I’ve been reflecting recently on change and transitions. I feel that I am at the end of another transition period in my life and it’s now time to pause and reflect.
Changes happen all the time, most of us flow through minor changes pretty well, there are also key points when we experience major change and we transition into a new phase of our lives. There are natural life transition periods for all of us, leaving school/university, moving home, new relationships, children, career changes, retirement, bereavement, caring responsibilities. There are also changes we deliberately make, personal to us, often triggered by a feeling of misalignment, something not feeling right and needing to change. Sometimes we can get stuck in these places for a long time before we initiate the change we need. For me, the difference between a good change and a bad change depends on how much control we have over it. How we frame the change that is coming and what we do to prepare ourselves is crucial.
Are we changing in order to move away from something we don’t like? For example, I don’t want to do that job anymore, I can’t work with my boss, I don’t want to be fat anymore? Or are we changing to move towards something we want, a new goal? Evidence suggests that you will be more motivated and successful if you follow a ‘towards to’ rather than an ‘away from’ frame of mind. So, if you don’t want that job any more, think about what job you do want. Take control and make decisions based on what you want what rather than what you don’t want.
Let me give you an example. I knew I was coming up to a natural transition period last year. There were lots of changes looming and I wanted to prepare and take control:
My children were leaving home to go to university
My father was steadily declining with Alzheimer’s disease
My in-laws’ health was also failing
Having been with the same company for 10 years, changes were afoot and there was potential for redundancy
I was approaching my 50th birthday
This could have been the perfect storm, instead it has turned out to be a new beginning and the realisation of amazing new opportunities.
I wanted to use these markers as an opportunity to make changes in my life. I wanted to achieve more work/life balance and work more flexibly so I would be available to support my parents. I also wanted to work differently, work for myself and to choose the clients and projects that really interested me.
I turn 50 this month, and looking back over my transition period of the last twelve months I have:
Seen the children off to university
Set up a small B&B business
Taken redundancy from work and
Started a new coaching and consultancy business
Because I now work more flexibly, I also have more time to support my ageing parents and in-laws.
I can honestly say this has been the best change period of my life, even the turning 50 part!
I realise that sometimes we don’t have the luxury of planning change, sometimes it’s thrust upon us. The unexpected death of a loved one, sudden job loss or unplanned pregnancy can change our lives overnight. The important thing to acknowledge is that even in these times, when you may not have chosen the change that is facing you, you can take control of how you respond, how you react and how you want to shape your future. Give yourself the time to adjust and adapt to where you want to be and take one step at a time. You are in control and you can decide what those steps are going to be.
So, going back to the story of my recent transition and the children leaving home….
In my head, I was preparing for the change for the about a year before it happened and it has taken me this time to fully transition to my new phase in life. My husband and I prepared the children for moving out and laid the expectation that we would rent out their rooms once they left home.
There were gradual practical steps that we took and this helped us all to prepare psychologically too. Our son helped us board out the loft, so their stuff could be boxed up and stored there when they left home. Many people, including their grandparents, were horrified when we went about things this way, but on reflection, I think this was really helpful for them and us. It helped us all transition to the new change and helped them move on to their new lives as young adults. Now, when they return home in the holidays it’s lovely to see them and it feels like we have all transitioned to an adult-adult relationship.
Reflecting on this, I have come up with a simple change model that for me captures the best way to make sustained positive changes or take control through life transitions.
We can’t stop change happening. Whatever the circumstances, if you can take control of the change and recognise the choices and options you have, you will be much better equipped to move forwards towards the future you want.
Recognise that sustained change takes planning and time. We are humans and it is natural to go through various stages; grief, loss, stress, etc. But it’s so powerful when you realise that you have control over what you do and how you do it.
So, I invite you to take a moment now and think of your future in the next transition phase of your life, imagine the future in one, two or five years’ time.
Now think about those steps along the way, what are those gradual steps and changes you are going to make to start to prepare for that future? Set yourself timescales, but be realistic, it takes time to build new routines and habits and also recognise when it’s not the right time to do things. That’s okay too.
It is important when you are going through a significant change that you identify who and what can help you. Do you need to develop more skills or knowledge? Tell people close to you to and seek the support of partners, friends, family etc.
If you are struggling to get clarity, it may also help to work with a professional coach to support you through your transition and work with you to identify the transition steps along the way.
Want some help?
I offer 1-2-1 personal and professional coaching via Skype, phone, or in person. I also work with teams and organisations. Please visit my website, or contact me directly for an informal, no obligation conversation about how I can support you.