Maria Shriver’s brief public statement about her own life transition on YouTube in March is all the more poignant after the formal announcement of her separation from Arnold Schwarzeneger.
Maria is not alone in experiencing transition. It seems like everyone is going through it these days, including myself. As we hit our 40’s and 50’s and anticipate a longer life (at least three decades longer than lifespans 100 years ago), the question of what kind of a life we want to live in the next 1/2 to 1/3 of the life we have left naturally arises. Since she asked for suggestions and advice, we thought we would take her up on it.
Here’s our advice for Maria Shriver and anyone else who wants to survive a life transition and flourish:
First, congratulate yourself that you made it!
Sort out where you are now.
This is both more important and more difficult than it seems, especially for accomplished people. You may need a special GPS for this one.
Take the time and don’t rush the process.
It took 50 something years to get to this point; it probably can’t be resolved in a few days.
Reclaim and refocus your identity.
This means more than just returning to a moment in your past or creating something completely new. Who is it that you want to become that is a more authentic version of you?
Find a professionally qualified guide.
You need someone who can provide a safe, confidential space for you. As much as friends and family want to help, you need professional guidance that is both qualified and objective. An outsider can offer the insight you need to help you continue your journey. To do so, they will need to know you intimately (your personal story, your family, your career, spirituality and contribution [emerging legacy]) and also have access to the best assessment tools. They will need to blend old world wisdom and new world science.
Beware of common cultural mythologies or easy solutions.
These are often based upon bad understandings of what people need to live a good life.
Embrace change, no matter how painful.
We have fallen in love with techniques, as though they will change us. We all know down deep that techniques aren’t the answer. For example, as good as meditation may be, it won’t change a person’s entire life. Adaptive change will. It gets at the systems of our life and behaviors, but the process is longer and painful at times. There are no shortcuts.
Interpret your experience well.
It is great to collect other people’s stories of transition, but as you know, it is difficult to generalize from another’s experience. Experience has to be interpreted to make sense. Your life is unique to you. Your family history, biology, experiences, spirituality, influences, exposure have all contributed to who you are. It is a custom-made life. Generic answers won’t help that much; they always require translation.
Make the right transition for you.
Transition is age appropriate. We all go through transitions at various times and need different things at each stage. For example, the transition for an 18-year old from high school to college involves a different set of issues than one by an accomplished woman in her 50’s. We may feel like we are still 18, but we need more than what an 18-year old lifestyle can sustain. Men clearly struggle with this one.
Seek good community support.
A supportive community can play a positive role in transition. As you move from a public to a more private life, surround yourself with a group of people you admire—people who are living well, are not self-centered, who are growing and developing in positive ways. The Bible (Jewish and Christian) and social scientists agree on this point. The community we choose to hang with has a profound influence on us.
Avoid well-intentioned limitations.
Your established community (family, friends) can also play a negative role, because they think they know you. They will mean well, but they can attempt to shape and influence you in ways that merely reinforce the very things that need to change for you to make your way out the other side.
Discover where you find meaning, purpose and flow.
Live a simple, beautiful life that is rich in complexity and meaning.
It took a lot of honesty and the courage to get where you are. Many don’t make it to this point. Instead, they languish in their current circumstances and can’t transition. And as tempting as it might be to become the next new cougar on your block, that probably isn’t the way forward.
A major transition often brings the big, important questions and issues about the meaning and purpose of life back to the surface. It provides an opportunity–to take stock, refocus and hopefully change. We wish you well on this new phase of your journey.
“We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” E. M. Forster
We will continue to add to our list. What would you suggest is missing? Please let us know below!
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