“Fear, uncertainty, and discomfort are your compasses toward growth.” ~Celestine Chua
Change is never easy, yet it’s always around us. Sometimes it hits us over the head (if you experience divorce, a career change, a move, or a loss of a loved one). Other times, it’s hiding around the next corner. And most of the time, it’s happening even we don’t even know it.
My father firmly believed in the adage the only constant is change. Myself, however, I avoided change as much as I could because I didn’t want to deal with uncertainty.
After a well-scheduled high school experience, I applied early to college and graduate school just to be sure I knew my future. That worked well for a little bit. Until it didn’t. Until I realized that these decisions kept me from understanding that I was completely terrified of not knowing what to do next. That all of my early acceptances were actually holding me back from discovering what I really want.
After completing graduate school, I took my first pause, not knowing which direction I was headed in. To be honest, a pause is a kind word. It could also have been called a bit of a breakdown or simply the hard realization that life is a series of transitions and rarely “just planned out.”
A few years down the road, I found myself in another career and personal transition. I noticed I wanted to cling to something again to avoid uncertainty. After pouring through more graduate school websites and clinging to the idea that finding certain work was the answer, I realized I needed time to be in transition, even though it terrified me.
I needed time to heal and time to just be. Because that idea of being in transition made me quite uncomfortable, I knew I needed to sit with it, find my way through it, and finally become friends and a little more comfortable with transitions.
I once heard that the only way out is through. There are no short cuts. In order to hang (or some days, wallow) in and through the transition, I learned a few tools along the way:
Break the cycle of caring what other people think.
For a while, I hated when acquaintances and former colleagues would ask, “What are you doing now?” I would cower under that question and try to invent answers that would be sure to impress them, such as “I am learning astrophysics” or “becoming a ballet dancer” (both utterly and completely untrue).
On the whole, our society is fixated on success and we are rarely encouraged to take time “out.” Once I stopped judging myself, people’s questions seemed a lot less important to me and I was able to relax into my transition a little more.
Learn to just hang out. Wherever it is you are.
Take a day. An hour. A lunch break. Stop with the planning and action-stepping and self-help reading and just chill. Don’t check email. Don’t look for a solution. Turn it off. Whatever it is. It will still be there. Just take a pause and breathe. Because then the real pauses will feel a lot easier and familiar.
Be cool with the idea that there is no quick fix.
While looking for the next opportunity (personal or professional), it can be tempting to say yes to something just to end the search.
A friend of mine used to encourage her other friends to date “the second-best-guy” and to just take any job. That didn’t work for me. At all. The times I tried that left me right back at square one, even more discouraged.
The real thing takes time to find. The real thing is worth waiting for. The real thing is why we left whatever wasn’t working in the first place.
Do things that keep you centered and grounded.
It can be overwhelming to be in transition. It can be hard to make a simple decision sometimes. And it can be oh-so-tempting to self-medicate. Instead of obsessing over writing a resume or an e-mail or wasting time on Facebook, take a walk. Or sing a song or bake a chocolate cake. Or read a book or sing really loudly in the shower. Or do whatever it is that makes you feel centered. Do it every day. Commit to it.
I may not be exactly where I want to be, but I am feeling closer to it every day and am beginning to welcome transitions, because as their words says, they help us transition to the place we want to be.
Once we can soften into the transition and take the time—which is a gift—to relax into them, they can soon evolve into a place of respite, a place that is ripe with possibilities and excitement, a place that holds the space for us to become even stronger.