Think about a hamster wheel. What do you picture? Do you see the little hamster running in endless circles? Have you ever wondered where is he going in such a hurry putting up on that effort?
Well, this could be you or me, maybe someone you know. We stay on that hamster wheel and we run proudly, looking busy and determined. For someone looking from the outside, it may seem we have it all figured out. Speed is not a problem, as we are familiar with it. Exhaustion could become an issue, but we will deal with that when you get to that point. Now, what matters it to keep the wheel spinning. We do not stop. We keep going. We never stop. What would happen if we do?
When change happens, unexpected or planned, the hamster wheel is suddenly interrupted and we are forced to stop. Try to imagine how it would feel like to be thrown out from a moving wheel. You are now out of your comfort zone, in the midst of the unknown. And no, you cannot go running back to the wheel. It has been broken and it needs repairs.
I believe this triggers all sorts of emotions and reactions. Regardless of being a positive or a negative change, it is nonetheless life-altering. It has changed the way the wheel spins. A transition is yet to take place.
Given this chance to stop and look around, what else do you see beyond the wheel? How can you use what you know and what you have learned to transform the wheel into something that fits to your new reality?
These following 5 strategies are intended to help you navigate through your transition – no matter how big or small – allowing you to accept the new you and to eventually thrive.
1. Sit with your feelings: Most people do not check in with themselves on a regular basis. Most people do not like to look within and face their feelings. Why is that? Because it is uncomfortable and often painful. It is easier to stay on the hamster wheel, keep complaining and feeling bad about ourselves. It sounds unhelpful and exhausting. We have a tendency though to choose what we know even when painful and stressful, over the unknown. When change happens, it is as if you were hit right in the face. You may feel like an emotional roller coaster and that is nothing wrong with that. Sit with your feelings even if it is uncomfortable. Give yourself permission to feel confused, frustrated, angry, excited. Whatever it is that you are feeling. You do not have to interpret or react to it. Rather, allow yourself to be, instead of running away from your feelings.
2. Identify anchors from previous transitions: It is unlikely your first rodeo. Changes are constantly happening within and around us, meaning that transitions – either big or small – have taken place before. Think about the last time you went through a transition in your life and what helped you during that time. There are usually points of contact – or anchors – that keep you connected to your core, to who you are. Usually our core values are a good example of an anchor. Back to the hamster wheel, they are the mechanics of that wheel. Meaning that your core values can make anything function when assembled properly and used purposefully. Another anchor may well be your love for yourself or someone in your life, acting as a fuel and keeping you grounded to something bigger and deeper. You have navigated successfully through previous transitions. It is worth it to look back and identify those successful elements.
3. Let go of what no longer serves you: Change means something has been altered, creating space to something (or someone) new. Learning to let go is part of the process. Letting go of what exactly? When we transition to a new version of ourselves, there is always parts of the ‘old self’ that no longer fit. It means loss, losing a part of yourself, old habits and patterns, a job, sometimes people who once belong to your life. Acknowledging the loss is the first step towards accepting the new. If we stick to the hamster wheel, the process of repairing includes finding new pieces that go along with the new wheel. It is not enough to find a matching part, as it would not fit into the upgraded model. It can even be something else than a wheel! Before you move forward, pay your respects to the old, let go and welcome the new.
4. Turn to your support network: It seems we keep talking about support when addressing personal development. Asking for help is key. Seek the support of friends, family members, mentors. People who care about you and encourage you without judging, people with whom you can share your feelings and thoughts. Those who have your back will be there for you no matter what, especially during a time of transition where the path might get a bit rough. Find an individual or group of people who have been through similar challenges, who can inspire you with their successful stories despite the hurdles. Additionally, seeking the help of a mental health professional – a therapist or a coach – can provide you the guidance you need through a transition process within a safe and supportive environment. Being vulnerable is uncomfortable, but you do not have to do it alone.
5. Take your time: Life and work transitions take their time and each one of us has their own rhythm. Do not feel the need to rush through it; it is not a competition. It can take months, or even years. It does not sound particularly optimistic, but it is not as if you were sitting and doing nothing. Changes trigger questions and doubts that may not be answered right away, as they probably should not. During a transition, especially those that shake our core, plenty of what you thought you knew about yourself is questioned. Time is key to self-reflect and to put things into perspective, re-evaluate your priorities and your goals, shift your mindset toward a new reality. Take one step at a time while you reconnect to your strengths and search for new resources to put all pieces back together.
Times of transition are not a walk in the park. They do expose you to parts of yourself and your life that you have might be neglecting or avoiding. Changes are the spark for transitions; they make the wheel stop spinning. What happens next is up to you. You have the power to fuel your transitions, choosing to make that wheel spin fitting to your needs and wildest dreams.