At the end of a long, contemplative winter, you might be itching to clean out the garage or organize your shed—standard spring cleaning activities.
On the other hand, you may have spent the past few months quietly planning, waiting for that wave of potent spring energy to finally crest, giving you the push you need to initiate a big life change.
Whether you’re considering becoming a parent, changing careers, plunging into self-employment, relocating, or any other self-initiated transition, strong internal and external support systems will bolster your chances of success.
Find your community
Community is no longer woven into the fabric of our society like it once was. We don’t require community in the same way to survive, so we have to make a conscious effort to cultivate it if we wish to experience its myriad benefits.
For those looking to join a community, but with flexibility, Facebook is a great place to start, since membership has no physical borders and “meetings” are often informal, if at all.
Lauren Elizabeth Roberts is a mindset and empowerment coach. In addition to one-on-one coaching, she uses a combination of Facebook groups, Facebook Live, and other online tools to cultivate a supportive online community, which has grown to over 800 members in a one-and-a-half-year period.
No stranger to transitioning herself, Roberts recently left her day job to pursue her business full-time. She credits several Facebook communities for supporting her during this exciting, albeit scary, time.
Roberts believes the reason hers and other Facebook communities are so powerful is that its format gives members “permission to be really real and be really raw and feel safe doing that.”
For folks going through particularly emotional transitions, this can be incredibly valuable, as demonstrated in a 2015 study in which researchers examined Facebook users undergoing gender transition.
They found that 73 percent of participants reported most, almost all, or all of the people in their Facebook network supported their transition. They also suggested that Facebook provides access to new networks specifically for those undergoing gender transition.
As one study participant reported, “The social circles of supporters and fellow trans people I’ve made on Facebook have provided substantial and vital support during my coming-out process.”
When finances are a barrier
Hiring helpers can be costly, and if you’re transitioning into self-employment or parenthood, finances might be tight. If you have a talent, you may be in a position to offer goods or services in exchange for one-on-one time.
Lauren Roberts, for example, gives her photographer friend access to all her content in exchange for her site photography. Of course, the helper may not be able to offer an exchange, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to ask!
The wheel of feelings
Developed decades ago by Dr. Gloria Willcox, the Feelings Wheel (which can be found with a quick Google search) provides us with vocabulary for expressing our truth. Annalise Sullivan recommends it to develop emotional intelligence, “because if you know how you feel, you can figure out what you need; and then, when you know what you need, you can do something about it.”
Although online communities are standalone support networks in their own right, there is no replacement for face-to-face connection. As Roberts puts it, “We can’t hug people through the internet.”
Breaking into a community can be a hurdle, and introverted types especially may find in-person communities intimidating. Roberts has a few helpful tips, though, no matter your personality type.
Be open. Tell people why the community is important to you. Being vulnerable invites others to be open with you.
Be a resource. By offering your own skills, time, and resources, you help to secure your spot within the community.
Be you. If you’re interacting from a place of sincerity, you can be sure the connections you make are “based on an authentic expression of yourself.”
Find your helpers
Vancouver’s Annalise Sullivan is the owner of Spirited Roots. As a healer and breathworker, she empowers her clients to “save themselves through right relationship with their internal nature.”
Most of the people Sullivan works with are gearing up for transition or in the midst of it. Having hired her fair share of helpers, Sullivan believes they are a necessary part of healthy transition, since they help you stay focused.
And while it’s perfectly natural, she says, “to want to give up, to want to turn back, to decide that you need more courses, more education,” a helper can “remind you where your heart is and what you actually want.”
When seeking a helper, Sullivan looks for “someone teaching from experience.” In other words, she wants a helper who has examined their own patterns and triggers and taken significant steps toward healing them.
Psychotherapist and registered clinical counsellor Tatiana Santini echoes Sullivan’s sentiment, insisting that whoever you choose, ensure they’ve done and continue to do therapy themselves to “identify and reflect objectively and impartially on a client’s struggles.”
Emotional intelligence might just be the key to navigating a significant life change with grace. In a 2010 study, researchers found that, of the 320 first-time university students they surveyed, those who came from “more expressive family environments” found it easier to adjust.
Sullivan explains that emotional intelligence “provides the framework for holding your own hand when things get tough,” and the way she suggests building emotional intelligence is through a “habit of gentleness.”
Santini also points to gentleness in the form of “plenty of self-compassion and self-care” as a means of cultivating emotional intelligence. Be intentionally kind to yourself, speak to yourself the way you’d speak to a good friend, and, of course, take care of your body with sufficient sleep, a balanced diet, and exercise.
Find them online, meet them in person
Finding your people is easy thanks to the internet—whatever your hobbies, interests, or aspirations, you can bet there are folks who share them with you. Discover local common interest groups in your neighbourhood using Meetup (meetup.com).
Take the leap
Making big changes in our lives can be downright terrifying and, at the same time, extraordinarily empowering.
By taking stock of the internal and external support systems we have and taking action to establish new ones, we set ourselves up for success. And if we fail, we learn that we’re resilient and, thanks to our communities and helpers, in good hands.