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Life Transitions

HAVE LIFE CHANGES MADE YOU STRUGGLE TO FIND YOUR FOOTING?

LIFE TRANSITION CHALLENGES FOR HIGH ACHIEVERS

1. High achievers prefer to know and predict themselves, their surroundings, and their situational outcomes. The ambiguity of transition can be especially unsettling due to the lack of a specific path to success.

2. High achievers may feel incompetent and struggle with confidence in times of transition. In transition, the most common question high achievers ask is “am I doing this right?”

“REMIND YOURSELF OF THE PREVIOUS LEARNING CURVES AND CHALLENGES THAT YOU HAVE SURVIVED.”

–Dr. Tricia

Moving • Marriage • Going Back to School • Divorce • Empty Nest • Starting Your Business • Health Changes • Selling Your Business • Baby • Church Closes

A STORY OF TRANSITION

Mel has changed jobs and moved to take care of her mother, whose health is failing.
Mel had enjoyed a lot of positive feedback and identity at her previous job. Her mother can be demanding and critical.
We first focused on the potential areas where Mel could feel valued. The move had made her simultaneously lose positive affirmation AND opened her up to criticism. We discussed work roles, social groups, and volunteer organizations. She decided to volunteer with a non-profit. This fulfilled several functions. She was able to build community and social support from like-minded people, regain an identity role of feeling valued, and get time away from her mother. We also worked with boundary setting with her mother. Like many people, Mel felt guilty about "complaining" because she loves her mom. Loving relatives doesn't mean that they don't drive us crazy. Additionally, I made sure to track Mel's progress in building her table of resilience. See Table of Resilience for more information.

COMMON MISTAKES

 

  1. “I WANT TO MOVE.” This statement is made frequently when the world is unpredictable, and the thought of a clean slate is tantalizing. Feel free to fantasize about it, but don’t act on it.  Moving to another state does not resolve emotional turmoil.
  2. Sometimes people try to handle transition by overcompensating in the areas they think they can control. “I’m going to stop smoking, start exercising, take art classes, stop emotional eating, and start setting boundaries.” While any of these decisions may be helpful, doing them all simultaneously adds too much additional stress.  It sets one up to feel like a failure.
  3. Do not jump into a new situation to distract yourself from the pain of the old one. This strategy is most commonly seen when people choose rebound relationships or rebound career positions. It can also apply to fast decisions about finances, living situations or health choices.

STRATEGIES TO COPE WITH TRANSITIONS

Develop a Multi-faceted Identity.

Most people assume that their sense of identity is uni-dimensional and will remain the same across situations. Our identity is actually comprised of multiple facets–our engagement in various social groups, our connection to where we live, our career identity, our sports identity, our intellectual identity, etc.  Frequently, a transition challenges one of these identities. READ MORE

 Protect Your Routines

Make sure you have some basic routines that provide continuity and structure in your day. Completely unstructured days leave people feeling slightly anxious during periods of transition. Routines can also give you a sense of control due to the comfort and familiarity of them. I recall a time that I relocated for my PhD program. Nothing in my life was the same. Seeing clients was the only aspect that felt familiar. That one part of a familiar routine brought me comfort as I struggled to rebuild a multi-faceted identity.

Exercise.

Exercise is extremely effective in reducing stress and stabilizing mood. Do NOT choose this time to exercise in order to lose weight. If losing weight is your motivation and it doesn’t happen fast enough, you’ll stop exercising. Use exercise purely as a mental support factor. Twenty minutes is enough to help you get through the day.

Use Your Support System.

HIGH ACHIEVERS–I know that you don’t love asking for help (understatement). But this is the time to lean a little on those friendships you’ve cultivated. If you don’t have a support system, use Meetup or other internet options, church, and community functions to find people with similar interests, and build your support system from there.

 

There is not a perfect way to handle transitions. Follow all of the strategies above and give yourself the space to adapt.

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