How to navigate transitions in life and design.
There have been many transitions I have witnessed, some of them have been life ones, and some of them have been work ones. In my coaching practice, I am often supporting people through one of these transitions.
Below I share what works.
When people commit to doing these things, their transitions are navigated with a touch more ease, or presence, or understanding.
So here we go!
Accept the experience is not linear
There are so many frameworks that assume we move through life and career changes in a linear fashion. In my experience, it is just not the case. I have worked with many people who start the transition, get a few bumps and bruises, find their rhythm and tell me “I got this!” and then a couple of months (some times weeks, sometimes days) later they get hit with another unexpected set back and I hear “I don’t got this!”.
As soon as we bring awareness and acceptance to the nature of our situation, we have choice in our response. Your experience of this transition will not be linear, the trend will always be in the direction stability, but at the scale you experience it, it won’t always feel like that.
Understand your experience of transition will not be linear, and believe that as time passes you are progressing to a new stability.
Remember you’re not alone, lean on others
While your experience of transition will be your own, and in that sense unique… there hasn’t been a single person I have worked with who hasn’t experienced some form of transition in their lives. There are many experienced people around you to lean on. Asking for help can seem unbearably vulnerable for some, so I’m here to say, leaning on others doesn’t need to mean asking for help.
You could just share what’s going on with you with someone who is good at listening. And being good at listening means these things:
- Actually listens, quietly, without speaking.
- Doesn’t pass judgment or try to fix things.
- Can acknowledge your experience without having to change it.
Give these three points to the person you speak with, so they know the kind of listening you need.
Talking about what you are going through lessens the load. Prime the person with the three points above as requests for how they listen.
Remember your wins
Every single person who walks this Earth has been through significant transitions. Time does that. So you have done this successfully many times before. Remember that.
While the nature of the transition will change, the context will always be different, and perceived difficulty of the transition will alter, remember you have a lot of experience with transition already.
You are still standing after having already made countless transitions in your life. You can do it again. By remembering your wins you help yourself build the persistence and conviction to move through the one you’re facing into right now.
Write down the times you have transitioned successfully. Use these as thought starters: changed schools, moved houses, changed jobs, partners, friends, moved into a new decade of your life, changed your diet… see what I mean? You’re a pro.
Assume the best
Some believe assuming the best sets them up for disappointment. I believe you will survive disappointment, it is a temporary state.
Not reaching for what you want is permanent.
Assuming the best will happen for you also sets your brain up to find evidence to support that. Remember, our brains are really advanced pattern matching devices, you’re in control of the patterns, so make sure you make great ones.
Keep your spirits high by assuming the best will happen. You will survive disappointment, don’t live a life trying to avoid it.
Give yourself time
Here is another unproven theory I have.
Time behaves differently during transition.
It’s almost like we are moving in close proximity to a black hole. One week in transition feels like a year on Earth. Just allow yourself the time to move through the transition. Don’t put pressure on yourself to be ‘like you used to be’, when your life situation is just not ready to let you do that yet.
This lesson can be painful and exhausting and is like advanced training in patience, yet if we bring awareness to this and a touch of acceptance, well, you know what happens… you then have choice.
The risk in not doing this, is you make false starts, thinking that you’ve made it through, we are done with the transition, only to find there’s still a bit more to get through. And that can blow the wind right out of your sails. Gently gently, easy does it…
Time in transition behaves differently, be patient with yourself, allow the time it needs.
Practice mindfulness and exercise
There is a reason why everyone says that we should do these things… because they work!
They do, they really really do.
Of course mindfulness and exercise look very different to everyone. For me, I journal it out. I have been writing my experience of life and work for 16 years and still going strong.
For you it might look a little different, a gentle slow walk through your favourite park, drawing, singing, lying on the grass, dancing, writing poetry, building a boat. The point is to get out of your thinking mind, and be present in your body for a while.
Our thoughts, especially those we find stressful, send signals to our body. Our body cannot tell the difference between something we are thinking of something that is actually happening.
The body experiences only the present.
So if you are worrying about something that might happen in the future, or ruminating over something from the past, your body experiences that in the present. Mindfulness and exercise help us turn the volume down on these thoughts and gives our nervous systems a break.
Practice discipline around mindfulness and exercise. Do what Nike says, just do it. It works ← that last bit is from me.
Who is Melis Senova?
I am a coach and advisor to design leaders, C-level executives and leaders in government. My work in This Human is dedicated to the next generation of designers and leaders.
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