How to Thrive in Transitions

Posted on: May 24, 2017

Wondering how to thrive in transitions? I know you can approach change with grace and steadiness.

Last week, I made an entire room of intelligent, beautiful women really mad at me…


Well, I was invited to speak at a women’s luncheon for the local wealth management company, Truepoint, and their female clients about how to handle the inevitable changes life throws at us. When I came up to the front, all the women were sitting in their seats savoring their chocolate cake and sipping their coffee. The first thing I said to them was: “Stand up, push in your chair, and find a new seat.”

You should have seen the looks on their faces. They were not happy! Some froze in denial, some stayed put and didn’t budge, and others tried to figure out how to carry their purse, chocolate cake, coffee, and place card with them. A couple women glared at me while others switched seats with their girlfriend next to them hoping this move would count, and one even ran up to me to ask if this was a long term change or if she would be returning to her seat.  It was chaos!  After giving them a chance to react and let the new reality sink in, I let them return back to their seats.

There was a huge sigh of relief in the room.

I forced them to change, and all of their reactions were normal. They were experiencing and displaying Elizabeth Kubler Ross’s Five Stages of Grief or Loss: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.  While asking someone to switch seats may seem a small loss, a change of any kind can make us experience feelings of grief.

This is because all change is a loss of what once was.

When I “googled” the word change, I discovered that the Chinese word for change is comprised of two symbols: danger and opportunity. But change is more than just a google search result or a linguistic symbol and often there is no way to prepare for it.

We just simply have to experience it.

All change begins with a time of transition–which is usually the hardest part. Sometimes, we ourselves are the cause of these transitions. We choose to take a new job, move to a larger house, leave the workforce and retire. But, sometimes, the change happens to us. A loved one passes away, a child moves out, or a job is lost, and we now have to learn to live with what’s happened. No matter the cause of the change, times of transition leave us feeling as though everything is falling apart. We feel out of control, afraid of the future, and emotionally unstable.

If you have been through childbirth, then you know that ‘transition’ is the word for the time between laboring and delivering and is the final and worst part of the whole experience.

Ever go on a diet? Those first few days are the WORST. Think about it– your body is transitioning from foods that have been your normal to foods you want it to accept as the new normal. Five years ago, my husband and I went on a 21 day reset to detox and improve our eating.  My son Oliver recently told me that the first three days of that reset are embedded in his young memory as the only time he saw his mother REALLY LOSE IT!

No coffee! No sugar! No meat! No wine! Come on!!!!! I was grieving!

So how do we get through the transition; the unavoidable chaotic part of any change? Here’s how to thrive in transitions:

    We have built-in rituals to celebrate endings and new beginnings– graduation and retirement parties, baby showers and housewarming celebrations. So why not create your own? Acknowledge your personal transitions by creating rituals to help you say goodbye to the end of one thing before you enter into the beginning of the next thing. Our family recently moved from the only home my children knew and we wanted to honor and acknowledge what they were losing–their childhood playroom, the only bedrooms they had ever known–so we took them through the house and let them each pick places they wanted to say goodbye to. When they came to their spot, we would take a picture of them there.  My most romantic child chose to take a photo of the hallway from his bed, just as he would have seen it every night before he fell asleep. By doing this, our kids were able to say goodbye to the old and make room to accept the new.
    In a time of transition, there is a lot of uncertainty and unknown and it’s easy to feel a little out of control. So find friends and family to support you or even a specific place where you can go that feels familiar. Whatever you can do or wherever you need to go so you can recognize yourself once again. Another aspect of this is treating yourself well–pamper yourself with a warm bath or a manicure. Pay attention to your sleep and give yourself space and a little silence. Find ways to incorporate moments of pleasure into your day to day, something as simple as savoring a beautiful spring day can renew and rejuvenate your spirit.
  • Practice AS IF
    Start imagining, dreaming, thinking; pretending what it’s going to be like once the change happens.  Actors do this all the time. For me, I had to practice AS IF I were a teenage boy or a ghost of Christmas Past or an amnesiac nun–none of which I actually am! No matter how busy the time of transition is, make room for you to spend some time practicing what your life will look like after the change. Envision the best possible outcome. This can be as simple as creative visualization or journaling your thoughts. Give yourself time to forget about what you’re losing and focus instead on the possibilities ahead.

The key is to view it as an opportunity not a crisis and embrace the process.

Norman Vincent Peale wrote a book in 1952: The Power of Positive Thinking.  It is a classic and holds so many valuable truths. He talks about the power of your thought and that you can think yourself in or out of a situation.  He says that thoughts are things and they possess dynamic power.  Instead of thinking yourself into a rut of sadness and pain, harness the power of your thoughts and think your way to a better, brighter future.

Or, in Peale’s words: “Change your thoughts, and you can change your world.” It may not be easy but it will definitely be worth it.

What transitions are you going through now? Or what have you learned about yourself during a transition? Comment below and share your story!

And be sure to read the next installation of my tips for transition.