How to navigate college and midlife transitions better

Life transitions can be hard.

I find myself frequently surrounded by handsome young men at the brink of making some pretty stressful college and university choices. Unfortunately, it’s not because of my charming personality. It’s simply because of the age and stage of my high school and college-aged sons and all of their friends. We have a pool table and big TV/video game set up; therefore, we have the hang-out house.

This was an awesome strategic parenting decision on our behalf. It meant that we really got to know our kids’ friends. We know when they have something to celebrate. We also know when there a big stress ball in the room.

They are starting to think about making big decisions about what they want to be when they grow up. They are heading off to university or they’re finishing their undergrad degrees and wondering what the next step should be.

They are feeling the stress of the unknown.

They are looking for clarity.

They are afraid of making a mistake of time and money.

They are keenly aware that they’re getting older.

Sound familiar?

These thoughts are pretty much the same exact things my older and wiser midlife clients are talking about.

The big difference though, is that as adults, we have more experience and exposure to life (the good, the bad and the ugly). But the “kids” feel just as overwhelmed and confused as we do.

I noticed another big difference. Adults talk about their fear of having regrets. With every passing birthday, midlife folks tend to have a keen sense of “life’s passing me by” and have realized that they haven’t done a lot of the important things they thought they would have done by now.  Kids and young adults, on the other hand, don’t tend to focus on regrets the way we do when we’re older. It’s much more about the fear of what they don’t know about the path they haven’t chosen yet.

Both groups talk about feeling stuck.

The thought work required to bust through all of the muck and mire of what can sometimes feel like a slimy pit of despair is pretty much the same. In both cases, it’s super important to become aware of the role your thoughts play in your current situation. The common thoughts are:

“I’m confused.”

“I’m stuck.”

“I don’t know what I want.”

“I’m overwhelmed.”

What’s so interesting is to take careful note about how these thoughts make you feel.  My clients usually tell me that these thoughts make them feel scared, worried, anxious, unsure and uncertain. These feelings typically lead to procrastination and withdrawal. Some say they feel down and hopeless about their ability to sort it all out so they can be happy.  The result? No big changes or breakthroughs.  More being stuck. As you can see, the results in our lives prove our thoughts.

It’s so ironic that, as most of us know, transitions can be wildly exciting as well. A chance for a new beginning. A time to open new doors and create the life you want. But this type of thinking is not producing those feelings at all. In fact, you could even call these indulgent emotions.  These thoughts can actually become excuses that prevent you from creating what you want.

Powerful questions can help.

I always ask, “how do you want to feel as you go through this phase of your life where you are sorting out your next steps?”  Again, you can see that this question applies to both the confused young adult AND the confused midlife working mom.  It’s such a insightful question.

The answer is usually “excited,” “confident,” and “motivated.”

I follow-up with, “what would you have to think to feel excited, confident and motivated?”

This is where the magic happens.

Why? Because it’s usually the exact moment when it becomes obvious that you actually manage your emotional life. It’s pretty easy for clients to put themselves in that head space and realize that a different thought would create a different feeling. And they can see that when they feel excited and motivated, they are likely to act and do things differently. The new result that they created themselves, is more in line with what they want.

What kind of thought has this amazing superpower?

That’s really personal and subjective. And it won’t likely happen with the snap of your fingers. A thought that has worked for my clients is a small but important tweak to their original thought. It’s not a giant shift though; it has to be believable and authentic.

For example, the thought ” I don’t know what I want to do” becomes “I’m learning about what I might like to do.” Or, the thought “I’m tired of being so confused” becomes “I know how to get the help that I need to learn more about this.”

These new thoughts create different feelings, typically more confidence and motivation. When people are more confident and motivated, they are more likely to take action rather than withdraw. The results you get when you take action prove your new way of thinking, which is that you’re learning how to figure it all out.

As I mentioned, it’s not as easy as snapping your fingers or waving your magic “fix your life” wand, but the first step is awareness. It’s HUGE to really understand that your thinking creates your results. You can actually change your thoughts. How great is that?

This is the kind of thing we do in my life coaching practice. The concept is simple, but applying it to your real life takes a bit of practice. I know you can do hard things though, so you can do this too!  And if you want some help, I offer a free mini session so you can see if we’re a fit and what coaching with me is all about. Click here to read what my clients have to say about working with me.  Looking forward to talking to you!

 

 

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