How NOT to Handle Big Life Transitions
If there’s one thing that all of my clients have in common, it’s that they come to me in the midst of life transitions. Career changes, loss of passion, divorce, marriage, graduation from college, stepping back into the job world after years spent at home with kids, and the like. And this makes sense; the only thing we can count on in life is CHANGE and it can be hard sometimes. Going it alone can be scary, but that’s why I exist: to help people thrive through life’s big changes and to help them be completely awesome through the process.
Cut to 2 weeks ago: I’m reading through some of my favorite bloggers’ articles, sipping my morning coffee, when I get a call from the hubs. He’s accepted a new job in Kansas City, MO. WHAT?
Background: I had resigned myself to living in our current hometown of Wichita, KS for the rest of my life. I say this with no sarcasm, just realism. We moved here 3 years ago to help out with our family biz (we’re both originally from here) and after years of living a nomadic life in various states/countries, I had completely accepted the fact that our future was here and here alone. I made my 1, 5, and 10-year plans (can you tell I’m a coach?) around this expectation and delighted in how bright my future was most definitely going to be.
Needless to say, the thought of moving was a little unexpected.
After my initial shock, I beamed with authentic happiness for my hubby and for my new, potential future. Fact: I actually LOVE change. I tend to get restless and yearn for new spaces, landscapes, and the possibility to fall in love with more friends. For an entire day, I was elated.
Then, reality set in.
As we started discussing the exciting potential housing situations, new relationships, and new adventures, my mind started to fill with all of the “worst case scenarios” of the move and our future situation. I started thinking ugly…
What if we never find a house we love?
What if we have too much stuff and have to give some of it up?
How will this change my network and the potential clients that I meet?
Shouldn’t we be packing now? (Note: we are not leaving until December, yet I still had this thought.)
I just had a garage sale…when will I find the time to through another one?
Moving costs SO MUCH.
Packing sucks SO MUCH.
There won’t be enough time to see everyone I want to before we leave.
I don’t want to find a new grocery store.
I don’t want to find new healthcare providers.
AAAAAHHHHH! This is going to be such a pain!
My stomach aches. I can feel the cortisol from the stress building up inside of me like a little fear baby.
I’m so tired of moving already. I’m so tired. I’m so sad.
The thing that sucked the most was that the entire time I was having these thoughts and varied versions of these conversations with my husband, I KNEW what I actually needed to be doing. Preventing these thoughts and creating positive transitions is what I do for a living. This is my expertise. NOT falling into this horrible mindset is one of my favorite ways to help people. I preach all of the time to not dwell and to not fear the “what ifs” and it was exactly what I was doing. And I was paralyzed. The joy of the transition was gone.
As tears flowed down my face, I was so angry at myself. My true , coaching voice was saying, “you can take a moment to dwell, but constant crying and living in the gloom won’t help anything. You can choose to have a different perspective.” The other, negative voice inside my head wanted to slap this voice and tell her she wasn’t pretty.
I let this go on (yes, I made an intentional choice) for a cumulative time-period of one day. Then, my authentic voice sat on the negative voice until she passed out and I was clear to change my perspective and take action.
This experience, for me, was a good reminder of how NOT to handle a big life transition:
Don’t give in to the “what if” negatives and the voices they create. First of all, none of the above, negative statements have even happened. And by giving in to these thoughts I made no room for any of the “what if” AWESOME statements. What if…we find an amazing place to live? What if…we downsize and it makes us feel more content? What if…I find a new doctor who I love just as much as my current one? What if AWESOMEs have the power to lighten everything.
And don’t exaggerate the negatives. Ok, packing does tend to suck, but it will not take me 2 months and living in boxes until then will not help me thrive day-to-day. Yes, I’ll have to find new stores, new organizations, and new friends, but it won’t kill me and how fun will it be to look back in a year and see how great these things fit into my new adventure?
Don’t make it all about you. Did you notice that few of my freak-out statements were based on anyone else’s interest but mine? When we allow the fear of a change to invade our thoughts, our interests and our visions become more self-centered. What about my husband? These thoughts didn’t lift up his spirits; they only made him sad and frustrated. And that’s not fair. What about my loved ones here in Wichita and the others in Kansas City? I want to think about what joy their relationships bring and will bring me! Negativity spreads easily, so check yourself the next time you’re having a pity party.
Cry/get upset if you want to, but don’t do so needlessly and limit the amount of time you spend in this state. Grief is a part of any change, so taking the time to be sad or upset about the loss of something due to a transition is ok and totally normal. However, this becomes toxic when we allow it to hold us back from thriving through any change. Get out your emotions: take a walk, talk to a friend, journal your thoughts, get on Pinterest—whatever you do, do it as needed, but don’t allow yourself to be paralyzed.
Don’t focus on the “I don’t want” statements. The “I don’t want” statements can be as damning as the “what if” negative questions. Instead of focusing on what you don’t want out of a transition, focus on what you do! After I was done feeling sorry for myself and crying, I knew that writing my desires and goals for this change out on paper would help me solidify more positivity. I created a makeshift vision board by drawing stick figures and doodles on a piece of paper labeled, “KC Goals”. I hung it in the bathroom so that I could see its shiny potential each morning and get my thoughts manifesting the BEST version of this change.
Don’t allow fear to ruin the potential possibilities of your transition. The worst thing that all of this worrying did was that it robbed me and the people around me the joy of the entire transition. For a brief period, I couldn’t see this as a new adventure, one filled with endless, AWESOME possibilities. All I saw was negative fears and gloom. Very sad. When faced with any life transition, don’t allow worry, fear, negative thoughts, etc, ruin the amazingness that is the transition itself. Change is a part of life, so if something is changing, you’re still LIVING.
How have you handled past transitions? What “ugly” stuff did you think/do that you would you have changed to thrive through the situation?
On the flip side: What are some successful transitions that you’ve had? How did you remain true to your personal brand (your strengths, authentic voice, desires) to be successful?
PS- For all of you in the KC area, I am BEYOND excited to be closer to you soon! Be on the lookout for new, dynamic events coming in January 2014…
For everyone else, I’m still only a phone call, email, blog post away:)
Rhonda Hale Warren is a life coach and personal brand consultant who helps people live their AWESOME through all of life's transitions. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Contact her directly at via her website: www.rhondahw.com
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