‘It’s only after you’ve stepped outside your comfort zone that you begin to change, grow, and transform.’ —Roy T. Bennett
Perhaps you’re embarking upon a new job, a new relationship or a new creative project. Perhaps you’re moving across the world or finally coming home.
Whatever the case, your life is about to change.
And so are you.
You can make the most of this transition by doing three key things: Learn humbly from the past, live mindfully in the present, and plan critically for the future.
Think Deeply About the Past
When you move forward into a new stage of your life—whether you’re excited, terrified or a bit of both—you might be tempted to forget about the past. After all, what’s done is done, right?
However, it’s important to remember that your past is what brought you to your present. The most valuable thing that you can do is to actively learn from it.
Acknowledge that not everything about your past is negative: While gazing at the future through rose-coloured glasses, you may only recall terrible things about anything that came before. Instead, get in the habit of positive thinking by writing down everything that you actually liked about your previous situation. For example, even if your boss got under your skin, perhaps you and your co-workers formed lifelong bonds that you should focus on maintaining as you move into the next stage of your life.
Take the time for self-reflection: What have you learned about yourself, both good and bad? How do you handle failure? What do you need to improve? Performing an honest assessment will help you to avoid the same pitfalls going forward.
Inventory the skills that your previous challenges have given you: Every time you had to overcome a hurdle, you sharpened a new ability even if you didn’t realize it, so think about the major difficulties you’ve recently surmounted. What skills did you learn, and how could each be helpful in the future?
Make the Most of the Present
Whether you’re excited about the future, or whether you’re so anxious that you can’t sleep at night, it’s too easy to spend all of your time thinking about what’s next and not enough time enjoying where you are now.
Don’t wallow in the unknown: Accept that you can’t control the future. You can—and should— plan, but even the best-laid plans will face setbacks. Instead, practice the art of letting go. Let go of the need to control. Let go of things you can’t change.
Embrace the transition: Transitions are difficult—that’s what makes them invaluable learning opportunities. Instead of shying away from the discomfort of leaving one life and beginning another, accept it as a growing period.
Use this time to learn new skills and refine old ones: While you wait for the next stage of your life, build on your current skills. This includes not only hard skills, such as software proficiency, but also—and perhaps more importantly—soft skills such as patience, empathy, and tranquility. Begin building healthy practices now.
Aspire Toward a Better Future
You may not be able to control the future, but you can prepare for it. I’m not talking about logistics, which pertain to what you want to happen, but about personal goals, which pertain to who you want to become.
Set goals for the future: It’s easy to fall into the same patterns and, if you’re not careful, your new beginning will start to look a lot like your old life. In order to avoid this, think critically about what you want for the future. Close your eyes and imagine where you want to be six months from now, one year from now and five years from now. That’s the life you will work toward.
Take small steps: Perhaps you don’t know where you want to be. That’s okay! Instead, think about small things that you already enjoy doing, and consider ways that you can build on those sustainably.
Research and create a list of goals: True change requires not only a vision but also research. In addition to knowing where you want to be, you need to know how to get there, armed with a realistic, grounded plan. For inspiration, look up how other people have accomplished the same goals. Learn from their mistakes and their successes.
Change is coming; embrace it. Transitions can be intimidating, but they can also be moments of growth. By critically looking at the past, present, and future, you can now confidently face the next stage of your life.