Change opens an emotional can of uncertainty. Change can shake you to your core. Feelings like anxiety and confusion that result from big life transitions can paralyze your efforts to move forward.
“What you are is what you have been,” said Gautama Buddha. “What you will be is what you do now.”
Transitions push you from comfort to discomfort and dare you to adapt to change in new ways. Fortunately, wisdom from past experiences serve as your internal compass. Through change, you learn how to do new things with new tools. Change opens new doors to new opportunities.
Easier said than done.
It takes time for your emotional center to adapt to changes. Internal changes do not occur at the speed of external changes. When life transitions rattle your cage and force you to make changes in your life, you must adapt to the changing circumstances.
William Bridges, author of Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change, explains that successful change takes place when you have “a clear purpose, a plan for, and a part to play” in the circumstances affecting your life. He describes three phases to successfully move through change:
- Release old ways of doing things. Old habits may feel comfortable, even when those habits lose their effectiveness. Recognize there is a difference between what feels comfortable and what feels familiar. Time is needed to grieve the loss of familiar ways of doing things when they may no longer serve you.
- Move through the in-between time to prepare for change. Bridges calls this a “neutral time.” Melody Beattie, author of The Language of Letting Go, adds, “We may feel all alone, wondering what is wrong with us for letting go of the proverbial bird-in-hand, when there is nothing in the bush.” When you face uncertainty, trust there will be opportunities to discover new ideas, spark new interests, and experiment with new tools.
- Adjust to new beginnings. When new ways of doing things replace old habits and common rituals, you find a new identity. You feel like you are standing on solid ground again. You gain confidence when you learn new skills and new ways of adapting to the changes around you. You become more optimistic and hopeful.
When you consciously accept the change around you and focus on the positive opportunities that lay ahead of you, you begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Circumstances that once seemed like roadblocks become important arrows that lead you in new directions to new experiences.
Mike Dooley, author of Leveraging the Universe: 7 Steps to Engaging Life’s Magic , insists, “Our positive thoughts are at least 10,000 times more powerful than our negative thoughts.” Positive thoughts motivate you to focus on positive outcomes and repositions you to explore new experiences you might not have previously considered.
Be deliberate about what you choose to think about. Worrying is praying for what you don’t want. Escape a scarcity mentality by focusing your thoughts on what you want to experience.
If you want to experience greater happiness, consider these proactive transition tips when you experience change:
- Begin a gratitude journal. When you feel uncomfortable thoughts creeping into your consciousness, recall those things for which you feel grateful. Gratitude shifts your focus from what you lack and welcomes greater abundance.
- I began a gratitude journal when I experienced a tumultuous job change. I wanted to experience something new – even though I did not yet know what the next career move would be. I committed to a daily writing practice of writing 10 statements about positive blessings in my life. Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts, provides wonderful gratitude journal guidance.
- Write positive affirmations. Put the positive in your affirmation by focusing deliberate intention on desired outcomes you want to experience in your life. Affirmations are always stated in present tense; they are personal and specific.
- A constructive affirmation such as “Lucrative opportunities always come my way” invites prosperity. When I say “Spectacular ideas flow to me in a river of abundance,” I acknowledge creative opportunities are at my disposal whenever I am open to inspiration.
- Do something you love to do every day. It may feel more comforting to withdraw from others or postpone the work of adapting to changes in your life, especially if you are experiencing multiple transitions. It is important to engage in activities that connect you to people and areas of your life where you feel confident, positive, and in control.
- Transitions often make additional demands on your available time and financial resources. Set aside as little as 15 minutes a day to do something you enjoy. Focus on the time you have; not the time you do not have within your day.
- Find support. Find a group with members who are experiencing similar changes. Many groups have directories that promote meetings, sponsor special events, and attract new members. Local libraries, community centers, churches, and online networking groups provide information and resources that connect like-minded individuals in ways they can inspire and motivate one another.
In the end, the work of personal change – and how you choose to move through it – is up to you. President Barack Obama said, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other thing” to do the work for you. “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”
Change is not easy, but it is necessary. Dr. Chris Michaels adds, “What happens to you isn’t as important as what you become from what happened.” You may not have chosen a particular situation or circumstances, but you choose how you respond to it and move forward.
As you look back and examine the fabric of your life and recall how you adapted to change over time, you discover you actually evolved in ways you never expected. You find that you are stronger and more resilient. That is what growth is all about.
How do you cope when you experience change?
Moving through change is easier when you have a system of support. Use these tips to Build Your Support System.
Need help expressing what you want to say? Check out How to Say What You Want & Need.
Change your direction by changing your thoughts. Read Escape the Scarcity Mentality Jungle.
If you need to move in new directions, try these tips to create new goals: How to Write SMART Personal Goals.
Discover 8 Ways to Feel Positive (Even When Everything Seems Wrong).