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The Top Ten Ways to
Triumph During Transitions
by Lois Raats
The state of Transition is not well understood by most people.
But it helps to notice when you're in one and develop a plan
to deal with it.
Often life transitions start with a jolt, through an
unexpected turn of events. For you or someone you care about,
maybe it's been a layoff, an illness, the death of a close
friend or family member, or turning 30, 40 or 80. Transitions
throw us for a loop, and we feel all kinds of acute
feelings—from relief, lightness and elation, to panic,
dread, anger, loss, a sense of drifting, disconnectedness,
emptiness, helplessness and physical discomfort. Stephen Covey
uses the wonderfully descriptive metaphor of
"whitewater" to accurately describe this kind of
Other times, you ease into transitions so gradually that you
scarcely even know they're occurring. All you know is that,
over time, what you used to do and the way you used to be just
doesn't feel right anymore. Again, you may experience the
kinds of feelings described above without really understanding
that changes need to be made.
If things don't seem to be working anymore, and you've been
noticing any of the above symptoms in yourself, chances are
you're in some kind of transition—moving from one life stage
to the next.
1. Recognize the state you're in. When you name your unsettled
state "Transition," you're reassuring yourself that
it's only a phase, not a permanent state of affairs. You're
not going crazy; your feelings are normal. Sooner or later
your challenges will be addressed and you will be moving out
of this phase.
2. Take care of the obvious. When you're in
"whitewater," basic needs come first. Shelter, food,
rest and relaxation need to take priority. There's no way
you're going to get focused on understanding your life purpose
when you're worried about where your next meal is coming from.
If you're depressed or anxious, don't wait to seek medical
attention, get help now. If necessary, take a part-time job
just to buy yourself some time to work out your next move.
3. Lower your expectations. Sometimes when people are in flux,
they drive themselves even harder to achieve. This makes no
sense. When you're in transition, you need all your available
energy just to cope. This is the time to ease up on yourself,
not drive yourself. You need to learn to trust that things
will work out without you spinning your wheels.
4. Open your eyes and take in the view. When you're stressed,
the last thing you want to do is remain open to the universe.
But that's exactly what you need to do when you're in
whitewater. When you think about it, the world around you
contains every solution to every problem humankind has thought
of so far. Radio waves were there long before we discovered
them—but it wasn't until we opened our eyes that we
understood their potential. Talk to people about your
situation, read every book and article you can, listen to
radio and TV, surf the Net. Sooner or later the universe will
begin to offer you clues about your next step.
5. Get a support network. For some reason, people in
transition tend to hide. There are lots of reasons for this:
when the rug is pulled out from under you it's hard to find
your ground, and you often lose confidence. Sometimes you get
depressed, and the last thing you want to do is talk to people
about your situation.
Don't feel ashamed, and don't give in to the desire to hide.
Remind yourself continually that you're still a valuable
person even if you have lost your sense of direction for a
time. Seek out people who can help you through family
connections, networking groups, religious affiliations and so
on. Let them know where you're at. Learn to take what others
have to give you.
6. Lighten up. Once you've taken care of your basic needs,
allow as much time as possible for fun and relaxation. If
you're depressed, do things that you used to consider fun when
you weren't depressed, and do them with another person or
group. If these sorts of activities don't lift your spirits,
get professional help.
7. Take a day at a time. Since you're not sure about your
long-term goal, there's no point in doing anything else but
take one day at a time. Don't worry about the big picture
right away. With enough well-spent days, that picture will
come into focus.
How do you spend a day well? Again, focus on the basics. Take
care of yourself physically, emotionally, mentally and
spiritually. Notice the needs of others and think of ways to
address them. Write thank you letters to everyone who’s
helped you. Be in touch with new people, through networking
and social groups. Always be on the alert for opportunities
that excite you and give you energy. Energy and excitement
always indicate that you might be going in the right
8. Write things down. There are a couple of wonderful books
that can help you along with this: The Artist’s Way, by
Julia Cameron, and Write It Down, Make It Happen, by Henriette
As Henriette says, "Writing down your dreams and
aspirations is like hanging up a sign that says 'Open for
Business'." Activity in one area of your life generates
movement in other areas. This is a good time to sit and do
some self-assessment, because clarifying your inner life helps
to focus your outer life.
9. Pay attention to your unconscious. We all have inner wisdom
of which we're not consciously aware. Dreams and daydreams
often provide clues to our future direction. Learn to read the
language of your unconscious embodied in your dreams. If
you're a spiritually-oriented person, this is a good time to
spend some time in prayer, inviting God to be active in your
life at both conscious and unconscious levels.
At the start of my most recent transition phase, I had an
important dream. I was on the second floor of our house when I
suddenly realized that there was an upward staircase that I'd
never noticed before. With mounting excitement, I ascended the
stairs, and found a large empty loft space that was in a state
of disuse. I found this dream very hopeful—to me it
indicated that I had a large amount of unused creative
potential, and that it was time to get busy and use it!
While at the conscious level I was feeling very confused and
discouraged, my unconscious wasn't worried at all . . . she
knew my true promise! The hopefulness of this dream has helped
to carry me through many challenging days since then.
10. Practice "Active Waiting." "All human
wisdom is summed up in two words: wait and hope", wrote
In our culture, people do not like waiting. But part of the
reason why we don't like it is because we don't know how to do
it. Did you ever hear of a course entitled "Waiting
101?" Of course not—people don't study it, because they
don't want to be doing it in the first place!
Most people think of waiting as a passive activity where
they're obliged to sit around and do nothing. Nothing could be
further from the truth. Waiting is a time for activity—but
it's activity of a different sort.
If you practice all of the steps outlined above, you'll be
doing active waiting. Active waiting means taking care of
yourself, noticing others' needs, looking for opportunities,
seeking support, having fun, taking a day at a time, and
paying attention to conscious and unconscious signals sent by
the universe to move you forward in your life. Sooner or
later, your life picture will gel, and you will have moved
forward into your next phase.
Lois Raats is a personal and corporate
coach who is passionate about empowering others' personal and
professional success. Over the past fifteen years, she's
helped over 2,000 people to navigate all sorts of challenging
life transitions. In the process of writing an e-booklet on
managing transition, she welcomes your feedback, favorite
exercises and reflections at firstname.lastname@example.org
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