The Secret to Thriving Through a Big Change

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“You need a plan.”

This is advice that people shared with me as I left a wonderful 35 year career and stepped into the unknown. I took it to heart because I know myself and my need for a purpose. I also know there’s comfort and safety in similarity and routine. I often talk about the importance of habits and Gretchen Rubin’s quote: “Habits are the invisible architecture of daily life. When we change our habits, we change our lives.” has always resonated.

Of course, life changes and our plans, habits and routines can be upended. Sometimes, we seek out the change and other times it’s forced on us. The changes we choose may be easier to adjust to, but still not easy.

For instance, a new job is exciting and exhilarating, but we might also feel lonely or uncertain as we navigate meeting new people and understanding new systems. Or maybe we have a new brother-in-law. We’re happy for our sibling to have found someone to share their life, yet the added person changes the dynamics of family relationships, and there can be feelings of loss.

It’s been invigorating to leave my career at the right time and in the right way, happy and embracing the prospect of something new. I popped the champagne at this threshold and toasted the future. I’ve made plans for a new venture, a third act. I’m so excited about possibilities and which doors will open.

At the same time, I knew it would be an adjustment. I was right. This transformation comes with uncomfortable feelings of grief, anxiety and questioning.

Plans, goals and aspirations are good. Having an idea about what I want to accomplish in a day feels right and gives me purpose. And yet, I see my partner able to sit quietly and enjoy time, giving herself grace to experience whatever she’s doing at that moment. That’s also good.

In the fast paced and sometimes frenetic world we live in, there’s a lot of pressure to do, to produce, to solve, to figure it all out. We wake up and are instantly on the run with family tasks, work, and other commitments. We often have little time to breathe although we know that taking that time is so good for us. I’m reading lately about paying attention and daily rituals, whether during a walk through the woods, or time spent joyfully getting dressed and how this influences your everyday happiness.

As I sit with my uncomfortable feelings in this time of change, I also need to give myself the grace and space to accept them. There’s no short cut or easy way to feel better. Letting ourselves feel uncomfortable is counterintuitive, because it hurts. Also, we’ve been strongly socialized to prioritize our happiness over everything and to seek it constantly. That stance negates the full human experience of joy and sadness, grief and fulfillment. We can only be truly happy when we have been sad.

My feelings of sadness or discomfort are OK. If I feel adrift, I’ll connect with others and with my purpose. If I feel anxious, I’ll move my body, read a treasured book or sing! If I feel uncertain, I’ll explore through writing and focussing more deeply on my goals for the year. These all take time and are very worthwhile.

Today, I sat gazing out my window, paying attention to the small shifts in light, the burgeoning green on the trees, the movement on the street and the taste of my coffee. Contemplation of these things is a gift. I dreamed of the opportunity to do exactly this and it’s wonderful.

The secret to thriving through a new challenge is both simple and difficult, like so many things worth doing. Identify and accept your feelings, make plans, connect with others, share, and give yourself grace and time to come through to the other side.


One response to “The Secret to Thriving Through a Big Change”

  1. Alisa Greve Avatar
    Alisa Greve

    You are something Sue! I want a conversation about this with you. You really insightfully nailed it. Wow.

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