Life's transitions are ultimately positive, even if they don't always feel it. Here's how to navigate them gracefully.
By Ariane de Bonvoisin
Everyone experiences change--it may be a job change, relationship change, health change, or a change you've initiated that suddenly seems daunting. If you find change difficult, you're not alone. Many people think change is hard. But it's possible for the change you're going through to be easier, smoother, and less stressful--you can find the positive in transitions and learn to love your life more...you can become a Change Optimist.
Remember That Change Happens to Us All
Change happens every day, to everyone; it's the one constant in life, the thing that connects us all. And whether life has thrown a change at you or you've sought one out, it's natural to find it difficult. But I believe change is positive, that anyone can change (you're never too old or too young), and there are always ways to make change easier. It's time to learn one of life's most important skills: how to navigate change!
From Every Change, Something Good Will Come
People who are good at change always focus on the positive that will inevitably come from any transition. The gift that comes from change may not be related to what you're currently going through. For example, you may lose your job but find yourself in a rewarding new relationship that you wouldn't have had time to pursue. Change may lead you to new people, help you develop a stronger faith and belief in yourself, give you new opportunities, or inspire you to live a healthier life. It's important to be on the lookout for good changes, and not necessarily where you expect to find them!
Your Beliefs About Change Are Your Foundation
What you think about change will have a direct effect on how easy or hard you find the process. If you believe that change is difficult and terrible, then you will probably have a difficult and terrible time. But if you believe that change exists to teach you something--to make you a better person and put you on a new path--the transition will not be so daunting. Identify your beliefs--what you think and say to yourself and others during change--and turn them around. For example, if you are having financial trouble, you may think "I am incapable of managing money." Or if you're going through a difficult break-up, you may believe "I am unlovable." But you can trade these disempowering beliefs--and their accompanying negativity and complaining--for thoughts that will give you strength and hope.
Get 'Unstuck' with the Change GPS
Because of emotions brought up by change, it's easy to get stuck in the past and to lose your ability to move forward. You may feel trapped by these Change Demons, but you can get unstuck by turning on your Change GPS! A GPS navigator only asks two questions: "Where are you now?" and "Where do you want to go?" Your Change GPS helps you move through transitions by alerting you if you're off-course and encouraging you to focus on your final destination. If you're hoping to lose weight, for example, be honest about where you stand today (how much you need to lose and the most realistic approach), then create a plan and stick to it. The GPS won't tell you what you did wrong yesterday or what you could have done differently; it simply keeps you moving along the path to your ultimate goal
Turn to Your Change Support Team
It's normal to feel isolated during change. We often think what we are facing is so unique that no one else can help or understand us. But change is easier when you let other people in. Whatever the situation, there is always, always, someone who can help. One of the quickest ways to embrace change and move through it is to surround yourself with a team of supportive people. They can be family, friends, clergy members, therapists, co-workers--or anyone else who might help you through a change. These people are there to listen, support, and encourage you. They believe you can change, they want you to change, and most importantly, they will keep you on a path of hope and optimism as you move through the transition.
Change Demons Are a Healthy Part of Change
Change Demons are disempowering feelings that arise during any change. These emotions--fear, doubt, impatience, shame, blame, and guilt--can wreak havoc with your self-esteem and destroy hope. But they also remind you how you don't want to feel during change so you can return to how you do want to feel. When Change Demons visit, remember: 1) they are temporary; 2) they encourage you to make a choice--you can choose to feel better or worse than the emotion you are currently experiencing; and 3) they can be replaced with better, brighter emotions that will help you move through change with ease and grace. Faith, patience, endurance, and honesty are some positive emotions that can replace Demons .
Change Use Your Spiritual Strength
When everything is changing, it's important to find the part of yourself that doesn't change--your calm, centered, spiritual side, your higher self. It's the part that's connected to something greater and uses your intuition as a guide. You need to reconnect to it through prayer, meditation, nature, silence, or journaling...anything that helps you go back inside, where your true spirit and power reside. While your lower self may slip into self-pity and hold grudges, your higher self doesn't allow you to become a victim, to blame someone else when things get difficult, or to get lost in anger. This side helps you shine in strength, compassion, and clarity. During change, make an effort to act from your higher self and ask: "What would the better, wiser, calmer part of me do or say or think right now?"
You Have a Change Muscle
Everyone is born with a will to survive, get better, and be happier--I call this the Change Muscle. It helps you accept the reality of your situation and find your center again. Every time you are faced with a change and move through it, you are activating that muscle. And once you flex it, it's strengthened for life--you can never lose all that you have gained from experience. Next time you're faced with transition, remember that your Change Muscle will give you the strength to get through it.
When change happens, you often look longingly back to what used to be. You don't like where the river of life seems to be taking you, so you cling to the rocks or row vigorously upstream--that's what makes change tough! Accept change by taking in your new circumstances without fighting, arguing, explaining, or asking "What if?" It may be difficult at first, but you will soon see that life will lead you through this change and into a place of greater happiness and peace. Go in the direction that life is taking you. If it's a divorce, accept it; if it's a health diagnosis, accept it--only then can you focus on re-aligning yourself with a plan and an optimistic view that focuses on the future, not the past.
People who are good at change stop talking and take positive action. Whether life has thrown you a change or you want to make a shift, get a journal and start writing down your feelings. Then make a plan that feels right and is realistic and hopeful. Next, start moving physically. Getting some form of exercise is an absolute must when going through change--don't forget the S.E.E.D of all change. (Sleep, Eat Well, Exercise, and Drink Water). Doing something for someone else--helping a neighbor, calling a lonely friend, spending extra time with your child--will also help to keep you moving forward during change. You can also try something brand new--a new route home, a new class at the gym, a new restaurant, to get things flowing. During transitions it's also helpful to create a "wall of change" with images of what you want to shift and work towards.
More Change Resources
Change is a natural part of life. From your birth, to your education, to starting and losing jobs, to falling in and out of love, change has been with you from the beginning. Who you are today is the sum of all the changes you've experienced--the fun ones and the difficult ones, the big ones and the small ones.
Going forward, change doesn't have to be hard; you have access to tips and wisdom from others who have been there, as well as expert advice, resources, and ideas that will help get you through any change.
Visit my new site first30days.com, where you'll find information and inspiration on over 50 specific life changes. And you'll find guidance through change--with optimism and hope--in my book "The First 30 Days: Your Guide to Any Change (and Loving Your Life More)."