Your plans for the future are a story you tell yourself. Some of the chapters are easy to imagine and plan, like buying your first home, sending your kids to college, or picking out dream retirement destinations with your spouse.
But life has a way of throwing unexpected plot twists at you, such as, say, a global pandemic that upends how you live and work. If you feel like your story has lost some of its most important plot threads, use this three-step method to find a new happy ending.
An unexpected job loss. The death of a loved one. Losing your home in a fire. A major illness.
Life is never the same after you experience these kinds of unexpected transitions. Your lifestyle might change. Your relationships might change. Your daily routine might change. And your long-term personal, professional, and financial goals might have to change as well.
Letting in feelings like sadness, embarrassment, and fear can be challenging. If you’re having trouble expressing yourself to your spouse or another confidant, try journaling. Getting your thoughts and emotions down on paper can help open you up for the conversations you need to have as you navigate through this transition.
Now that you’ve accepted this change in your life, you need to figure out how you’re going to adapt to it. Significant transitions often feel so overwhelming that they can be paralyzing. Where do you start?
Start with today.
Break the new transition into smaller parts. What is one thing you can accomplish today and can build upon tomorrow? If your doctor says you need to eat better, make a new core grocery shopping list. Need to exercise more? Buy a pair of running shoes. Ready to make a career change? Brush up your resume so you can start a job hunt. Register for an online class to help you make a career change. If it’s time to tighten the family belt, strip out all the “extras” and focus on what’s most important to you.
Racking up small, daily wins will make this transition feel more manageable. It may challenge you, but it may also be the catalyst that pushes you to create new habits leading to a healthier, happier, and more productive you.
In the moment, unexpected transitions can feel like an end. But, as you gain momentum from your new routines, you’ll start to see new opportunities ahead of you as well. As one difficult chapter closes, you begin writing a new, more hopeful one.
Some of the details in this revised chapter may be different than you imagined. Not all change is bad. Maybe, instead of retiring to that beachfront condo, you remodel the family home and are blessed to have your grandkids over more often. Perhaps, being “forced” to hang up your tennis racket isn’t the takeaway you thought it would be as it leads you to take long walks with your spouse and spend more quality time together. If one phase of your career is over, it might be time to promote yourself to the CEO of your own company or finally find the time to volunteer to the important causes in your life.
Some of life’s greatest moments happen after difficult or challenging times. We can’t control the world around us, but we can control our response to it. Approaching life transitions with an accept > edit > rewrite mindset can help you navigate life’s twists and turns with confidence and hope. As Winston Churchill famously said, “I am an optimist. It does not seem much use to be anything else.”