Autumn has finally arrived in my home area. I truly enjoy the changing of the seasons, especially the crisp, cool weather of the fall. Each new season also reminds us of the good times we experienced in the previous season. I had a great summer, spending most of it at the shores of a beautiful lake. So, a very good summer has ended and a beautiful, cool new season has begun.
Life is a lot that way. We enjoy many good experiences in life that eventually end. But, when they do, what comes next? Certainly, some transitions are easy. When your 5 year old goes to kindergarten, the goodness of a happy childhood transitions to something else that holds promise and excitement. However, when a happy or good chapter of your life is interrupted unexpectedly, what comes next? How do you handle those sudden changes that abruptly alter your life? What’s next after you lose a job you love? How do you acclimate to life alone? How do you survive, then thrive when undergoing a life-altering event?
I have observed or experienced seven key tools that can help this transition from something good to something new:
- Force yourself to breathe (Don’t quit!) – When thinking back to sudden life changes I have experienced, the first thing that occurs is usually panic. You are thinking, “How could this happen? Why me? Why now?” One of those initial reactions might be wondering how you can possibly go on. You might be tempted to just give up. However, picking yourself up and recognizing that you have to keep going is an important first step in such a transition. This does not normally come naturally, so you might have to remind yourself to breathe… to put one foot in front of the other… to get out of bed. Overcoming these first pangs of panic is important in re-establishing a sense of normal.
- Limit your time looking back (Don’t linger in the past!) – My wife’s grandmother lived through the depression and two World Wars. She saw famines, hard times, and loss. One of the things she used to say and encourage others when a life-changing event occurred was to take the necessary time to mourn the good times, but there comes a day when you have to pick yourself up and move forward. It was her way of saying that a time of reflection is necessary, but we cannot let the past swallow us up. It is good to set a time to reflect, after that, we need to get going again.
- Realize that good often gets in the way of better (Look ahead!) – Sometimes, the end of one good thing leads to a better thing… or even a great thing! How many of us were stunned to lose a job, but, after finding a new job, could honestly say that it was a blessing in disguise. We may have never taken that bold step to do something new without that boost. Realizing that life changes often lead to “our biggest break” can motivate us during times of transition.
- Be open and lean on others (Don’t do it alone!) – We were all raised to become independent. We were encouraged to stand on our own feet and “just deal with it.” Often, we feel that this means we keep our hurts and disappointments to ourselves. This may not be the best way to handle life changes. By sharing our feelings with others, the burdens become shared and, thus, lighter. This is why we all need relationships and friendships to share the highs and lows of life together. Being open, honest, and transparent can often deeper the relationships we already have, as well.
- See the big picture (Broaden your perspective!) – In the midst of a life struggle, it might be difficult to see how it fits into the overall puzzle of our lives. Even negative events are pieces that help to make us whole and complete us. Often, the struggles we face today become pathways of hope for others. My own career journey has provided me with many good and negative examples that I now use to help mentor others. That doesn’t mean it was easy at the time, but if we remember that our experiences make us who we are, it helps us to see a broader picture and might provide encouragement during the struggle.
- Look forward (Trust God!) – For me, the most important tool I have to get me through life transitions is my faith in God. His constant care, guidance, and love for me sustains me. When I trust in Him, my cares diminish. God’s Word, the Bible says, “Cast all your cares on him because he cares for you.” (I Peter 5:7) I believe this and it encourages me.
- Imprint happy memories of the past (Remember and Learn!) – My daughter’s family recently lost their pet dachshund that had been a member of their family for ten years. Yesterday, my four-year-old grandson from that family said to me, out of the blue, “We’re glad we still have dog food at our house because that helps us remember when we had a dog.” Remembering those “good times” is important. Looking back can often help us to look forward. And, learning from our past helps us make better decisions and appreciate each day more that we might have otherwise.
Someone once said,
“The most beautiful moments always seemed to accelerate and slip beyond one’s grasp just when you want to hold onto them for as long as possible.” ―
We cannot always hold onto those “good things” that come to us. Learning to appreciate each day for what it is and to move beyond life changing events are important life lessons that make us better individuals in the end.
I have often said to others, “Today might be your best day yet.” However, when it is not… learn from it, appreciate it, savor it, and look forward to tomorrow. You never know when that “best day yet” might come.