Life is a journey filled with ups and downs, highs and lows, gains and losses, victories and defeats. So many times, we long for an even keel… to find a place of normality, calm, and even strength. Unfortunately, life has a way of interrupting this calm, and forcing things to be unpredictable and sporadic. And in these places we can find ourselves weak, and needing to find our strength again. The funny thing about losing your strength, is that it always seems to happen when we need it most.
Change, variation, adjustment, and transition are the most consistent threads we will find in this life. As long as the sun rises and sets, we will all experience birth and re-birth, life and death, summer and winter, spring and fall, seedtime and harvest. The question is not if we can avoid transition, because we cannot, but how we can live and thrive through it. What can we learn? How can we grow? What new capacities can we nurture in order that we may thrive?
Career and job transitions are a major part of life today. Career change statistics suggest that the average person will make a career change approximately 5-7 times during their working life. With an ever increasing number of different career choices on offer, about 1/3 of the total workforce will now change jobs every 12 months. By the age of 42 you will probably already have had about ten jobs .
Spiritual transitions are also a major part of life. Americans change religious affiliation early and often. In total, about half of American adults change religious affiliation at least once during their lives. Most people who change their religion leave their childhood faith before age 24, and many of those who change religion do so more than once. These are among the key findings of a new survey conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life. The survey documents the fluidity of religious affiliation in the U.S. and describes in detail the patterns and reasons for change .
A simple glance shows that today, we have regular career transitions, spiritual transitions, relationship transitions, mental and emotional transitions, financial transitions, geographical transitions, technological transitions, and on and on. With an uncertain economy, regular shifts in technology, employment dislocation, and relational turmoil, Transition has become a consistent part of life. Some of these transitions are transitions we plan for, expect, and even embrace. However, other transitions are unplanned for, and provide some shock to the system because we did not anticipate them. Sometimes, difficult transitions happen due to poor choices or mistakes we make. Other times, they simply occur.
This could be a huge part of why people experience so much stress today. Three quarters of Americans experience symptoms related to stress in a given month. 77% experience physical symptoms. 73% experience psychological symptoms. One-third of Americans feel they are living with extreme stress. About half of Americans (48%) feel that their stress has increased over the past five years. Money and work are the leading causes of stress (mentioned by three quarters of Americans). About half of Americans (48%) report lying awake at night due to stress.
Here is my own story of one of the major experiences of transition I have personally lived through. At one time I was strong. I was at the top of my game, pastoring a growing and thriving church. Attendance had grown close to 1000% during my time there, and the financial giving and time commitment of volunteers reflected that. I was also leading a Bible college, influencing students from around the world to make a difference with their lives. I was speaking here and there, right across North America, and truly felt I was making a difference in the world around me.
And I was. I was helping people, contributing to personal wholeness, life improvement, financial well-being, marital stability, family relationships, and seeing people realize their dreams and potential. I was also reproducing this into others. But then my personal crash came.
Personal issues I had not dealt with, which impacted every other relationship around me, finally began to rear their ugly head. I had tried and tried and tried, to work through the issues on my own, but as I successively failed things got worse and worse. I couldn’t brush it under the carpet anymore. I lost my strength… and with it, almost everything else. Major Transition which I had not planned for set in.
Losing your strength is an appalling thing. There is a huge sense of, well, loss. You had something: strength, which was your fuel and energy and motivation and drive. Without it, you are weak. Absent strength, you are strength-less, faith-less, and it seems hope-less. You feel like nothing. And the very thing that used to attract people and resources to you is gone. So you can be very, very alone, without resource or provision.
Maybe, just maybe, we lose our strength for a reason. Sometimes our hubris and self-confidence can get the best of us, and we need to understand the reality that when we are weak, then we are strong. So, how can we find our strength again and manage through transition?
Look Inside – See Who & What Is Within! I had a revelation, a bit of an “aha moment” the other day. The eye opening truth that came to me was that I am amazing. I have capacity and strengths. I have gifts and talents to offer the world. And, I’m glad to say that this is not exclusive to me. In other words, so are you and so is every other person on this planet! The seed of greatness is in me, and for sure, it is in you. In transition, learn to self-validate and acknowledge all you are and all you have… Take a look inside!
Look Outside – See Who Is Around You! See yourself as surrounded by people who care, people who will give you strength and support and nourishment. Sometimes, we feel as though there are none, but I believe, if we look for it, the universe has placed all around us people who are there for us to help and lend us a hand. As the song says, “I get by with a little help from my friends”. None of us were designed to walk alone, carry on alone, struggle alone. The seed of help and support is around me. In transition, be sure to gather in help, support, and nurture from those around you. This takes patience and vulnerability… Take a look outside!
Look Behind – See What You’ve Come Through! Every one of us have come through very difficult and trying transitions at some point in our past. Each of these times of transition and anxiety have prepared us for what we are facing today. The promise is we’ll never face more than we can handle. But sometimes we may feel like Mother Theresa, who said that, “I know God will never give me more than I can handle…I just wish He didn’t trust me so much!” Draw strength from your past and all you have come through. In transition, realize that the seeds to get through today are found in what you came through yesterday! Close your eyes and look behind you, and notice all the victories you have won, the mountains you have climbed, and the challenges you have overcome… Take a look behind!
Look Ahead – See Where You’re Going! Sometimes when we in transition, we also lose sight of the prize: our goals and dreams and visions. Please step back for a moment and remind yourself of your dreams, your goals and visions and hopes and aspirations. Never give up and never let those dreams and aspirations fade. In transition, a look ahead to the future hope that lies before us may be critical in helping us through… Take a look ahead!
Look Below – See The Journey! Sometimes when we are in transition, we also lose sight of the fact that wherever we are going, it is going to be a journey. It is going to take time, putting one foot in front of the other, one step at a time. Nothing is instant. There is no drive-thru or microwaveable instant results in life. Anything that is worth anything takes time, effort, and stick-ability. Gear up for a long journey. In transition, prep for a marathon as opposed to a sprint… Take a look below!
Look Above – See The Growth Gaps! At times in transition, we can be so stressed and so focused on simply getting through it, that we fail to learn the lessons we need to learn. The tragedy is that we always repeat the lessons we neglect to learn. So, in times of transition, ask yourself what you need to learn? What are the growth gaps? What are the things you need to learn to take you from where you are, to where you want to be. Gear up for a season of learning, because transition is all about learning, growth, and adding capacity… Take a look above!
Look To The Trailhead – A trailhead is the point at which a trail begins. It is the starting point, the reflection point before you dive in. In any transition, here are some helpful clues in starting and finishing your journey:
o Replenish – Make sure you employ fully engaged Self-Care to help fuel your tank to get you through it,
o Reflect – On what matters, and on the things that are most important.
o Refocus – On those things that make you successful….Your “L.I.F.E.F.I.T.”: The question here is what is my specific destiny as an individual? All of us have a personal sweet spot. I heard it said that the seven ages of man are as follows: “spills, drills, thrills, bills, ills, pills, wills”. A lot of people live their lives like that, just going from one transition, one stage to the next. They never stop to ask what their specific destiny as an individual is! I call this your “L.I.F.E.F.I.T.”: Your unique combination of passions, interests, gifts, personality, talents, abilities, marketable skills, education, experiences, training, people skills, calling, networking, relationships, and Opportunities where you experience abundance. Abundance flows from alignment.
o Recalibrate – Wise stewardship of your life begins by understanding your “L.I.F.E.F.I.T.”, and recalibrating your life to your “L.I.F.E.F.I.T.” What you are made to be determines what you are intended to do. If you don’t understand your “L.I.F.E.F.I.T.”, you end up doing things you are not designed you to do. When your “L.I.F.E.F.I.T.” doesn’t match the role you play in life, you feel like a square peg in a round hole. This is frustrating to you and others. Not only does it produce limited results, it is also a waste of your talents, time and energy. Abundance in life flows from alignment with your “L.I.F.E.F.I.T.”. You can find out all about your “L.I.F.E.F.I.T.” if you grab my book, “Getting Where You Need To Go”.
Unfortunately, we cannot opt out of transition in our lives. Either personally, collectively, or professionally, transition is a part of life that is non-optional. Don’t fight it. Flow with it. Don’t fear it. Feel your way through it. Don’t avoid it. Accept it. Embrace it with all your heart, and learn what you need to learn. Like the caterpillar, turn a time of transition into a metamorphosis towards excellence, fulfilled potential, and living your “L.I.F.E.F.I.T.”…