I want it, and I want it right now. It sounds like something a little kid would say, right? But if you’re being honest with yourself, you probably experience this feeling more often than you would like to admit. Many of us see at least a loose vision for what we would like our lives to look like, but the distance between the way our lives are now and the way we want it to be can seem daunting. At times, it may seem like we will never really get there. In those moments, we’re usually not thinking clearly. That’s why it’s important that we retrain our minds to be more patient with our circumstances and focus on what we can do in the moment to get closer to where we want to end up.
I think it might helpful to define what I’m talking about when I say “seasons of transition.” I’m referring to any period of time in our lives where we are either healing from a wound (physically, mentally, emotionally) or trying to get to the next phase of our lives (getting a new job, graduating school, trying to have a baby, getting out of debt, etc.).
The trouble is if you spend all your time focusing on what could be, you will almost always miss out on what is right in front of you. Speaking from experience, I can tell you that in some of the most difficult seasons of our lives, one of the most important practices we can incorporate is living in the moment. I know that seems counterintuitive. But escapism only masks the underlying problem that something is out of sync in our lives.
Many times the initial reaction to a setback is feeling that something knocked us off course. Whether it’s a job loss or a breakup or not achieving a goal, in the moment, it probably feels like something went wrong. It’s only when you can step back and see the bigger picture that you can realize how many other paths there are for you to go down. So that road was a dead end – take the next one. In seasons of transition, it’s important to reframe what brought you to this crossroad. Instead of thinking, what could I have done differently? Start with, what can I do to improve what I’m thinking and feeling right now? And then ask, what’s next? It’s critical to stop and ask the first question so that you can figure out how to cope with your feelings in a healthy and productive way. If you don’t let yourself feel your feelings today, tomorrow’s feelings will be twice as intense.
The thing about life is that it will never turn out the way you planned. While that may seem discouraging at times, that also means that it could turn out better than you could have ever dreamed. Maybe it’s not a setback. Maybe it’s actually removing a roadblock to open up space for a more fitting opportunity.
Leaning in to the best parts of a bad situation
When I got a concussion last year, I was out of work for weeks and wasn’t able to come back full time for a couple months after that. On top of the pain from the head injury, I suffered from the constant feeling that I needed to be productive, even when my body told me I needed rest. And the worst part was that the doctors really didn’t have a good idea of when it would fully heal. Week after week, I was told I couldn’t resume my normal life yet. But I knew that I needed to find some good in the bad to keep myself sane.
To start, you need to take stock of any positive aspects of the bad situation. For instance, I had more free time to spend with my new boyfriend, which helped us develop a closeness quickly. I also learned to slow down a bit more, which is especially important to those of us who are constantly on the verge of burnout. Those were the parts that I clung onto as I waited for that phase of my life to be over. That’s where the next part comes in: take note of everything you learned from the bad situation that will help you through your next period of transition.
Giving yourself grace
As we start not just a new year but a new decade, the air seems to drip with opportunity. We can feel it all around us. Everyone is gearing up to make big moves or at least attempt to. But there’s a reason so many people are skeptical of New Year’s Resolutions. It’s because they are like diets – just a temporary fixes to larger issues. You won’t magically become a morning person because you set a resolution and wake up early a few mornings in a row. One day you’ll hit the snooze button. And then maybe the next day you sleep through it altogether. And pretty soon you’re right back at square one – unless you give yourself the grace to know that this is a transition period. One bad day doesn’t mean you are incapable; it means you are human.
So, instead of setting New Year’s Resolutions this year, I challenge you to set goals that you know sometimes you won’t achieve but you’ll keep going anyway. Somedays you’ll fall short. But over time, you’ll become that person you’ve been dreaming about, because you’ve put in the work.
“So don’t ask me how to get started, it’s all uncharted”
Ten years ago one of my favorite singers, Sara Barielles, released the song Uncharted. When I started this blog, just a year later, I used excerpts from my favorite songs to further convey the message in many posts. I’ve been working on this post for a few weeks, and that song happened to pop up in Spotify again. So, I decided while we’re doing some reflection on the last decade, I’d like to embrace that old tactic of mine one more time.
Where you are to where you want to be
And you'll get nowhere
There is no road map to life. We study history mostly to look for what not to do – to avoid repeating it. We’re left to figure it out for ourselves and, let’s be honest, most of the time we’re all just winging it – no matter how much we plan. So, then why do we put so much pressure on ourselves to have all the right answers? We wallow in self-pity when we seem to have guessed wrong and over-rejoice in our successes when we happen to guess right. We are all a work in progress, trying to adjust to an ever-changing world that leaves us all constantly journeying out into uncharted territory.
When Apple first released the first Macintosh computer, they never dreamed in just a few decades everyone would have a personalized computer tucked in their pockets. They dreamt of trying to get these clunky machines into people’s homes. What I’m saying here is stop comparing what your life is like right now to what you want to be someday. You can’t even imagine the possibilities the future brings.
Transition periods are not easily defined
Our concept for time provides us with a mental model that is black and white. There is the past, the present, and the future. The weird thing about the present is that is fleeting. It’s constantly changing. That means in order to really make sense of it and not lose our minds trying to keep track of the present, we have to live in the gray area. We accept that the present is simultaneously the past and that we can never truly see into the future. That fact can make difficult parts of our lives seem more important than they really are to the future.
Because transition periods are not easily defined, you probably won’t know when it’s over until it’s really in the past. Looking back, I can tell you I probably stopped experiencing post-concussive symptoms five months after my I got a concussion. But while I was in the thick of it, it felt like my new normal, and it took everything in me to continually remind myself it wasn’t a permanent state. There’s always going to be something we are working to improve in our lives – be it relationships, careers, health or just ourselves – but it’s on us to set ourselves up for success when those especially difficult seasons hit. A wise woman once said to me, your happiness starts from within. So, what are you going to do today to take care of yourself tomorrow?