Transition – A Dance with Aspirational Anxiety

So…You’re in a new job.  You’re in a new school.  You’ve just married.

It’s great. It’s what you’ve wanted.  Everything seems perfect in the beginning.  The “little” things don’t bother you because you’re so excited and engaged with all the goodness you’re experiencing in the new situation. Over time (and this length of time varies with each person), the perfect seems not so perfect.  Aspects of the new job aren’t quite meeting your expectations, making new friends in the new school is not that easy and you feel alone, your partner’s quirkiness that seemed so adorable is getting increasingly annoying.  Feelings of doubt begin to emerge.  Is this the right thing?  Am I doing something wrong?  Is this new thing going to work?

Ah, this is our dance with aspirational anxiety.  Whenever we arrive at a new opportunity, whether it’s a new job, a new school or a new life situation, we all hope for the best in our new chapter.  Yet, at the very same time, we feel understandable anxiety in this place of the unknown.  We have leapt, but how will we land?  This dance to maneuver between hopefulness and doubt, elation and terror is the necessary path through any new experience.

Here are 3 phases of transition to help you move through with greater understanding and ease:

1) Starry-eyed — in the early phase of any new experience, we tend to choose to see through rose-colored glasses, which makes everything seem great, even things that may otherwise bother us.  Makes total sense, right?  You want everything to work out, you’re excited about the new commitment.  You have hopeful and renewed energy.  It’s like you’re picking daisies and skipping in a beautifully sun-filled field.  You just want to scream with excitement and joy.

2) A Fall From Grace – time has passed.  You’re now getting into a routine.  The excitement of the new is wearing off.  The everyday reality of this situation is sinking in.  You may be thinking, “so is everyday going to be like this?  You mean, everyday I’m going to be waking up with him in bed with me — for the next 50 years? Really?”  Whichever new situation you are in, you begin to recognize the good and the bad.  Your doubts either about you or about him/her/them emerge.  It doesn’t seem so perfect anymore.  The energy of disappointment and doubt set in.  This phase is the toughest for anyone in transition. This is when you need to be skillful in your dance with aspirational anxiety.  First –  you need to know this is normal!  It’s critical to keep your eyes on your goal and your hopes.  At the same time, it’s also important to determine what needs to be addressed…and take care of them (avoidance only prolongs anxiety). Most importantly, know that perfect is actually quite imperfect.  Even when things get challenging, choose to look at the positives.  Address the negatives.  How you choose to handle this period can either prolong your suffering or expedite your process of transition.

3) New Normal – expectations and reality integrate.  Your goals and hopes are more realistically aligned to the everyday, which is a good thing!  It’s not about compromising your dream — it’s about meeting it on the earth level!  Or it may mean that your ultimate dream will come true, but it may take more time and effort to get there. This phase has the energy of sustainable hopefulness.  Commit to where you are, take your steps forward everyday and be grateful for what is here…today.  Choose to focus on all the good that has happened.  What you focus on, becomes your view of the world!

In my work with students , professionals and individuals experiencing transition, I always talk about these phases, because it helps explain what is going on inside of us.  It’s such an emotional period that it can catch people off guard.  I call it aspirational anxiety, because you have a beautiful vision that you want to make real, yet the everyday can cloud your vision in doubt and anxiety, especially when you face challenges in this new situation.  To make the most of this transition, to enjoy your journey as much as possible, simply know that this discomfort is normal and necessary.  Know also, that you will come out the other side with a renewed sense of self.  It’s all part of the transition process.  Everyday, put one foot in front of the other, and soon, you’ll find your new gait in this very beautiful new world.