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A Compass for Transition

As we look at the timeline of our lives, how many transitions can we see?  Inside the womb to outside the womb counts as one of our first major transitions.  Being chauffeured, to holding a driver’s license.  Graduation, moving, marriage, births, deaths, promotions, the list goes on and on.  Transitions are endless and life-long.

One of our oldest and most essential navigational tools is the compass.  It’s mandatory equipment for anyone venturing out into the wilderness.  Without a way to re-orient yourself, the possibility of losing your way is extremely high.  I am known to all my friends and family as directionaly-deficient.  I can not get anywhere without some kind of device pointing me in the right direction.  A 16 year old tells about a time he got lost in the woods of Eastern Oregon while he was bow hunting with his dad.  “I began to feel the psychological effects of being lost, mostly frustration and some fear. I remember going back and forth from one side to the other searching for the trail and being so sure of myself and my direction that I actually discounted and didn't believe my compass.  It turned out I had walked out onto a finger of the main ridge and should have realized it if I would have simply trusted my compass instead of my feelings. ” When we are in transition we need to trust a compass, not our feelings.  

The transitions I've navigated in my life span have ranged from exciting and planned for to unexpected and potentially devastating.  What you are in the middle of today may be surprisingly similar to getting lost in the woods. You’ve left the familiar camp and need to find the main trail out of the woods.  In the middle of leaving something your accustomed to and moving toward something unknown, consider using these three practices to re-orient yourself in the heart of unfamiliar territory.  Think of them as your compass.   

Take a PAUSE

When you find yourself in yet another transition, take a pause.  Healing comes when you take time to just be.  Many times in transition you will find yourself clinging to something in order to avoid uncertainty.  Hard transitions can shake your identity.  It’s natural to define yourself by what surrounds you.  If your environment is changing, then who are you?  Getting married, having a child, job promotion, all require a re-building of your identity and a letting go of what used to be. Our fast-paced world is fixated on production.  Often times it appears that the more plates you can spin, the more you are worth. This means, taking a time out is rarely encouraged.  When you get still and quiet, pause to just be, you can stop judging yourself and discover what’s going on deep within you.  Take a day, a lunch hour, a coffee break and stop planning, don’t look for solutions, put down the electronics, and breath.  Transitions are opportunities to push pause, so that you can re-discover yourself.  

Look for GROWTH Opportunities

Within the angst of transition lie many opportunities to grow.  Take a look at the parts of your life you most value.  Bring those parts with you into this new chapter.  Inventory the areas in your life that you’d love to see change.  Start practicing some new habits.  What parts of your life have you been neglecting? Create a new routine that incorporates these bypassed pieces of your life. Now is the time to explore, brainstorm, make-over before your life begins to solidify into a new pattern.  Transitions are those unique times when we toss off the old but have not yet stepped into the new.  Seize the opportunity!

Be REAListic

That early transition we call birth, took some time. Be realistic about the time frames and expectations. Tough days are part of it.  Just expect them.  It’s not the end of the world, just part of life.  Be patient with yourself and others.  New relationships, new roles, new neighborhoods all require an adjustment period.  Give yourself six months on a new job, a year in a new relationship, two years in a new community.  Not allowing plenty of time only puts more stress and strain on you.     

The dictionary defines transition as the process or period of changing from one state or condition to another.  Transformation is behind the scenes of transitions.  Allow the transition to usher in a metamorphosis for you!


Actions to Annihilate the Negative

50,000 times a day.  That’s how often you talk to yourself, according to the researchers.  Sadly, 80% of it is negative — I shouldn’t have said that . . . She doesn’t like me . . . I’m never going to get this done . . . I can’t . . . I’m not . . . I’m stupid . . . I’m always . . .

Negative thoughts control our actions.  They can make us stammer, forget the speech we’ve memorized, take shortened breaths, feel anxious and start sweating.  Lie detectors show the reaction our body has to our thoughts — temperature changes, elevated heart rates, tightening of muscles, and increased blood pressure.  While negative thoughts weaken our bodies, positive thoughts impact our bodies favorably.  Endorphins are secreted with each positive thought reducing pain and increasing pleasure.  

Question It

Clinical neuroscientist and psychiatrist Daniel Amen says, “Don’t believe everything you hear—even in your own mind.” Most of the negative thought in our brain is not based on truth but instead our imagination.  In his book The Success Principles, Jack Canfield suggests that we constantly ask ourselves these questions:

Is this thought helping or hurting me? Is it getting me closer to where I want to go, or taking me further away?  Is it motivating me to action, or is it blocking me with fear and self-doubt?  

Talk Back

Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston, tells a story about her daughter.  Ellen was playing in the “Glitter Center” in her kindergarten classroom when her teacher said, “Ellen!  You’re a mess.” Ellen very seriously responded, “I may be making a mess, but I’m not a mess.”  40,000 times a day, talk back!  Object to the negative talk (both yours and others) and move toward language that adds value to you.

Take Inventory & Responsibility

An exercise created by Doug Bench, a brain researcher, recommends that you write down every negative thought you think, say or hear for 3 days.  This will highlight how much negativity is running through your system.  Once you're aware of this self-deprecation, you’ll have a burning desire to bring it to a halt.  Consider finding an accountability partner to catch you every time you mutter a negative word.  A business meeting I attend requires everyone to pay a dollar into the pot when we’re caught complaining, blaming, or spewing negativity.  Build in some kind of cost that you pay every time someone catches you verbalizing the negative. In the beginning you will need pockets full of dollar bills. By day 5 or so you’ll be escorting those automatic negative thoughts right out the back door.

Accentuate the Positive

Determine to focus on the positive.  Dwell on positive messages about yourself and your future.  Also, practice marinating in the good moments — a hug, a joke, good conversation. By doing that a few times a day, you will weave positive resources into the fabric of your brain and chip away at the negativity. Ruminating on the positive will not only impact how you physically feel but it will also add value to your life and the lives around you.

Just because you hear or think it doesn’t mean its true.  You are ultimately in charge of listening and agreeing with the thoughts in your mind.  Transformation of your inner judge can start today, why wait until tomorrow to get started?