For many of us changes, particularly those we can’t control, are stressful and challenging to deal with, whether they be the loss of a job, the end of a relationship, or a health crisis. Yet all of these life changes are challenges that may be turned into opportunities.
William Bridges in his book “ Transitions – Making Sense of Life’s Changes (2004), views “change” as situational and external; such as moving to a new city or losing a job. In contrast, he views “transition” as psychological or internal. Transitions, he emphasizes, are the internal work that helps us to reorient and redefine ourselves and incorporate external changes into our lives.
Research and life experience shows that if we don’t do the internal “transition” work, then we often recreate the same patterns in our lives. An example is someone who after 3 marriages, on reflection, realizes that she has married 3 different men who are similar (they may even resemble one another) and has dealt with the same issues in each marriage, never resolving them but rather recreating them and remaining unhappy.
So in order to move forward and be happy and fulfilled, we need to take time in each transition to do the work that will enable us to grow, and change past patterns that are no longer serving us.
How can you embrace a life transition (such as the end of a significant relationship) and learn and grow from the experience?
- Slow down; for example– rather than getting back on the internet and going out dating right away at the end of a relationship, why not take some time for yourself.
- Reconnect with yourself and what you enjoy – Take some time alone to think about times in your life when you felt really happy and alive. Think about things you used to do and haven’t done for some time or things you’ve dreamed of doing but never taken the time for. Begin doing them – start with one activity and notice how it makes you feel.
- Get in touch with and acknowledge your feelings rather than pushing them down and not experiencing them; this is important to begin the process of healing from the inside out.
- Express those feelings through journaling, painting, drawing, dancing, etc.
- Nurture/Pamper yourself – go for a massage; have a bubble bath; do something special for yourself and remember that YOU are special and deserve the best.
- Spend time in nature – go for a walk by yourself in a nearby park or plan a hike with a friend; being in nature is grounding, helps us clear negative energy, relax and clear our minds.
- Exercise – do something physical be it yoga, a swim, a walk or a hike; this helps the energy to flow and also assists in releasing tension, anger and stress.
- Reach out for support – to a friend, counselor or life coach.
If you change your perspective around a major transition and view it as an opportunity for self-learning and positive growth, wonderful things will begin to happen in your life.
How do you react to change? Does it “scare you to death” or do you “thrive on it”? Reflecting on previous life transitions, how have you tended to deal with them?
We welcome your comments and lessons learned. Feel free to share this post with others who you think might find it of value.
Pamela, great article. Our life choices determine the outcome of our unfolding transition called – LIFE! The list you have provided is an excellent way to nourish body, mind and spirit. Well-being is Key! 🙂
Thanks Debra for your thoughtful comments. Indeed, our life choices and the way we perceive change are so important!
Great tips for transitions big and small, as Debra says above. I’d add naps to the nurture/pamper one.
Happy that you found the tips useful. Thanks for your suggestion to add naps to the nurture/pamper one. So true!
I so agree! Especially love this line — “So in order to move forward and be happy and fulfilled, we need to take time in each transition to do the work that will enable us to grow, and change past patterns that are no longer serving us.” I believe that true happiness is born out of emotional pain and suffering IF we do the inner work.
Yes, taking time in each transition to do the work associated with each phase in the process is SO important. Certainly when we can see the “silver lining” in life’s challenges it helps us to learn and grow. Thanks for your thoughtful comments, Pam
Beautifully articulated. Attitude is everything! Doing the inner work: research, reflection and realization, brings the new awareness necessary for something different to emerge in your life.
Appreciate your thoughtful comments. Indeed, doing inner work is powerful!
Hi Pam, I so appreciated this perspective on the distinction between change and transition. I also loved your tips on how to manage transitions and learn from them. I have found that journaling is a powerful tool for exploring transitions for me personally. Getting into nature is always so helpful as well! Will have to check out the book, sounds like a good one 🙂
Thanks for your thoughtful comments. Yes, I also find journaling to be a powerful tool.
Happy that you found the tips useful. All the best, Pam
Hi Andrea, Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experience. I, too, find that sometimes I am impatient and am sometimes challenged to “let go” and “flow”. Bridges provides a useful model for understanding and embracing change. Through 30 plus years of working with individuals and organizations he has identified 3 phases we go through regardless of the transition. They are: 1) an ending; 2) a neutral zone and; and 3) a new beginning. There is work associated with each phase (e.g. “letting go” and celebrating the lessons learned in phase 1; “getting clear” and visioning the partner or career of your dreams in phase 2; and taking action toward your vision in phase 3.) I have personally found these phases useful and have found them helpful to assist clients to understand the change/transition process and to enable them to embrace change and move forward in their lives in positive ways.
Thanks for your positive comments on my website. I give the design credit to my web developer Camille Block at http://www.camilleblock.com. Happy you’re enjoying my blog. Warm Regards, Pam
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