Congratulations on your birthday! Does that make you 40 years-old now?
I heard about your brother’s sudden illness – is everything okay?
You landed the position, that’s amazing! How do you feel about leaving your ten year post at your old office?
What do all of these situations have in common? They each mark a major transition in a person’s life. A transition is anything from moving to a new career to an anniversary, birthday, divorce, marriage, letting go of a loved one, or anything else that marks the passing of one phase of your life into another.
While these periods can sometimes be very joyful or beautiful like a birthday, or difficult like leaving a job or getting a divorce, transitions effect us on a deep level because they signify groundbreaking change or movement both on an inner and outer level.
In addition to all of the joys or challenges that come along with it, a time of transition is also an opportunity to create new beginnings and harness the energy of the change to really move you forward in significant ways.
Whenever I work with women going through a transition in their lives, we spend time examining its significance. One of the places I like to start, in order to help them understand and grapple with the transition as well as honor and move forward in their lives, is by having them answer the following three questions:
1. What are you ready to let go of?
This question is all about getting very clear on what it is from the past that no longer serves you. Or, more to the point: what are the things that you do not want to take with you into a future experience? For example, when coming up to a 40th birthday the question you would ask yourself is: what about the events, attitudes, relationships etc. from my 39th year (or, from the decade of my 30s) no longer serve me? What do I want to consciously choose not to take with me into the coming year and the coming decade?
Asking and answering this question at the time of a transition gives you the opportunity to consciously release what you need to let go of so that you don’t carry unnecessary baggage or obstacles into your new phase of life.
It also gives you the opportunity to really learn and fully process some of the harder lessons that you need to learn before you move forward. For example: say the transition you are going through is leaving a long-term relationship. When you reflect back on it you realize that you really let your partner dictate where the relationship was going, as well as what the two of you did throughout the relationship, despite your better interest. As you are transitioning from this relationship, you have the opportunity to fully acknowledge this dynamic in the relationship that didn’t serve you, to let go of it, and to resolve that you want your next relationship to be more of a partnership.
Or, for another example, say you are coming up on a birthday and by asking yourself – What am I ready to let go of? – you realize that in the past year you did not take very good care of yourself. Now you have the opportunity to release that habit and commit to taking better care of yourself in the coming year.
2. What are the opportunities and experiences from the past that I really want to honor, hold sacred, and take with me?
This question is about being able to acknowledge what was positive about the past experience from which you are transitioning out. It allows you to hold onto those positive aspects and make them yours.
It’s very important to reflect on the things that you want to honor, especially if you are eager to transition out of what was in the past. Say you are getting a divorce after 25 years and the last years are marked with fighting and shouting – there is so much about that relationship you just want to let go of! Still, it’s very important at the same time to honor the positive things about the relationship. For example, maybe it made you a more cultured person because your husband was very involved in the arts, or maybe it allowed you to individuate and separate from your parents to become your own person.
Even if you are ready to leave a situation it’s important to honor what was positive so you don’t feel like you just wasted all of that time.
3. What is my intention for the next phase?
Answering this question is sort of like making a New Year’s Resolution, but it can be done during any transition – a birthday, anniversary, when switching jobs, moving apartments, and so on.
Basically you are asking yourself: what is my intention on an internal and external level for the next phase of my life? What are my spiritual and material goals for the future as a result of what I have learned from the past?
This question allows you to harness the wisdom gained from the first two transition questions and create a powerful intention or plan as to how to you want to move through the next phase of your life.