3 Tips to Make the Most of Your Transition
Yesterday morning at 7:30 a.m., I sat down at my kitchen table, looked at my google calendar and felt a pit in my stomach. I had nothing scheduled for the day (a Tuesday!). Zero things. When I was working full-time, a day without meetings or conference calls felt like a sweet little miracle, a gift of extra time alone at my desk to accomplish something distraction-free. But, now I am no longer working 9-5 for an organization. It marks the first time in 15 years that I haven’t been employed full-time (minus those two years when I was on mat leave, which - as we know - still totally counts as working full-time).
Looking at my calendar, yesterday, coffee in hand, mind spinning a bit under the weight of: “Oh yeah, my life is mine. My decisions are mine. And this whole responsibility/ opportunity thing is up to... me.” It felt thrilling and overwhelming and a little paralyzing. And so I just sat there, sipping my coffee, morning light flooding in and thought about how tricky and complicated transitions are.
Transitions serve as prompts for us to consider our purpose and value. And they throw a whole bunch of big questions our way. Like: Can I do this? Who am I, really? What am I about to lose here? And, what am I about to gain? Am I really living my life to the fullest, and what does this actually mean? What if this all goes horribly wrong? And, wait, who am I, again? And that’s just for starters. A simultaneous discouragement and invitation. Transitions can be our undoing and also our opening to being our best selves.
Recalling my other major life transitions, I am struck by how the memories carry a similar weight and energy. Leaving home to start university in Montreal. Ending my first romance. Saying goodbye to a life in Tokyo after three years. Moving in with my then-boyfriend, now-husband, Adam. Giving birth to my first child, Josephine - in a miraculous instant becoming a mom. Three years later, welcoming my second baby, Oliver, suddenly now a mom of two. Each of these memories is vivid and distinct. But they are bound together by a specific feeling of open-heartedness - a strange mix of feeling ready and totally not ready.
So, now, today. One month into a new routine where I don’t have an office to travel to or the comfort of a group of colleagues to surround myself with, eat lunch with, or take work trips with, wearing the same branded t-shirts, corralling around a mission together, having a shorthand on common topics to laugh about on a dime. That part feels tough. I don’t yet have standing meetings, lunches or dates. I also don’t have the security that comes with a guaranteed pay cheque, benefits or pension.
And I also feel pretty darn excited about where I am. That I have the opportunity to focus on Sarah Lang Coaching. This has been my dream for years. It has been my answer to the question: “What would you do if you knew you would not fail?” and “What would you do if you had all the time in the world?” and “What are you passionate about?” and simply “What do you want to do?”
Transitions can be tricky for all of us. But because they create space to breathe and pause, they are an ideal opportunity to develop resiliency muscles, connect more deeply with yourself and prove to yourself what you are capable of. Whether you are anticipating a transition or are already in the middle of one, here are three tips that will help you face it with purpose, allowing you to find more ease in the challenge and ultimately make the most of your new opportunity.
GET CLEAR ON WHAT IS MOST IMPORTANT
A time of transition is an ideal time to be intentional about how you organize your time and what you accomplish every day. This is because while you’re adjusting to a new routine, you are not on auto-pilot yet, you haven’t formed your new habits.
MITs stand for Most Important Tasks. I read about this concept on Zenhabits months ago, and love it because it is so simple and it works. All you do is identify and write down your three Most Important Tasks for the day and commit to doing them - and do them, first thing. 3 is the magic number for this practice because it forces you to narrow in on what is truly going to count, rather than just creating an exhaustive, traditional to do list.
I usually write out my MITs in the evening. When I don’t, the next day can feel scattered and unfocused - you know those kinds of days you spend running easy and fun errands that you convince yourself are important, but really aren’t? Take today. One of my MITs is:
Put the final touches on my first blog and press Publish.
That means I put my final touches on this piece and press 'Publish' (see, I did it!). I did it instead of reading a dozen blogs published by other writers; instead of researching the ideal shade of blue to use for the title, and instead of cleaning out my freezer or reorganizing my spice drawer. (Note: Pressing publish makes me feel way more vulnerable than doing any of the above items, meaning, if the directive and commitment wasn’t front and centre, I probably wouldn’t do it. Did I mention that transitions are a huge opportunity to get comfortable with vulnerability?!).
TRY THIS: Tonight, take out a journal or piece of paper before bed, take ten deep breaths, close your eyes and focus on the words FULFILMENT and SUCCESS and what that means for you in this new phase of your life. What solid steps do you need to take to move forward towards your goals tomorrow? What will make the biggest and most meaningful impact? Choose the top three and write them down. Keep that paper and review it the next morning, over your breakfast or coffee. Then, do the tasks! If you are resisting, just imagine how pleased you’ll be with yourself at the end of the day for having done what truly needs to be done to create your best life. No matter what transition you are going through, being clear on what your goals are, and having a simple strategy to ensure you are working towards them is a huge part of your success.
DEVELOP A POSITIVE MINDSET
Developing a positive mindset is a game-changer at any time in your life - your state of mind and the narrative you choose for your story greatly determines how you experience everything. Optimism is partially hardwired, but it’s also partially learned, meaning it’s a muscle that can be strengthened and developed. Your time of transition is an amazing time to do this! Cultivating a positive mindset, staying curious and expressing gratitude will allow you to face your new situation with more resilience and a far greater chance of success.
It is not about being a Pollyanna, denying the existence of sorrow or complexity, or claiming that a green smoothie will solve the world’s problems. It's about training ourselves to see the positive everyday, have faith and practice gratitude. The truth is we do not have control over much of what happens to us. What we can control is how we respond, how we speak to ourselves and others and how we ‘show up’ in all the moments of our lives.
In my own life, it could be tempting to say, “Without my job, I have lost my identity and direction.” Instead, I choose to be more hopeful. I choose messages like, “Yes, this is a big shift for me. It’s also a great opportunity to rediscover my identity and purpose and try new things” and “I trust myself and the world.” Not only is this a way more supportive and compassionate way to look at things, but it’s way more fun.
TRY THIS: Your words shape and become your reality so if you want a more optimistic reality, start with the way you’re telling your story. Consciously, tell yourself and others a more hopeful version of your story. Cut out negative self-talk, even self-deprecating or sarcastic jokes or comments. The way you talk about your life influences your experience of the present and also lays the foundation for the future. Here are some alternative options that will allow you to feel way more empowered when speaking to yourself and others about what you’re up to:
Instead of "I am stressed," try "I am excited"
Instead of "I am not ready," try "I am not sure what is coming, but I am curious"
Instead of "I don't know," try "Let’s see what this will bring me!"
Instead of "I don’t know what I am doing," try "I am doing something new"
This exercise should be fun and playful. Just see what comes up for you and try to catch yourself anytime you can pick another, more positive way of describing something. What are you learning about yourself? How do you feel when you are more conscious about how you tell your stories? See how much power you actually have here?
MAKE ROOM FOR ALL THE FEELINGS
Tons of emotions come up when we step outside the familiar and face something new. We don’t know what’s ahead of us, and a part of us may grieve for what we are leaving behind. Sadness or uncertainty is destabilizing and can feel scary and bad so we want to chase it away, mask it, solve it, and find our way back to happiness – and quick. It’s can also be tempting to try to deny or repress feelings of discomfort in an attempt to justify for ourselves just how great our next step is.
Instead of rushing away from the discomfort, try to slow down and appreciate, acknowledge and expand into exactly where you are NOW - even when that place is uncomfortable. Repressing feelings is counterproductive. You can’t release a feeling by burying or denying it - it doesn’t work that way. Repressed feelings fester and grow within you, and end up holding you back. Instead, acknowledge and feel your feelings. In doing so, you create an opportunity to release them, thereby creating space for fresh, new energy, resources and experiences.
TRY THIS: Express yourself! Speak candidly with a trusted family member, friend or coach. Someone you can be frank with. Or speak to yourself in the mirror. Acknowledge how you feel and give that feeling permission to come and go when it is ready. Here is a script you can play around with: “Uncertainty [insert feeling of the moment] - I acknowledge you and thank you for popping in to tell me something about myself and how I am processing this moment. You are welcome now and you are also welcome to depart when you are done your message. I have space for other feelings, and know they will come visit me, too”. You can also express yourself in writing. Try writing at the end of the day or free writing in the morning for a few minutes. You can even use the same journal you’re using to record your MITs. The most important thing is you get them out.
Have you tried any of these techniques yourself? Or what other strategies have you used to make the most of your transitions? Please leave a comment in the comments section and let us know.
If you want to learn more about about how coaching can help you make the most of a new routine, be sure to contact me at hello [at] sarahlang [dot] ca. I’d love to connect with you and support you on your journey!