Do you like merging into heavy traffic? I bet that's not a question you've been asked before. Am I right? Merging into five or six lanes of traffic at rush hour can be a true “white knuckle” experience. There you are being urged along by impatient drivers behind you as you try to merge into lanes beside you that are occupied by less-than-courteous drivers. When you think about it, who in their right mind would do that? It’s certainly not my favorite part of commuting on urban freeways but it can’t be avoided. Driving along with the flow is a cinch but it’s those transitions from ramp to freeway that can get you.
Believe it or not, it can be the same way in music. It’s been my pleasure to direct some wonderful musicians over the course of a very fulfilling career as a church music director. Once you get into the flow of the piece, there’s a certain rhythm that carries you. But it’s the beginnings and the transitions – changing keys or tempo or both – that can make the difference between hearing “bravos” or “gasps.” Again, in music, as in traffic, it’s the transitions that can get you.
By now you see where I’m going. It’s the transitions in life that are most challenging. A life change, whether one you choose or one that is chosen for you, can be filled with risk as well as opportunity. Professional transitions such as promotions and raises as well as being downsized or outsourced must be navigated with skill. Personal transitions such as marriage, the birth of a child, or moving to a new town require more from us than almost anything else.
How do we do it successfully? Here are a five ideas that may help you with your current or future transitions.
Develop and maintain a great support network. Your relationships at home and at work are some of your best resources.
Don’t neglect yourself. Take time to relax and refresh. You may even have to put this on your daily schedule so it doesn’t get squeezed out by “urgent” tasks.
Stay positive. Be realistic about the negatives you face, but don’t let them overshadow the good things. Build on the positives.
Focus on the outcome. Don’t become so preoccupied with present circumstances that you lose the sense of forward motion. (I do this to get through dentist appointments, which I almost always dread. While sitting in the chair I focus all my attention on what I’m going to do later that day. It’s amazing how that helps me get through the moment – that plus nitrous oxide.)
Do something for someone else. This may be the most important suggestion on this list. No matter how overwhelmed you may feel about your circumstance and how limited your resources may be, find a way to do something for another person. That act of generosity will help keep you grounded.
Now, what would add to continue the list? What would you suggest to someone experiencing a difficult transition? I’d love to hear from you.