4 Tips For The Initial Stages Of Major Life Changes

By Denise Hellekson
The Village Business Institute

How many of us dream of having a “Do-Over” at some point in our lives? How many of us have had several of them already? They are the significant changes we make that set our life in a new direction. They take us out of the familiar and help us to redefine who we are, what we want, and what is fulfilling in our lives. They help us to keep growing, stretching and leaning into possibility.

While I believe new beginnings can be a grand adventure, as with all good adventures, I also think there are moments of absolute confusion, grief and panic. If we can anticipate some of the more challenging terrain on the journey, it might help us to better prepare and navigate the challenges.

I suspect for most of us the initial stirrings of major change do not come with fanfare and joyful anticipation. I think the initial stages of a “Do-Over” can be quiet and unsettling and uncomfortable. The process can start out slow and subtle; not feeling the connection or the fit you used to have in your life, whether in your relationships, or personal interests, or your career; feeling like something is different, but not knowing what it is or how to change it.

When a woman is pregnant, the transitions can be challenging, but she has something tangible to explain the internal changes and emotions. When you are pregnant with possibility, and a new chapter has taken seed within you, it can be much more confusing and distressing without anything tangible to point to that explains these significant internal changes.

At times like this, you can chastise yourself, “What is wrong with me?” “I’m just getting lazy,” “I’m being ungrateful for all the good in my life,” etc. You can try to force yourself to ”snap out of it;” distract yourself with more things to keep you busy; or escape into food, chemicals, activity, or other people’s drama so that you don’t notice the changes (those subtle empty spaces that are starting to occur where fulfillment used to be). Unfortunately these choices come with consequences, one of which is missing or postponing your opportunity to step to a new beginning.

If you think you might be seriously depressed or in need of medical attention, it is always best to consult with professionals. However, I would strongly suggest that you entertain the idea that maybe you are on the verge of significant changes in your life, that maybe you are stepping away from the familiar in order to discover a new chapter/beginning in your life.

Here are a few brief tips to help you through the initial stages of transformation:

1. Pay attention to the changes. Be mindful of the things that no longer fit. Allow yourself time to grieve and release that which no longer fits. Realize that every new chapter starts with releasing the old.

2. Let yourself live in the questions…(but ask good questions)

  • What am I stepping away from? What no longer fits or brings me a sense of fulfillment?
  • What remains? What still has value and importance for me?
  • With all that is changing in my life, who am I? When we begin stepping away from things that used to bring us a sense of connection and fulfillment, we can feel very confused about our sense of self. Yet, out authentic self is always there to keep us grounded, if we take the time to pay attention.
  • What would I do if I knew I couldn’t fail?

Don’t expect to have immediate answers, give yourself time to explore the questions and live into the answers. They will be worth the wait.

3. Let fear have its say, but do not let it have the last word. It can be unpopular to allow yourself to pay attention to the “less-than-stellar” emotions you are experiencing. However I believe all our emotions give us important information that can help us ride the tides of change. By looking at our fears, we can uncover the issues we are wrestling with, give voice to the messages and let go of the old baggage we might be lugging along on this journey to new life. By letting them have their say, we can diffuse the intensity and power they have over us and unlock the keys to moving forward. It is okay to say that in this new landscape of change, I am afraid! By facing the fears, we can let them go, set down the old messages and baggage that we do not have the energy or desire to carry with us into our new beginning. We can look at the warning signs our fears are giving us, and make choices based on their cautionary reminders.

4. Do not let fear have the last word…sorry but this bears repeating. Do not let fear direct your self-talk or your choices, but trust in yourself and the process. Remember other times in your life when you have successfully stepped from the known/dependable/predictable into a new landscape. Be gentle with yourself and honor the process and the changes that are signaling a transition in your life.

Do-overs, new beginnings, transformations—throughout our life they whisper to us to step out of our comfort zone and into the adventure of possibility. Although they may be challenging, they are an opportunity worth embracing.

Denise Hellekson, The Village Business Institute
Denise Hellekson, The Village Business Institute

About the blogger
Denise Hellekson provides EAP counseling, training, consulting, and crisis response services for The Village Business Institute. She has a master’s degree in Community and Rehabilitation Counseling from St. Cloud State University; and is a Licensed Independent Social Worker and a Qualified Neutral under Rule 114 of the Minnesota General Rules of Practice (Mediator). Hellekson has many years of experience in counseling, advocacy, and consulting services.