We all go through change, whether we want to or not. We may try to ignore or prevent it or yearn and seek for it, but change is inevitable.
Life transition specialist Leia Francisco explains that while change is generally an external event that interrupts your life, how you respond to that change is your personal transition. Much like what the Greek philosopher Epictetus said “It’s not what happens to you but how you react to it that matters”.
There are generally three stages that we all go through during a change.
Letting Go of What Was
When we realise that change is occurring, whether we want it or not, the first stage is letting go.
What are you letting go of? It could be a role, a relationship, routine or belief? Is this change expected, like a planned retirement or unexpected, like an untimely job loss?
The In-Between (or The Messy Middle!)
The In-Between can be confusing and frustrating or exciting and invigorating. You have probably (mostly) let go of the old but are still not completely sure about what lies ahead.
This is often a time when you feel a little lost and confused. You may long for the familiarity of your pre-change life while also starting to get glimmers of hope about the possibility of what lies ahead.
The New Way
During this stage, you accept the change and integrate it into your life. You may experience this as positive, negative, or a mixture of both.
How do you feel?
You might feel like you are on a roller coaster ride of emotions during all three stages, and you may even spiral between them all. Sadness, fear, anger, uncertainty or excitement and hope are all normal and understandable reactions to change.
Remember - you are not your feelings! While it is important, and helpful, to acknowledge all our feelings without judgement, we don’t want any of the negative ones to get in the driver’s seat!
What do you need?
Your feelings are clues to what you are needing in every stage of a change. Once you have recognised what they are, look a little deeper and discover what unmet need is beneath each feeling.
For example, do you need to put support structures around you during this time? This may look like nourishing food, regular time in nature, quiet time to meditate and pray, or connection with friends and family.
While you may add support structures and routines into your life, you might also want to consider what “shoulds” you can drop or subtract from your life during this season. Are there responsibilities, routines or people that are draining you that you could take a break from? If you are feeling worried, this may help you.
What will your transition be?
Change may be external but there is usually an overarching transition going on at a deeper level, often with regard to how you see yourself.
Even though you may feel uncomfortable as change shakes things up, it also offers the opportunity to consider new possibilities for your life roles, beliefs, routines and relationships.
In his book Nonviolent Communication, Marshall Rosenberg, PhD, suggests that we become aware of when we are motivated by shame, guilt, obligation, punishment or fear. As you move forward in your transition, can you do it in a way that feels more meaningful, light and joyful?
When we are able to explore our change more fully, understand the underlying meaning and intentionally navigate our way through it, we will be more likely to cope effectively and make a meaningful transition.