Transitions: An Unexpected Opportunity by Matthew Hooper

Recently, my family and I moved from the only city and home we’ve known to a new place. We did so believing this change promised many positive outcomes, especially for our children. We also knew there would be some challenges. As expected, uprooting our lives has been both exciting and stressful. When we initially looked into whether we wanted to buy a home in st. albert, there was a lot of hesitation amongst the family, as we had never relocated before and we were so used to our old home. But I guess everyone needs a change sometimes in life.

Leaving a home where we’ve lived for years has been like stepping onto an airplane for the first time. Flying can be an exhilarating experience. Leaving the security of the ground, however, is also anxiety producing and sometimes even scary. Once in the air, the reality of a 10,000 feet cruising altitude can move our thoughts and feelings many directions. It’s a vulnerable experience for a first-time flier. Similarly, our moving from a well-known home to a new place carried with it a vulnerability of its own.

Relocating is one of the many transitions we may experience in life. Transition, simply defined, is the process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another. At some point, life offers each of us a form of physical change along this line. Most people, however, prefer to stay put and enjoy the solid footing and comfort of the familiar. As a result, we resist this kind of change. Our reasons for the staunch stance against moving from one state of being to another are extensive. One consideration worth our time and attention is observed in the nature of transitions.

Whether physical, psychological, or relational, the adjustments that accompany transitions in life share a quality we would do well to acknowledge: weakness.

All transitions contain an element of weakness. Mortar between bricks, ligaments between bones, bridges between land masses – each of these examples tangibly express the fragile space between more solid, stronger realities. Because of the inherent weakness in transition, we tend to downplay its challenges or avoid it all together. In some cases, we can give significant effort, consciously and subconsciously, to holding onto whatever bit of security and strength we have experienced. We simply do not like the feelings of weakness that accompany personal transitions.

Even so, if engaged with a growth mindset, the fragility inherent in this experience can be an opportunity for development. Felt weakness, particularly in transitions, can be viewed and embraced as an invitation to personal improvement. Responding positively to such movements in life could include a variety of elements. In my recent experience, two specific practices have been especially helpful as I have navigated the existential fragility of relocating.

Careful, non-judgmental attending to one’s raw emotions is the first practice. Our initial response to these, often negative, feelings is especially important for personal development. We cultivate our character for positive growth when we gently acknowledge and embrace these authentic emotions rather than resist, judge and reject them. Then, if we can cognitively reframe the uncomfortable feelings as a positive call to engage in one’s growth, we will set the stage to cultivate the healthy, developmental opportunity that accompanies transition.

Paying attention to one’s authentic feelings is a healthy form of self-love. I appreciate M. Scott Peck’s thought-provoking treatment of this concept in The Road Less Travelled. From his perspective, the ongoing practice of paying attention is a way of loving one’s self and others. When I read this book in the early 90’s, I was inspired by this focus, especially in relation to my own growth. As we pay attention to our deeper thoughts and feelings, we are loving ourselves in the best kind of way.

The second growth-producing practice is vulnerability with others. Throughout this past year of transition, choosing to be open about my authentic experience, felt limitations, and uncomfortable feelings of weakness has connected me with others in meaningful ways. As a result, I have not felt alone. I have felt known. I have practically sensed the support of friends through sharing my vulnerable self in this season of transition. Brene Brown, a champion of whole-hearted living, claims vulnerability means engagement. It is the way to proactively pursue courageous living and meaningful relationships.[1] When we practice being vulnerable, we engage rather than shrink back from whatever challenges life offers, especially in times of change.

The transition of relocating has been exciting and difficult. I have felt feeble, unsettled and disoriented at times. Even so, physically moving from a place called home created an opportunity for me to practice paying attention to my authentic self and connection-building vulnerability with others. In doing so, I have been able to experience the grace and truth needed to be a growing person, even through a destabilizing time of change. So, the next time you find yourself in transition, let the experience of weakness it creates move you to make progress-focused choices. Pay attention. Be vulnerable. In the weakness of transition, choose growth.

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[1] Daring Greatly, p. 2

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