“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” Viktor Frankl
Life transitions are usually fraught with anxiety, angst, and sorrow. Whether you’re grieving a loss or giving up a life-long career, transitions can be rough. Change can be hard and painful, but it can also be beautiful and exciting – you can be expecting a new addition to the family, buying a new home, or starting a new career. Welcome or not, transitions are challenging. Why? Turns out, in one of three ways: 1) an innate fear of the unknown/loss of control and certainty, 2) resistance to the present experience, and 3) clinging to the past.
In order to gracefully navigate through transitions and change ourselves in the process, we need to shift our mindset. Losing someone you love can be crippling. Letting go of someone you love, however, can be incredibly liberating. No longer having an identity through your career can be emasculating. Learning to be fully engaged and alive in the present, however, can be enriching.
Change is inevitable. Life circumstances happen at no will of your own. However, delicately and intentionally dancing through life requires a shift in mindset and addressing how you will challenge to change yourself:
- If you have fear that impedes your growth: Find other areas in your life and other ways to practice control. For example, if you lost your job, regain your sense of control by committing to small actions on a daily basis (e.g., scheduling 9-12pm to rewrite your resume). The only thing that trumps fear is action.
- If you have resistance that leads to suffering: Practice accepting life the way it unfolds for you. The universe transpires for you – what could the new experience be trying to teach you? Ironically, this requires letting go of absolute control. List 5 things that you see around you that you had no control in creating. List 5 more things that required adaptation and new ways of thinking to be created. Growth requires openness to new experiences.
- If you find yourself clinging that leads to longing: Celebrate the meaning in growth and change. For example, if a loved one passed away recently, celebrate and honor his/her life. Recognize the legacy s/he leaves behind, and teach others about the meaning s/he created in their life. Change requires letting go of the past.
Pain is not the same as suffering. Remember that having painful experiences does not mean you have to suffer. Suffering only surfaces when you become paralyzed by the “what ifs”, insist on resistance, or cling to the past experiences in life. Viktor Frankl lost all of his family members in the Holocaust. He almost lost his own life and dignity as well. Ultimately, he learned because of the pain that he gets to choose how to respond in the face of adversity. What are some ways that you’ve successfully navigated through difficult transitions?