How to Navigate Life’s Transitions
“The only constant in life is change”-Heraclitus
This statement has never been more applicable than it has in the last 18 months. Every single one of us has gone through massive, unforeseeable, and unavoidable change. The real key is how we adapt to that change and how we navigate the transitions from the old way of being to the new way of being. Today I want to share a little bit of my story with you and some of the ways I have navigated the transitions in my life.
In December of 2019 I sold the business that I had started from scratch 16 years earlier. My intention was to transition my career from CEO of a large organization to speaking professionally in the leadership and men’s health arena. Imagine the feeling. Moving from success to significance with a healthy exit from my business and a slate of speaking engagements lined up. The future was definitely bright indeed.
I’m sure you can guess the next part of the story. As COVID started to unfold I kept thinking that it would pass and have little impact. I remember vividly when I heard that the NBA had decided to postpone the entire season and thinking “Are you kidding me? How is this possible? Oh shit, this isn’t going away soon”
Two months into my new speaking career and the entire world gets shut down with a global pandemic. Talk about having to navigate change!
After my last live speaking engagement on March 6, 2020 I was on cloud 9! I had the opportunity to share my message with my dream audience; Men who wanted more from life. Men who wanted to contribute more to the world around them and create a legacy larger than themselves.
It all happened so fast! Within a week of that event the world shut down completely! Suddenly I was forced to sit idly by and watch all of the future events I had been booked for quickly move from ‘postponed’ to completely cancelled.
Suddenly I had all the time in the world to reflect on how I was going to navigate this change. I sat back and reflected on so many of the transitions in my life and thought about how I had navigated those. Most of these transitions I moved through unconsciously. I did so without intention. This time it could be different. This time I could be much more deliberate and intentional about how I moved forward.
Transition point: There was a time when I would have really struggled to call myself a leader. I can clearly remember the very first time that someone I was pitching an idea to said to me
“Clearly you are a strong leader…”
Whoa! I was impacted by those words. A transition in how I saw myself.
Transition point: I recall being in a workshop on mentorship where the facilitator said
“The basis of leadership is self awareness”
While I had always worked on personal development this new knowledge caused a subtle shift in my journey as I adjusted and enhanced my self leadership.
Transition Point: As my business grew and I eventually merged my company and partnered with another exceptional leader.
I had to learn to co-lead.
Transition Point: Through many ups and downs my partner Gord and I ultimately found strong success in our industry. Yet, for me, there was still something missing. From the outside looking in I should have been on top of the world. I had achieved many, if not all, of the things people in my shoes strive for.
I started to explore how I could utilize that success to create impact in the world around me. I didn’t strive less, however that striving changed. It shifted. I was now looking at how to move from success to significance. How to create a legacy and use my influence to create a better world.
Transition Point: After selling my business not only did I have to navigate the transition that COVID had forced, I also had to navigate this shift in identity. I had to move from being ‘The Leader’ to being a speaker and coach who helps other leaders impact change. This transition would require a renewed focus and discipline. This time I was more aware of the transition than ever before. There would be much more intentionality.
As I reflect on my journey I realize that one of my greatest gifts is using my experience to coach others through transitions in their lives.
I have assisted employees who have struck out on their own in business, I have helped many navigate relationship transitions whether by choice or by circumstance.
I have helped business leaders as they guided the transition of thIer business through a global pandemic.
I have helped men transition from old ways of thinking into a more productive and positive view of what it means to be a man.
I have worked with youth at risk as they start their transition into adulthood. I have led groups exploring what it means to “be a man” and come out as an emotionally connected adult.
I have assisted many through, what I would call a midlife correction, as they start to realize old paradigms of who they thought they were supposed to be do not serve them any more.
I was working with my coach last week narrowing down my area of expertise. We looked at what is uniquely me and what my niche is. This is something that I have always struggled to narrow down. My areas of interest and expertise are extremely wide and I am typically reluctant to pigeon hole what it is I do.
After some discussion about who my perfect clients were, a pattern started to emerge. Most of the individuals and organizations I worked with were navigating some kind of transition. Sometimes it was a transition of choice, sometimes a transition of circumstance and sometimes, together we would find that a transition is what was required in order to move them forward.
So the question becomes how does one successfully navigate the transitions in life going forward and what can we learn from the transitions of the past? There is no one size fits all answer to this question. However I can assure you that success leaves clues.
Here are some of the tools I have used to navigate transition in my life and how you can implement those tools in your own life.
Learn to S.O.A.R
Transitions can cause deep emotions to flow in our lives. S.O.A.R. is the framework I have used to help many men navigate challenging times and the subsequent emotional turmoil. We make decisions based on emotion and if we don’t understand the underlying emotions that drive the decisions we make we have no hope of living a purposeful life.
S.O.A.R. stands for:
Reconnect with self.
Deeply unpacking this framework is beyond the scope of this article however you can down a more descriptive infographic here.
Take some time to look back at some of the transition points in your life. Did you recognize them as transitions at the time? What are some of the lessons that you learned from those transition points that you can take with you moving forward?
What are some of the current transitions that you may be going through? Those struggles you may be facing right now? Maybe they are more than struggles. Maybe they are precursors to change. They are part of the evolution of you.
Take note of how the transition makes you feel. As I discuss a lot, our emotions drive our decisions. If we are not clear on the feelings that form the foundation of our reason it becomes impossible to live a purposeful life. Our emotions can easily hijack our brain and cause reflexive responses. Understanding how we feel about what is going on around us is the first step in preventing undesirable emotional hijacking.
Once you are aware of the transition points in your life then you can start to be more intentional about how you navigate them. With awareness comes choice. You may or may not have chosen the transition, however you can certainly choose how you navigate it.
If you are in it against your will you can look to see if there are choices that you can make to prevent it and if not you need to decide to accept it. After all, if you have no choice, you have no choice.
Shift your mindset
What happens when you shift your language from “Why is this happening to me?” to ask the question “How is this happening for me?” A subtle but powerful shift in how we look at things that ultimately changes how we feel about things which in turn allows us to adjust how we react to these events.
Understand that the only thing you have control over is you. There are many things in life that you cannot control so do not waste time and energy trying to control the uncontrollable.
Transitions can be challenging. Whether in business or personal life just know that you do not need to navigate alone. This can be exceptionally challenging for leaders to acknowledge. As leaders we tend to feel like we are supposed to be the ones providing support not the ones seeking it. However the best leaders know that they do not have to know or be everything. The best leaders are the ones that are not afraid to surround themselves with people who are better than them. They surround themselves with people who are willing to share their input and tell it like it is. The best leaders do not need sycophants; they need people who are willing to challenge and support them.
The time to prepare for transition is not during the transition. It is well in advance. For the transitions we choose we have the opportunity to be mindful about that preparation. For the transitions we do not choose we need to ensure that we have done what we can to practice some of the meta skills we will need during transition.
We can practice recognizing how we feel in all situations. We can practice grieving loss in the smaller domains of our lives. Be assured that you will have to grieve the old ways of being for any transition.
We can prepare by getting clear on our values and intentions so that when transition points come we have a north star to turn to when making decisions.
I could write forever on this topic. If you’ve come this far why not take a few more minutes and put some of this into action. Take 10 minutes and write out some of the transition points in your life. Reflect on what you learned as a result of those transitions or what you have yet to learn.
Share with me in the comments some of the transition points and lessons you have learned in your life. What are some of the lessons that you struggle to learn?
If this piece was valuable to you please share it. I’d also love to hear from you directly if you are navigating a transition in your life. Send me a note at email@example.com