Change isn’t easy. It’s hard to adjust to new realities and life rhythms. However, what is even more challenging is seeing that things have changed in the first place, especially when it involves us. Often we’re the last to recognize what everybody else already knows.
When Seasons Change
A year or so ago, someone asked me if I still saw myself as a “young adult.” They were planning an event that catered toward young professionals and wanted to see if I would place myself in that category. As I thought about it, my first reaction was, “Of course! I’m fresh out of college. I’m newly married. I’m getting started with my career.” And then it dawned on me: none of that was really true. I’d been out of school for almost eight years and married for eight years. I am one of the longer tenured people at work. I even have two kids! So I changed my answer. For the first time, I admitted that I could no longer call myself a young professional or a young adult. I’m now firmly a professional and an adult.
Looking back, I see why I never came to grips with reality before that moment. I had been holding onto an image in my head that had defined me for a long time. I had become so used to seeing myself in that season that I had never stopped to think that this season had come and gone. Funny enough, I’m sure that’s why my friend asked me if I saw myself as a “young adult.” He was probably worried old people like me would still come and wreck the vibe!
Can you relate to this at all? Have you had a realization that life had changed and you hadn’t noticed or embraced it? Maybe you, like me, are no longer a young adult or new professional. Or perhaps you need to embrace that you are no longer a student but a young professional. Painfully, this could involve a relationship that has ended. Maybe you were so used to saying you were married or part of a couple that it’s hard to embrace being single. New parents often feel the struggle of embracing the fact that the pre-kids season is vastly different from the post-kids season.
Coming to grips with reality is essential. If the lenses in our glasses are off, everything becomes distorted. Here’s how.
We Won’t Make the Right Adjustments
Each stage of life requires course corrections. Every season needs new rhythms and expectations. In the summer, there’s a different type of clothing to wear. Depending on where you live, you may have to adjust what you can and can’t do outside. If its 110 degrees and humid, it may not be best to run at 3 pm. The same principle applies to life. Young professionals need new rhythms after graduating from college. What worked in school won’t work now. The same is true for new parents, empty nesters, or any other new life stage.
We Won’t Enjoy What’s in Front of Us
Holding onto the past keeps us from enjoying new opportunities in the present. I’m no longer a young adult, which is sad in some ways. But I’m a new parent, which comes with some special moments. Seeing clearly allows us to enjoy all that is right in front of us.
Coming to Grips with Reality
So, if it’s time to come to grips with reality and admit you are in a different season of life, I’ve learned there are three important steps to moving forward well.
Mark the Transition
Do something to signify things have changed. Sometimes it’s making an environmental adjustment, like painting the house or even moving to a new place. Other times we need an experience, like a graduation or a party with friends. No matter what, make it official: you’re in a new season of life.
Celebrate What You Learned
Just because the season has changed doesn’t mean you can’t take things with you. Write down what big things you learned in the previous stage of life. How did the highlights encourage you to live into your strengths? How did the difficult times shape your character?
Embrace New Rhythms
Take some time to re-examine what healthy and focused living looks like in this new era. Do your goals need to change? What patterns need to stop? What new habits need to start? What do you need to continue doing?
I suspect that many of us need to make adjustments. We’re all in danger of lingering too long in a label that once applied but no longer does. When we cling to the past, it holds us back.
When in Doubt, Ask
Millennials, in particular, are at risk for this. For a long while, all people could talk (and write) about was how to help millennials get adjusted to working. But now many of us are settling into leadership roles. We’re doing (or are about to do) the hiring and firing. We need to start planning more for our financial futures. Most importantly, we need to embrace the possibility that things have changed and there are new opportunities on the horizon.
Whether you’re a millennial or not, there’s one thing that is still true: it’s hard to see reality sometimes. You and I need other people who can lovingly point things out to us. And when we’re out-of-date somewhere, we’re often the last to know. That’s a sobering thought. So do a reality check. Invite someone to ask you some hard questions. You may not like the initial assessment, but it might wind up being the most helpful thing you hear all year.