Changing Our Outlook on Change: 6 Tips on Navigating Life Transitions

Written by Dumerrick Ross, Phoenix Fellow - Advocacy on April 27, 2020

Personal Growth
Self-Care / Self-Compassion

Perhaps the most constant aspect of life is change. The moment between one change and the next is often referred to as a transition. Like changes, transitions are not always easy to navigate. Transitions can be as simple as picking up a new hobby or as big as changing careers.

For Fatu Matagi, a survivor embodying strength through transition, change looks like starting college again. Though college is not completely foreign to Fatu, walking into a new environment is still intimidating. Fatu says, “The best way to approach these transitional moments is to treat them like fun explorations rather than dark holes.”

Whether you're going back to school or experiencing another form of change, your perspective and how you view the change is key to surviving and thriving as you navigate this uncertain space. The biggest challenge for Fatu was his own perceptions and fears of inadequacy. “A lot of times we think we are not good enough, but we are always good enough,” says Fatu.

Navigating life transitions as a burn survivor may be impacted by access to resources and support. For example, moving to another city or state might mean no longer having access to burn centers or being able to physically attend support group meetings in the area. At the same time, these moments also can bring benefits and opportunities for growth that would not otherwise be available. Pursuing a new career might bring about a newfound passion, determination and knowledge of your strength.

Looking Away from Camera

Whether you are approaching a major or minor transition, the following tips can help you navigate these times.

Be Present

During transitions, it is important to remain present in the here and now. It might be tempting to distance yourself if the transition brings uncertainty or discomfort. Instead, focus on your plans and the resources you will use to get through.

Remember Who You Are

Remember where you were before you were before the life transition, and reflect on who you are now because of it. Center yourself in your strengths, values, and what makes you, “you.” If you are experiencing life transitions that make it difficult to do certain things, finding comfort in maintaining things you were able to do before, during, and after the transition can be impactful.

Plan the Next Steps

Taking a moment to plan out goals and small action steps can make the difference between having a positive or negative transition experience. While transitions involve uncertainty, creating a navigation plan can offer a way to maintain control. Viewing small steps will show you the progress you make along the way.

Utilize Support

The Ghanaian word, Ubuntu means, “a person is a person because of people,” or “I am because we are.” This reminds us that we are all connected to and accountable to others. When going through life changes, don’t hesitate to lean into your network and leverage existing support. Remember that it is okay to ask for help, advice, or support, especially from those in your network.

Practice Self-Care

Be honest and kind to yourself. Honesty requires you to be self-aware of your feelings, workload, and capacity. It is perfectly fine to cancel a lunch date or skip out on dinner plans if you’re overwhelmed or just need some personal time. Always take time to take care of yourself. Positive self-talk and affirmations can go a long way in making sure you have a smooth transition. Going from the known to the unknown means things may not always go your way. In these instances, be kind with yourself and remember change is natural and necessary for growth.

Assume the Best

Assume that transitions will bring more opportunities than harm. When we assume transitions could negatively impact our lives, we give away our control. Transitions can be what you make them, so make them the best!

Although transitions are a time of uncertainty, how we manage them can be pivotal. During transitions, maintaining healthy relationships is important, and the relationships you form can set you up for success. Fatu finds honesty, confidence, and pure intentions are the keys to successful relationships – all of which can be keys to successful transitions. Using these simple tips, your relationships and transitions can be managed effectively.

Facebook Live: 6 Tips on Navigating Life Transitions

We interviewed Kristen Quinn, CMHC, CCLS, who consulted on this article, for more tips on navigating life transitions.

Watch Video

Durmerrick Ross is majoring in speech communications, with a minor in African American Studies at Texas Southern University where he has first-hand knowledge of successful transitions through serving in the University Campus PALS (Peer-Assisted Leadership and Service) program to support freshmen students. As a member of the internationally acclaimed TSU debate team, Durmerrick critically engages in conversations about social justice issues, and In his spare time, he enjoys writing and reading poetry.