“I was numb, but it was from not knowing just what this new life would hold for me,” says Jamaica Kincaid in her novel “Lucy.”
Sound familiar? Transitions are times of great opportunity, but sometimes the breadth of options can overwhelm and paralyze. It’s easy to know what feels wrong, but more challenging to define what new path you should follow.
Transitions occur throughout adulthood. Whether graduating from school, escaping from your life or career when it bogs down, beginning to empty-nest, or when you retire, you’re confronted with a vast array of options and little direction on how to best sort them out. I coach clients in all these situations, and the pattern and approach to addressing the questions are similar regardless of the type of transition.
The most important element of making an excellent choice for yourself is commitment to the process. Not knowing your path can be uncomfortable, but the reward for staying the course is that the right answer will come. The temptation is to abandon the search and take the “good enough” solution — that first job offer or volunteer opportunity. Don’t! Hold out for the right job or life decision. This will ultimately prove far more rewarding.
Support is vital. Share your explorations with someone who has your best interests at heart — your coach, your partner or your friend. Remember, though, that you’re looking for support, not answers. Only you know what’s right for you.
But how to find the answer? First, brainstorm solutions. Go wild. Make lists of what you’re interested in without worrying about how they could turn into a job or rewarding venture. Think about what energizes you, makes you joyful or gives you great satisfaction. Expand your list by making “mind maps,” where you identify a central interest, add a layer of related interests, add another layer of interests related to the first layer and so on.
Choose three or four compelling ideas from your lists and then explore them. Internet research is easy, obvious and necessary. But you will only truly begin to translate your ideas into an actionable solution by talking to people. Escape your comfort zone. Test ideas with your contacts and your contacts’ contacts to help you translate them into a realistic solution. Find out what people enjoy or don’t enjoy about doing what you’re envisioning. These conversations will hone your thinking regarding choices, and just might lead directly to the right opportunity.
Resources are available to help you. A coach can guide you through the process, prompt your thinking with powerful questions and hold you accountable to your commitments as you search.
If you’re specifically looking for a job and know the field of work you want to pursue, a career counselor can be invaluable. There also are a host of excellent books on transitions; my current favorite is “Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life” by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans.
The bottom line on any transition is to remain committed to finding the right path for you, treat the journey as an adventure and remain patient. Add in a dose of support, a thoughtful investment of time and the courage to reach out to others, and you’ll find the meaningful next chapter that’s right for you.
Mercer Island resident Carrie George is a leadership coach and can be reached at email@example.com or through www.carriegleadership.com.