By: Tosca DiMatteo
One of the definitions of transitions that I came across was “passing through a place without staying.” Well AMEN, doesn’t that sound nice? We won’t be in this place of newness and discomfort forever. Let that be a solace for those of you who may struggle with the in-betweens of life.
I remember transitioning to a new school in 4th grade — it was super uncomfortable. What I do remember is having the biggest duffle bag of my life with every marker, pen, and pencil that Staples had to offer. That was the beginning of my “over-preparing” tendency. It was hard to look cool with a duffle bag bigger than you! Transition lesson: Discomfort is part of the process.
I also remember the process of preparing for surgery. From pre-op appointments and donating my own blood to the night before and not being able to eat past midnight. My mom would let me eat late and get the most out of good food before my jaw was wired shut, or my throat was going to be in pain for a few weeks. Transition lesson: Find the silver lining.
When I decided to get my MBA, I signed up for the stats class that started three weeks before the official program began. I wanted to prepare myself for moving to a new city, studying and rebuilding my confidence in math before being in rooms with folks that I assumed were going to be smarter than me. Transition lesson: Acknowledge when you might need a little extra time and support.
None of these things prepared me for when I left my job of 5+ years and transitioned to a new company. Almost immediately upon arrival my boss gave me the book “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There” — and it was given in the energy of “change who you are and change it fast.” It was a message that cut my heart on many levels, but the real lesson for me upon looking back is that I didn’t know there was a skill-set I was missing. This was surprising to me because, as my stories illustrate, I’ve had some experience with making moves.
In my experience of working with folks in big transitions — whether in leadership or career — I see how people drastically underestimate the need for support and strategy for transitions. I’ve seen the best results with my clients when they have support through the journey of getting on the other side of the transition they were after (or put into). It pains me to see folks dive in head first into the change and think that the hurdles are all behind them — because I know a different set of challenges are just around the corner.
Last month I talked to you about The Stories We Tell (Ourselves and Others) to change our trajectory — and now I want to give you my six tips for what to do when you hit that next chapter.
[Related: Should I Stay, or Should I Go?]
And I mean properly celebrate. Remember this moment that you did a hard thing — many hard things. Remember the work it took you to enter this new chapter. Celebrate with others, honor you journey, and allow every cell of your body to jump for joy. Let it sink in.
I have been on the pathway to give myself permission to celebrate long and hard and I remember this first time I went all-in. That time was when I received a hard-fought promotion. I was having dinners and patting myself on the back for many weeks.
At the time I realized that, for one, I couldn’t just diminish this win and that it was time to honor the journey of getting to that goal. When you think about it, we don’t have a whole lot of those big milestone wins, so I realize we can’t just pass them by without allowing them to fully sink in.
On the other hand — you can also celebrate the growth that’s coming even when you didn’t invite the change in. How’s that for flipping the script? Maybe you got let go and it’s time to own it and celebrate that the universe is telling you it’s time to move on.
Alright, so we took the time to celebrate — whether by choice or by force — and we are in a new phase and that’s okay. Now it’s time to check in on the season.
2) Understand what season you’re in.
We live in a world where one season is encouraged and celebrated — which is basically the season of doing, going hard, and having the fire of passion driving us forward. But sometimes our transitions lead to a different season. Maybe it’s a season of healing, or of NOT DOING — or simply a season of feeling appreciated.
It’s easy to get caught up in the pursuit of doing enough and being enough, when you haven’t yet done the work to be in full acceptance of the fact that you belong here just by breathing on this planet, in this moment. I encourage you to consider your season and know that it’s perfect — even if it’s not the “season” everyone else is in.
Let me bring this to life a bit for you. I have a friend who is a coach (among other things) and when the pandemic hit, she was in a big season of life change and deep inner work. But she was beating herself up that she was in no shape to serve others at that time. So, on top of this big emotional journey, she was beating herself up for being in a different season than she wanted to be in.
We often cause ourselves suffering on top of suffering — yes, this is a THING. Suffice it to say that the more you truly honor what is needed at your particular time of transition, the more ease becomes available to you. And by the way, my friend’s current season is being an incredible support to others — what divine timing, right?
Now that you understand and accept what season you’re in, it’s time to align that to your intent.
3) Set your intent.
We move to intent because I need to shake you from that autopilot you are on. When you are going into a new chapter, being intentional about who you want to be, how you want to show up, and what impact you want to eventually have can be the difference between slipping back to patterns that don’t serve you and living a life that inspires you.
Let’s take for example that job transition I mentioned earlier — where I wasn’t aware of what skills I was lacking. My intent (whether conscious or not) was to prove that I was worthy of that job.
First of all — this is a terrible intent. I went in there thinking that what was appreciated and rewarded at my last company was going to be appreciated and rewarded at the new one. As a result, I went in headfirst and got myself stuck in a briar patch that I never really got myself out of — at least not without a bunch of scars.
Here are a few question prompts to consider:
- What is the mindset you want to have?
- What do you want to get out of this experience?
- What is most important to you right now?
- How do you want to feel at the end of each day?
- What habit do you want to break and/or start?
- What is the story you are telling yourself about this new chapter? Is it serving you — or do you need to discover a new one?
Transitions often come with the need to unlearn things from our past. After all, the transition is happening for a reason — likely because we’re supposed to pass through to some other experience or life lesson.
[Related: How to Illuminate and Blaze Your Trail]
4) Unlearn some things.
Whether your next chapter is to be without a job for a while, stepping into a new opportunity, or even a new life stage, my guess is there may be some things you need to unlearn.
Let’s take the transition of moving in with a new partner — you may have to unlearn leaving your toothbrush out. You may have to unlearn leaving your stuff all around the house — because there’s someone else there that wants to sit on the couch without having to move the contents of your car that you just brought in. After eighteen years, I’m still trying to unlearn places to put my purse where it doesn’t bother my husband!
When I made that big job transition, what I didn’t realize was that I had to unlearn some of the HOWs of getting my job done. I had to unlearn that because the culture was different where I went, the power structures were different, and also my boss appreciated a different approach.
Perhaps the bigger point here is not just what do you need to unlearn, but also what is actually going to serve you to do differently, versus what you’ve been conditioned to do. It’s not about judgement on what you were doing before — it’s about being adaptable and aware of your new environment or situation.
With the process of unlearning and learning, there is no better way to do this than to recruit a support team!
5) Find your support team.
Do this early and often — figure out what kind of support you may need.
If you’re starting a new job, you may need some folks who have been in that company a while to know how things operate and what the culture is. This will help you avoid any landmines.
If you’re beginning your marriage, you may want to talk to some married friends to get some perspective on compromise.
You catch my drift — no matter the situation, we will be much better off if we can surround ourselves with people that can help us along this new path.
New chapters can be challenging — in ways we expected and in ways we didn’t. The support team can help us see what’s coming and also be the cheerleaders we need to do uncomfortable and new things.
Last but not least, fly high my friends.
6) Remember to be like the eagle.
When we are entering new territory, it’s easy to get caught in the weeds of “figuring it out.” It takes a lot of capacity and energy to do things I’m talking about — which is really about reflection and awareness at the end of the day.
Any time you start to feel stressed, overwhelmed, or even confused, my council to you is to get out of the weeds and create some space for yourself.
The eagle is known to fly the highest of all the birds — and so they fly closest to the heavens. From there the world is beautiful. From there the details don’t matter. From there you can see things differently.
Be like the eagle and find the clarity you need to pass through this time of transition.
Transitions is a big topic — I could keep going here, but I should put a pin in it before the blog becomes a book. What do you think about that, anyway? Should I write a book?
Okay, so here’s the one thing I hope you take away from this entire article: Transitions are another beginning and to navigate them successfully requires care, attention, support, and patience.
This is true regardless of if it feels good, uncomfortable, horrible, or anything in between, because staying grounded is what will enable you to walk the path that is meant for you.
I love being part of the support team for folks in transition — so please reach out to me if you want to explore what that could look like.
Spread those wings my friend, you got this.
Tosca DiMatteo supports businesses to create people-centric cultures and individuals to experience transformational change to live their truth unapologetically. For details, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org to get started or schedule an exploratory call here.