|We are at an unprecedented transition time in history right now. So much is changing and so fast! From politics, Coronavirus, economy, technology, how we live, we are experiencing change at a break-neck speed. All this change is occurring at an exponential pace and feels very intense to us as most of our historical change occurred at a much slower pace. So we are in a time of transition, a “transition time.”
Transition sounds like a benign enough word, but what actually occurs during a “transition time,” is anything but benign. We go through many transition times in our lives. We go through transition times in our day, our week, our year, our decade and so on. I will be writing a series on these transitions, from big to small and how to navigate them successfully. The way I see transitions is that they are the “weak links,” that is they are the times when things can go wrong and when we are more vulnerable. We have routine transitions such as the example below of getting ready and then going to school and we have transitions that are out of the ordinary, such as navigating the death of a loved one.
Why is it so important to navigate transitions successfully? Transitions are the links between one status to another. On a micro-level, you have a transition between getting your child ready at home in the morning to getting them to school that day. On the surface it seems a mundane, and uneventful situation, but upon closer examination there are is a myriad of steps involved and many places things can go wrong and the stakes are actually quite high because how our child starts his or her day often can determine how the rest of the day goes, including the transition back into the home.
Preparing for a transition time
Continuing with our example there are many ways we can prepare for transitions, for example we can write out our child’s routine for them so they know what to do. We can know what we are packing for lunch, help them get their clothes ready the night before and we can get ourselves up early so that we are ready to go and can be focused on helping them make their transition smoothly. It may seem that there are transitions that we cannot plan for such as a natural disaster, yet even here we know that this is precisely why we buy insurance and why we should always have an emergency plan with our family and emergency food and supplies on-hand.
Now a little caveat here, or course we have to strike a balance as we could become obsessive about benign prepared and spend all our time on such activity, while missing the “now moment” of life itself that is going on around us, but some physical, mental, emotional preparation will go a long way towards creating a smoother and easier transition for us between events.
Awareness of our vulnerability during transition times
Transitions are times when things can go wrong. We are stepping out of one reality and moving to the next. We are out of our routine and we are suddenly navigating a different environment. The first step, of simply bringing awareness to this vulnerability, will help us to manage it successfully. Just realizing that we are more at risk for accidents, illness, stress, forgetting something important etc. during a transition time, helps us to be more careful.
Looking at our current time of transition on the planet many people are fearful, some are hopeful, some excited, some are very angry. Some people have made large amounts of money, while many are facing unprecedented financial struggles. The intensity of emotions and circumstances creates all kinds of volatile situations and a pressure cooker of energies. Since I am looking at the individual in this series, I will be focusing on what strategies you as an individual can do for yourself, your family, and your loved ones to get through transitions successfully.
What does it mean to transition successfully?
In our school example simply getting our child to school in one piece, properly dressed, and fed with their homework in their pack and a positive mood is a success! Now, seems simple enough, but for any Mom or Dad who has dealt with such situations, we know that many things can go wrong. From kids being sick to forgotten homework, lost socks, and unfinished last-minute school projects. So when the transition is successful it is uneventful, but boy do we notice it when it is not!
Keys to preparation
What are some of the keys to successful transitions? Awareness, mindset, preparedness, self-care, understanding of our meaning and purpose, and self-coaching are some of the ways we can successfully navigate a transition.
We can bring that awareness with us to transitions big and small. We currently live in “interesting times.” “May you live in interesting times,” is an often referred to Chinese curse. “Interesting” implying that a lot of change and transition are going on. Simply shining the light of awareness on the situation, that a lot is going on and we don’t know how it will all land helps us start to make sense of and prepare for the transition. With this awareness, we can also begin to have some awareness of how a transition affects other people, both in our family and beyond. More extreme behavior would be expected. People may be on edge and have a shorter fuse as they may have been pushed to the brink of their capacity to cope.
So in putting awareness into action, we may give them more space on the highway and more understanding when they are short with us or know that there simply is more potential for people to explode with rage or have an emotional melt-down. Cloaking ourselves in compassion can go a long way towards navigating interactions with other people.
In our example with our child, we can see that having awareness and compassion that it is hard to get out of our bed in the morning and leave our cozy warm house for school. This is true of our spouse as well as they leave for work. The return home is another transition time, that I will spend quite a bit of discussion on how to navigate successfully in future episodes. At this point, many people are staying home from work and home and what we actually may need to create more of is an actual delineation of a transition time. In some ways not needing to leave the house creates less stress.
There is no need to get dressed, pack, get into a car and drive in traffic. However, there is also a lack of the clean endings and beginnings that transitions create, and we may need to add and create our own rituals to transition from one activity to the next. Simply washing our hands, taking a deep breath, having a mindful drink of water, changing our clothes, doing some stretches, are ways to demarcate transition from one activity to the next.
What transition times do you notice during your day? What helps you navigate them successfully?
Stay tuned for further episodes on how to smoothly navigate Life Transitions!