Whether you’re a high schooler going into college, engaged going into marriage or going through some other type of transition, you’re going to have a rocky period before it gets better. To make that rocky period a little more smooth — and the period after that a lot better — follow these tips to maintain structured goals for any transition.
Anticipate the Situation
The best way to prepare for a transition is to acknowledge that it’s happening. You’d be surprised at how often a transition catches people off guard.
The reason for this could be the optimism bias. People tend to assume things will work out for the best. From this assumption, people are less likely to do the necessary prep work to make the future more comfortable, and so they’ll find they’re stuck in a situation they were grossly unprepared for when their optimism fails them.
So let’s say you just finished college. You don’t quite know what you want to do after graduation — you don’t have a job lined up and don’t plan on pursuing further education, so you just want to get a part-time job in your college town and maintain a stable life after college.
Since you’re optimistic you’ll find something, you don’t research the cheapest places to live for non-students or try to find a roommate if you don’t know who you would already be living with.
You’re not prepared for paying “real bills” in addition to paying off your student loans. Worse, because you’ve got a not-so-well-paying part-time job and didn’t find the cheapest living situation, you’re paying more money for a situation you’re not getting enough money to live in.
In short, you screwed yourself over because you minimized how major a transition you would be in after college and were too optimistic about doing your research.
No matter what transition you go through, such as a career change in your mid-40s or moving across the country for your partner, you need to research people who went through what you will go through to get a feel of what to expect. The worse thing is to be blindsided when you already don’t have your bearings in a situation.
Do Your Research Properly
No matter what you anticipate on going through, there will surely be someone who already went through it. Therefore, there will be a variety of people to look from the internet.
However, the thing about the internet is that people are misguided at best, stupid most often, malicious in the worst case scenario. People either don’t know how to explain a situation fully, eloquently or in ways that will help you. Thus, you’ll think you have knowledge on a situation, but you’ll find you it’s been extremely biased toward that person’s situation.
The best way to do research is to consume a variety of sources and find the average among what they say. There’s no such thing as too much research, as it’s better to err on the side of knowing too much about a potential situation than knowing too little and being caught off guard.
In addition, try contacting people personally who have been in your situation. First-hand anecdotes are one of the best ways to learn from others.
Now that you know your situation as best as you can, try to come to terms with who you are. This might sound obvious or a bit patronizing, but often we tend to overestimate our abilities and then be let down when we can’t live up to our idealistic expectations.
For example, if you’re moving to a new city for a job, we often assume we’re going to have a renewed sense of energy. It’s a new place, after all, with a myriad of places to explore. If you’re single, you’ll try giving dating a chance. You’ll want to make friends or find out what cool new hobbies you could try out in the area.
You might be overestimating your energy as to what you could do upon moving to the new city. You could find yourself burning out within the first few weeks there because you’re overexerting yourself and not giving yourself time to relax. Or you could find you have no energy at all to do anything after the move, feeling disappointed you can’t force yourself to explore.
Take a hard look at who you are and what your limitations are. When you have a healthy sense of what to expect, you can be sure to plan how to use your energy more accordingly and better plan what to do when you get to your new situation.
Log Your Journey
One of the best things to do when you’re in flux is to, in some way, record your experience. Not only will it give you a place to express your concerns or frustrations, but you can track your growth as you move in the new transition.
For example, let’s say you’re going through a divorce. It’s an arduous time for all parties involved, leading to massive change on the other side. But if you log your journey, you can see the person you were and compare that to the person you’ve become.
Not only that, but you can have a track record of what to expect if you want to impart your knowledge on someone else in the future.
While not necessary, logging your journey is a great way to maintain sanity during a particularly hectic transition while keeping memorabilia once you’ve settled into your new life.
Transition Goals Dos and Don’ts
Now that you know the basics on how to deal with a transition, let’s make sure you’re not getting too off-track in your transition goals.
Don’t Get Too Stuck On Progress
Any transition is scary, but putting too much pressure on yourself isn’t the way to make you more efficient in your journey.
For example, let’s say you’ve graduated high school and decided to get a full-time job as a mechanic or a restaurant cook. While you may have independence and be living the “adult” life by having a job and paying your bills, you might feel directionless and that you’re wasting your time.
Most young people in America hear that they must grind in their 20s to reach success for older decades in their life, meaning they can feel impatient with the lack of growth they feel they are undergoing if they’re not on track with their goals.
So when you’re in the middle of a transition, don’t put too much pressure on yourself to do too much at one time. You can’t shorten a transition or sprint your way toward success. You’ll have to pace yourself and how you grow, making sure to take time to breathe.
It’s okay to take more time than you expected or is expected of you, such as graduating college at a later age than your peers because you took a gap year or took more years to graduate. When you focus too much on progress, you may actually miss out on self-improvement in the name of momentum.
Do Stay Cognizant of Your Growth
While you should put less pressure on yourself to succeed toward a goal, still be sure to stay vigilant as to how you’re growing. No one, at any time, is not experiencing growth.
It may not seem as obvious to some compared to others. For example, if you got out of a bad break-up, you’re most likely doing the self-reflection and introspection that usually happens after a breakup to see what went wrong and how you played a part in that. There’s always something to learn when you’re put in an uncomfortable situation.
But if you’re single, or you’re maintaining consistency in your job or education, it may seem like you’ve acquired a routine that you don’t feel any growth from. You’re just going through the motions.
Growth is everywhere, though, even where you least see it. Growth is the culmination of tiny changes in your body, mind, or personality that leads to massive changes over a long period.
How do you compare to the person you were last year? The last five years? Chances are, you’re a different person to the one you once were, and that was a result of the little growths you experienced every day accumulating into overall change.
When you’re passive in your growth process, those changes may take longer to accrue. That’s why you need to be cognizant of your growth in your daily life to not only get the changes you want to see but acquire them quicker and with more accuracy.
You live only once. You should live it the way you want to, but you also don’t want to pass five, ten, twenty years and realize you didn’t do what you wanted to do with your life.
Don’t Isolate Yourself
Humans are a social animal, but it’s easy to feel discouraged to meet new people in a transition. Perhaps you’re homesick for the people you left after a move, or you can’t seem to gather the courage to head to social places.
Relocation depression is a real phenomenon people experience. It can happen physically, as with moving to a new city and finding the transition difficult, or metaphorically. If you’ve moved jobs or partners in search of a better life, the new “location” in your life might not have been what you wanted it to be, and this disappointment can spiral into depression.
One of the worst things to do when you’re already feeling down is to isolate yourself further. Social withdrawal tends to exacerbate depression symptoms, so if you’re going to prioritize anything, prioritize seeing and meeting new people in a new location in your life.
Having a robust friend circle means you have people on your side who can support you in this difficult transition. You have someone to talk to about the difficulty of certain aspects of the transition, such as navigating the city or getting a grip on your new life.
You’d be surprised at how nice people can be when you least expect them to, but it takes effort and putting yourself out there to make friends. Even if it takes you longer to make new friends during your transition, don’t neglect this important step in your transition.
Do Seek Healthy Community
We tend to be vulnerable in a transition. Even if we do weeks of research before the actual shift, we find that there are things we don’t know. Let’s say you moved to a new city. Perhaps you don’t know how to get to a certain location, experience difficulties in public transportation, or find we can’t speak to the locals as well as we thought we could.
Newbies to a new location can be taken advantage of by people who know the system better than the newbies do. People who recently moved to a new location most likely have money saved up for their move and are eager to make friends.
Benignly mooching people may ask you to pay for drinks or meals at restaurants disproportionately to the amount they pay. More malicious people may seek to use your naivety in a new city to trap you in a relationship (romantic or platonic) that boosts the toxic party’s ego at your expense. Your mental health could be used to fuel theirs.
This is why when you experience a transition of any kind and find yourself particularly vulnerable, find kinship in the people around you but be sure you’re only surrounding yourself with non-toxic people. You don’t want to be caught off guard and taken advantage of for your emotional, physical, or other vulnerabilities.
Be sure to recognize the signs of a one-sided toxic relationship. If you find that you are in one, either talk heavily with the toxic party (if possible, which is usually not the case) or cut off the relationship completely.
Don’t Forget Where You Came From
Let’s say you’re not having any difficulty at all with your new transition. You’ve moved jobs, cities, partners, and love the change. You’re lucky, and you should be happy with your circumstances.
However, when people transition successfully into a new area of their lives, they may completely close off the chapter they just ended. All the people, family members, or other support systems they used to get to that point might have been forgotten about as new people and places take priority.
Keep up with loved ones if you’re socially transitioning, don’t lose yourself completely in the new place, physically or mentally, you’ll be in.
Do Maintain an Open Mind
While The Legend of Korra may seem like a children’s show, viewers can take away key life lessons from the seemingly kiddy series. In the show, people can bend one of the four elements: Water, fire, earth, air. The protagonist, Korra, initially has difficulty mastering air bending, an element distinguished with fluidity and staying open to constant transition.
She’s told by other air benders to “Be the leaf” is it floats in the wind. Instead of staying obstinate in its path and refusing to change direction, the leaf goes wherever the wind takes it. After much difficulty, Korra finds herself mastering such fluidity and learning how to remain fluid in the changing winds of life.
There are some gusts of winds in life you can’t change, such as natural disasters, health, or negative personal affairs. In the end, you have to learn to “Be the leaf” and maintain an open mind to the changes life brings you. You’ll often find adapting to new changes rather than resisting them leads to more happiness overall.
Inspirational Quotes About Transitions
The best way to stay on track with your goals and maintain discipline is to follow the wisdom of people who came before you. Here are some of the best quotes on transitioning and making it through a transition.
“Any transition is easier if you believe in yourself and your talent” — Priyanka Chopra
Priyanka Chopra is one of India’s highest paid and most popular celebrities, winning Miss World in 2000. Her quote may seem like a cliche that essentially boils down to “Just believe in yourself.” But that’s the thing about cliches — they always have some truth to them.
In a transition, you might get caught up with what you can’t do. Maybe you can’t sing or act as well as another person, maybe you don’t think you’re as attractive as other people. When you get caught up in your limitations, you end up limiting yourself further.
Instead, take the roof off your brain. Stop thinking about your limitations, and see what amazing gifts and talents you already have. Find what you want to foster in yourself in this new transition and go with that. You have to believe in your strengths and recognize they are actually strengths to make muscling your way through a transition easier, as Chopra says.
“It is when we are in a transition that we are most completely alive” — William Bridges
William Bridges was an author, speaker, and professor who emphasized the importance of transitions. According to Bridges, transitions are how your psychology adapts to change and are the key to success. There are three parts of transitions:
- Leaving the past.
- Finding yourself in a “neutral zone” where the past has left, but the new life isn’t fully present.
- Creating a new beginning.
Perhaps Bridges is referencing the “neutral zone” in his quote as to when we feel most alive. We’ve left the past behind, and with it all the baggage and bad habits we had previously. In that neutral zone is the invigorating feeling of starting new, of limitless potential before inevitably settling down on one life path to follow.
In this transition you’re experiencing, take stock of the ways you feel refreshed on your journey through life. Don’t take this period as one of mourning the past — think of it as welcoming the future.
“Those times of transitions are great opportunities to look for recurring patterns in your life and make adjustments to build on the good and reduce the bad” — Dan Miller
Dan Miller is a life coach, encouraging people to live their best life and to make changes that will ultimately benefit you.
His quote builds off William Bridges’ quote, in that in the limbo period where you feel alive, take it as a time to awaken your sense of purpose and self-improvement. Build positive habits into your life and reduce the items that drain your life of happiness, contentment, or possibility of success.
“When you transition, everyone kind of has to transition around you” — Chaz Bono
Chaz Bono is the son of Cher and Sonny Bono. This quote reminds you of the community you live in. As you change and enter your transition, you’ll in some way spark changes in the people around you. From this, you’re creating slight gusts of wind in the world that people must adapt to, to use a previous leaf example.
Not only that, but Chaz’s quote has a different meaning as well. Chaz Bono is a transgender man, meaning he was born female but transitioned into living as a man. Therefore, his transition was a personal transformation into a gender identity he felt more comfortable with in mid-2008, a time when transgender people weren’t very accepted.
As Chaz’s quote states, when you change, you’ll spark change in the people around you. So don’t get caught up with what other people will think of you if you’re avoiding a transition you want to make. Know that your progress cannot be stunted by another person’s stubbornness. It is your progress that will inevitably lead to another person’s transition into growth as well.
Moving Forward in Your Transition Goals
You will undergo many transitions in your life, but be sure you’re making your goals as efficiently as possible to ensure they’re actually achievable.
The best way to make achievable goals is to use S.M.A.R.T. goals. It’s not only a pithy name but an acronym to help you remember the steps to effective goal making.
Make sure you know what you want. A vague goal doesn’t help you understand you want or will work to achieve. So instead of saying, “Meet people in the new city,” say “Make friends in the city.” That way, you know what you should want to do when you move to a new city.
Be sure your goal has some kind of metric system in place to help you know you’re making progress in it. So instead of saying, “Make friends in the city,” you could say, “Make at least two friends in the new city.” You have a number to work with, so if you make only one friend, you know you’re not on track with your goal.
Be sure you’re not succumbing to your idealistic expectations of yourself. Be cognizant of your limitations and don’t try to push yourself past what you know you can do. Unachievable goals are sure to burn you out, making you more likely to drop them and experience very little growth.
Be sure you’re only partaking in activities that help you achieve your goal. Relevancy goals will often mean you have to make choices with your time. For example, you could have the goal to meet you new people or to get in the habit of going on a run every day.
It’s often difficult to do both at the same time, so you would have to prioritize one goal over the other. Relevancy means you hone in your free-time to ensure you’re not wasting time in achieving your goal.
Lastly, give yourself a time frame for when you want to achieve your goals. You have all your life to achieve one simple goal, but padding the goal out often means you’re not motivated to do it quickly and efficiently. The quality of your goal-achievement suffers because you’re not placing as much importance on the goal than other responsibilities in your life.
Setting up a time limitation means you’re likely to finish your goal much faster so that you can get moving onto the next goal.
Don’t Be Scared of Transitions
Transitions are marked by periods of forward momentum. Every day is a transition from morning to night. Every night a transition from dark to light. No matter what, transitions are unavoidable, even if they seem invisible.
While minor transitions, such as the ones occurring daily, feel benign, we often feel hesitation toward major transitions. High school to college. College to the “real world.” Moving cities or partners or jobs.
Embrace the transitions you go through as a period to feel alive and renewed. See them as an opportunity for growth and a moment to thank the past for allowing you to get to where you will go. Success is at the end of transitions, but you have to make sure you’re a present traveler on that journey to get there.