting, retiring. Each of these change events comes with challenges and stress! Each of these events are times of incredible personal growth.

There are also those sudden shifts or changes that feel “out of the blue”. They aren’t tied to any big life transition but are equally impactful. This may come in the form of losing your job, moving to a new city, or ending a relationship. These times of transition can be very uncomfortable. We can even find ourselves fighting against them. Comfort is after all, a powerful bedfellow.

What is transition?

Transition is the process of moving from one place to another. It requires an ending of the old, an in-between, and a new beginning. Transition can involve relationships, places, projects, or even a state of mind. How is this different than change? Change is the event that happens, and transition is the process of moving from the old to the new.

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When we let go of the old, doubt enters causing us to question our direction. Was the old thing the right thing? Should I go back to the old way? Or the new thing is better, but I am not familiar with that new thing. We get stuck in this in-between, questioning ourselves and getting waylaid by analysis paralysis. Letting go of the old is a process of self-redefinition. Our old roles may no longer fit or may no longer exist. It’s time for a new beginning!

“Whether the source of the transition is an external change or your own inner development, the transition always starts with an ending. To become something else, you have to stop being what you are now. To start doing things a new way, you have to end the way you are doing them now. To develop a new attitude or outlook, you have to let go of the old one you have now.”

William Bridges

Rather than looking at these transitions as negative, challenge yourself to see all the possibilities of new beginnings. Remember the transition phase is a time for learning, processing, and incorporating new information. It is a crucial part of finding your successful new beginning. It is the time to turn negatives into positives. Transition is a time to learn new behaviors, attitudes and assumptions.

What is your Change Quotient?

Answering the following questions will help you make the most of the “in-between”.

  • What is it time for you to let go of? An assumption, a person, a goal that doesn’t fit anymore.
  • What may be waiting to make an entrance once you let go of the old? A new goal, relationship, circumstance, idea or sense of yourself.
  • What new beginnings have blossomed from endings, even the endings that were painful?
  • What are the events that have brought change in the last year?
  • How did you handle the endings that led to the change?
  • Did you move through the transition phase into a new beginning or get stuck in the in-between?

An ending without these lessons only repeats itself. For example, you keep finding yourself in the same relationships over and over, or in the same go-nowhere job over and over. This is an indication that you made a change without taking time and thought to learn the lessons that you needed to really do things differently in your new beginning. Not to sound like a broken record but change is hard! Even when we know we need it!

Tips for making change easier

  • Find small things that have remained constant
  • Maintain a schedule and routines
  • Explore the pros and cons of the change
  • Get support
  • Give yourself permission to take a break
  • Practice mindfulness – focus on the present rather than the past or the future
  • Set realistic goals
  • Focus on the process rather than the outcome
  • Listen to your inner voice (your gut)
  • Take time alone to process the change
  • Take the time to discover what you really want
  • Repeat the mantra, “All changes lead to my greater good”
  • Visualize yourself immersed in the positive results of the new beginning

When you are ready to find your new beginning, the opportunity will present itself. Letting go is the first step. Take time to notice what parts of your life aren’t serving you any longer and decide to take the leap.

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