Adolescence and early adulthood are some of the most memorable times of your life.
Not only are you entering increasingly complex social relationships and confronting uncomfortable truths about adulthood, you’re also doing something far more important: discovering who you really are.
But the process of self-discovery cannot be complete without taking action. Morphing your thoughts into behavior is what leads to self-knowledge–or truly understanding yourself.
Without changing your life and dealing with the consequences, everything is just a hypothetical–a mind game that wastes valuable time without resulting in any significant improvement.
Unfortunately, major life transitions are also extremely difficult and tend to restrict your ability to take meaningful action. They demand much of your mind, body, and spirit. And they elicit strong emotions that most people don’t face until they’ve already moved on.
That’s called avoidance–a way to run from feelings that you think may be too overwhelming to express.
As a coach and licensed therapist, I help people overcome avoidance and other defenses that restrict growth. I guide clients through transitions so that they can use those moments to understand better themselves and achieve their personal and professional goals.
I’m also a human. And as a human, I’m going through a major life transition.
I’m crawling towards the completion of graduate school, which for the better part of seven years has consumed my mind and resulted in earning two master’s degrees and one doctorate degree in clinical psychology. I’m also moving to a new city where I have no established friend group. And I’m about to get married.
That’s a lot of change all at the same time. And my psyche is feeling it.
While I move through many days feeling excited, I notice that my dreams are full of intense, uncomfortable emotions. I observe fleeting moments of sadness each day related to the loss of my friends and a city near and dear to my heart.
I also recognize that my body is holding onto tension more than usual. I even have difficulty sleeping and feelings of anxiety from time to time.
And all of these observations lead me to a very important conclusion: whether I want to acknowledge it or not, my unconscious mind is feeling the impact of these changes. In fact, it’s freaking out.
Part of going through a major life transition at any age is dealing with the open space–the mental and emotional void once filled by something that has since been removed. Whether it’s a relationship with a coworker, peer, or the sense of security that consistency creates, letting go of those things generates a feeling of emptiness that the psyche desperately wants to fill.
Some people increase their use of alcohol and drugs during transitions. Others eat more cake. Some spend more time playing video games. And others shop a lot more than usual.
But regardless of how people cope, all people–at one time or another–must confront major life changes.
When met with conscious attention–the desire to understand and emotionally feel the significance of change–these life transitions can lead to substantial personal and professional growth.
That growth is only possible by suspending your mind’s desire to fill the uncomfortable void that you feel. Instead, sit with it. Use it to inform the life you’d like to build next.
These moments of transition are great opportunities to practice letting go. The more you practice letting things go the clearer your life becomes. The entire process is converted into a self-audit in which you notice which people, habits, and materials add value to your life and which subtract from it.
That’s the process of purification–the eternal cycle of death and rebirth. And that magnificent process leads to something profound: transformation.
See, the more that you
release, while suspending your urge to refill, the faster you will grow.
So even though it’s uncomfortable, move towards the finitude. Recognize that relationships end. That your life ends. And that your mortality is what your strong feelings are really about.
Life transitions, when confronted, are terrifying because they elicit awareness of our mortality. They highlight that our time is limited. That we can’t to do everything that we want.
And in that way, they can be excellent motivation to engage in the practices we value so that we can build a meaningful life prior to that end.
Part of staying grounded during these transitions involves appreciating what you do have. Expressing gratitude to your loved ones. And being thankful that you have the opportunity to re-invent yourself.
Have you heard of the reminiscence bump? It’s a phenomenon in which older individuals have better memory recall of their adolescence and early adulthood than any other time in their life.
There’s a reason for that: major life transitions. Self-discovery. And, if you focus on brining your unconscious thoughts and feelings into your conscious awareness, self-actualization.
Some of the most significant changes in one’s life happen during this time period. That’s why Millennials traversing this uncomfortable territory need to challenge themselves to face their reactions.
To look themselves in the mirror during these moments and engage in a real self-auditing process. To let go even though it hurts. To say goodbyes with intention rather than regret.
And to live with the feelings of discomfort rather than numbing them. Trusting and believing that it will serve their own growth. Because that’s what it takes to live a successful and fulfilling life.