From Distress to Discovery
How often do you let yourself really imagine your dream life? Outside of sandy beaches and a tropical smoothie with a little umbrella, do you really allow yourself to imagine in detail what your life would look like if all the obstacles were handled? What if you woke up tomorrow morning, having just indulged in the best dream ever and you were living your dream life — what would that look like, feel like, be like for you? What new doors might open up? Who might you be if you moved from distress to discovery?
Life transitions such as divorce, becoming an empty nester, going off to college, coping with grief and loss, separation, or breakup, starting a new career, and so forth can often be distressing for us, and yet they can also be a beautiful time of rediscovery. As human beings, we are able and capable of creating and recreating our lives, healing, adjusting, and reinventing if we so desire and if we are willing to endure the struggle to get to the other side.
Can you consider that you can have the life you most wish for by taking small steps forward today? As psychologist Dr. Talia Ziv would say, you can “live today, the history of your preferred future,” and a therapist can help you get there.
It takes courage to bridge the gap between where you are and where you wish to be in your life. It is a process, and a journey, and it requires us to be both specific and flexible, focused and patient, determined and compassionate. Here are three steps to help you open new doors and move toward the life you imagine.
Step 1: Change the conversation
Life transitions can be tough, yes, but so are you. You can do hard things. In fact, I bet that you’ve already survived, and even thrived, through some life challenges in the past. How did you do it? What strengths did you rely on then, that you might use again?
Remember that nothing great comes without challenge, and that magic and transformation lie on the other side of struggle. Like the butterfly who must struggle against the cocoon to strengthen its wings to fly, so must we experience the journey of the struggle itself to strengthen ourselves in life. Don’t deny yourself the struggle, but rather invite it, for it is your access to transformation, to change, to new doors, and transitioning from distress to discovery.
Change the conversation from “I can’t,” to “I can, and I will,” and “I have and I will again,”. Trust the process and trust the timing of your life. Focus on the positive, because what we focus on grows. Get clear on your goals, your dreams, and your destination(s); be as specific as possible, for, without a clear direction, you will never get ‘there.’ We need to know where we’re going if we’re going to live our dream lives.
Step 2: Practice integrity
Once you’ve determined your destination, it’s time to map out your path. How will you cross the bridge? How will you get ‘there?’ Have you ever heard the saying “plan your work, and work your plan?” This is the ‘work your plan’ part.
It’s not enough to aim ourselves towards our destination, but rather we must start paddling forward in order to move from distress to discovery. We must honor our boundaries and our commitments to ourselves, even when it’s hard — especially when it’s hard — this is called integrity! We must persevere even when the going gets tough, which it does because this is life. We must do what we set out to do, or we will simply stay exactly where we are.
A plan without action goes nowhere. To close old doors and open new ones, we must take new action, consistent with what we say is important to us. Remember: Yes, you can! (see step #1).
Step 3: Move with momentum, but be patient with yourself too
Just keep moving forward: be consistent, have integrity, show up, honor your boundaries, focus on the positive, amplify your own strengths — work your plan! Just keep on paddling, but remember to be patient with yourself too. Some days will be harder than others, and that is just what’s so. You’re ok, though it’s ok to not always feel ok, too. You are human after all. Meet yourself with compassion. Take a pause when you need to. Rest, reset, then keep moving forward however slowly.
Remember that baby steps count too, as long as you are moving forward. In fact, a bunch of baby steps combined makes big steps – even leaps! A little tiny snowball grows as it moves down a mountain, becoming bigger and faster as it goes, eventually gaining speed and moving with velocity towards its ‘there’! So we can start slow and small, moving intentionally forward toward our own lives’ destinations, closing and opening new doors as we come to know ourselves along the way.
Generate momentum — to get you powerfully to your new ‘there’. Then you can continue on the path from distress to discovery.