8-Keys To Successfully Navigating Transition
We all experience a series of transitions: divorce, career, retirement, getting sober, moving, having children, relationships, graduating college.The only thing we can ever be sure of is change itself. We all go through numerous transitions in our lives – leaving high school to go college or work, getting married, getting divorced, retirement, death of a loved one, getting sober, moving, changing careers, having children, children leaving “the nest” or having to care for our elderly parents. It doesn’t really matter whether the change was planned or not, the feelings we experience are very similar. I left corporate America after 21-years of working as an Accountant and Information Technology Professional to become a Professional Dog Groomer. This was the second major transition I’ve undergone in my life. I went from crunching numbers and analyzing business processes to cutting dog hair and analyzing dog body language. It was a dramatic change, and even though it was something I wanted, at first, it was scary as hell. I felt like someone pushed me off a cliff and I was free-falling through the air, not sure where I would land. At 40-years of age, I had to learn an entirely new craft and way to be. I went from being the “boss” and expert at my job, to employee and low woman on the totem pole who knew little to nothing about dog grooming. I was doubtful at times that I would even succeed. Although being a dog groomer is not rocket science, it’s a very difficult and physically demanding job. There were many times during my first year I wondered if I had made the “right” decision. It was extremely challenging! I struggled with a lot of anxiety, doubt and fear but I was patient and gave myself time and space to adjust. And now, almost 11-years later, my Dog Grooming career is like second nature: I can practically do it with my eyes closed.
1. Give yourself permission to be vulnerable and emotional.
Expect to feel depressed, angry, anxious, fearful and just plain emotional. Give yourself permission to be vulnerable and ride the roller coaster of emotions you are experiencing. Whether you left a relationship (or job) amicably or just went through a horrendous divorce, it takes time to let go of what was and adjust to your new reality. Be as kind and patient with yourself as you would be with your child or best friend.
2. Honor your feelings of grief and loss.
A therapist once said to me, “even when you have a rotten tooth pulled, your tongue still searches around the empty space for it.” I know, weird analogy but I’m a visual person and this really resonated with me. So even if what you are leaving behind is unpleasant, maybe even painful, it was familiar and comfortable, and you knew what to expect. Don’t beat yourself up because you find yourself missing that crappy, dead end job you were in or that emotionally abusive and toxic person you were married to.
3. Be Patient: have realistic timeframes and expectations
The second we willingly make a change or circumstances force us into it, we want everything to be “normal” and “okay.” It would probably be wise to get comfortable being uncomfortable for a while. Although it may feel exciting to move to a new city, or be single again, transition usually includes letting go of something old as well as embracing the new and it requires time, patience and perseverance. It took me almost a full year to begin getting comfortable with my new career as a Dog Groomer. This makes complete sense considering I spent half of my life working in Corporate America as an Accountant and Information Technology Professional. You cannot expect to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger after going to the gym for a few months.
4. Ask for help
You don’t have to go it alone: you have friends, family, therapists, and coaches who can help you through this. Some of us are natural caregivers and know how to jump right in and help you out but that’s the minority. It’s your job to let people know specifically what they can do or how they can help you. Don’t be afraid to seek the help of a therapist, a support group or a coach to assist you during this time. A therapist can help you navigate complex feelings from your past that may have been stirred up by the transition. A Life Coach can help you get clear, organize your thoughts, encourage you, and strategize to create goals for your future.
5. Be kind to yourself
Nurture yourself physically, emotionally and spiritually. Get a massage, drink a cup of tea, take a bubble bath, go for a walk-in nature, meditate, read a book, or go to the gym. Do things that bring you joy, make you laugh and make you feel good. If possible, try and stick to your routine to help you maximize the level of comfort and familiarity in your life. Change is tricky: now is not the time to be a perfectionist, criticize yourself, or focus on feeling like you’re “not good enough” because you haven’t “mastered” a new skill or new way of being.
6. Realize that this is a new and exciting chapter in your life.
Start imagining what you want your life to look like after: the divorce, retirement, moving, the career change. Create an outline, brainstorm with a friend, write, journal, create lists, or do a vision board to help you get your creative powers in gear. These are all proven methods you can use to begin designing your life. “Did you know that we are TWICE as likely to achieve our goals if we write them down? Or that our brains process images 60,000 faster than text?” Set aside some time for yourself to write that new and exciting chapter (but please keep in mind that it can and will be revised as you go).
7. Expect things to go wrong.
Plans and goals are like targets: sometimes you hit the bullseye but often you’re a little off to the left or the right and this is totally normal. Remember that Thomas Edison failed more than 1000 times when trying to create the light bulb. And when asked about it, Edison allegedly said, “I have not failed 1000 times. I have discovered 1000 ways NOT to make a light bulb.” So, keep this in mind when you’re trying to launch a new business, go on a date, master single parenthood, or embark on a totally new career. Be willing to start over (repeatedly) until you can successfully execute your plans.
8. Enjoy the new you.
You have fully mastered the transition and you are back inside your comfort zone. You’ve just undergone a radical transformation loaded with emotions and challenges. Enjoy this new chapter of your life. Be grateful for your success at making it through to the other side of what may have felt like a huge obstacle. And know that another change is just around the corner.
Kimberly Guy, CPC, ELI-MP
Certified Professional Coach
Energy Leadership Master Practitioner