by Bonnie Katz, MA
Going Through Transitions with Strength and Ease
Can you let go of the familiar, tolerate feelings of uncertainty, and take the necessary steps to move towards something new? As actors, you are thrown into situations that are continually changing on a daily basis: you get dropped by your agent, a show gets cancelled, they replace you with another actor, you go from TV to film, stage to commercials, and on and on. Everything in life changes continuously, without exception. If you have a tough time transitioning, you will end up being stuck and discouraged more than necessary. Happy, successful people don’t go through less disappointment and difficulty than you, they just know how to transition through it better. The same amount of doors close in their face as yours, the difference is their view of the difficulty. They’ve learned how to go through transitions with some dignity and wisdom, and so can you!
If you were lucky, you saw your parents go through transitions successfully. Maybe they went through hard financial times, divorce, or loss and came through it in tact – stronger and wiser for having gone through it. In that case, you’ve got a built in capacity to handle transitions more easily than the person who didn’t grow up in that kind of family. We don’t get to choose our families; they choose us. We can’t hope for a better past, but we can certainly find our way to a better present. There is some groundwork that you can start laying down right now that will help you handle changes when they start happening and trust me, they will happen, and happen and happen. To begin with, stop putting precious energy into feeling sorry for yourself. Being angry, envious or bitter is a waste of time. Instead, start building bridges that will help you get through challenging situations when they arise. Below are 10 steps to help you cross that bridge and get to solid ground.
- Feel your feelings around what is happening to you, then pick yourself up, dust yourself off and get ready to start moving. Wishing for a life filled with no good-byes and just hellos is not realistic. In order to be happy and successful you’ve got to deal with the real world, not how you’d like it to be. Difficulties are like the weather, they come and they go. Instead of howling at the thunder and rain to go away, get an umbrella. Learn to adapt when something is unchangeable. Nothing is permanent and lasts forever. You make yourself a target for disappointment when you think that tough times just happen to you. You are not unique, they happen to everybody. It’s tough to let go of the way things were, but when you don’t let go of the past, you can’t make room for anything new to come into your life. Every transition begins with an ending.
- Successful people have quiet rituals to help them set their course. Rituals become maps to guide you through difficult times when you’re feeling lost and confused. Transitions are notorious for evoking fear of the unknown. You need a routine to help calm your anxiety. It will help you focus throughout your day, rather than being frozen in fear and overwhelm. Routines teach you to be less reactive to stressors around you and more proactive in setting your priorities. Usually the first hour of your day is a good time to create a trusted routine. This will help you to feel more in control, less reactive, reduce anxiety and stress, and empower you to feel more competent. Put some thought into how you start your day because it sets the tone of your overall state of mind.
- Don’t let transitions freeze you in a state of fear. Procrastination usually sneaks in and robs you of your ability to get things done. Take action. A good plan executed today is better than the perfect plan you are dreaming about. Don’t wait for the right time to do what you need to do. If you need extra support, call trusted friends and family to help you through the slump. Small steps are a good beginning.
- The Chinese letters for crisis are also opportunity. Look for silver linings. You’re an artist, you know that behind every great performance or piece of epic art is gut-wrenching pain and heartbreak. Research in the field of psychology has shown that many people use their hardships for creative and intellectual development. Use what feels like poison as medicine. It helps you to grow in areas of contentment, gratitude, strength and resourcefulness. When it feels like the world you know has been shattered, it’s time to press the restart button, change your old views, and get a fresh perspective. The ability to reboot makes you more resilient and encourages personal growth and long-term success.
- Remember you learn best when you are out of your comfort zone. Learning takes place when you stretch yourself beyond your comfort level. When you manage life’s edginess you are rewarded with strength and intelligence. Better to feel an hour of discomfort and learn from your experience than years of running in place. To get through transitions, expect to stumble and make mistakes, that’s when you experience self-growth the most.
- You don’t have to do it alone. Find others who have been where you want to go and have them show you the ropes. Observe successful, great people and study their methods. Sometimes just observing can give you a clearer idea of where you are going and what you need to do. Seek mentors and groups that will inspire and support you during your transition. Group is also a safe environment where you can receive trusted feedback. You need to learn to check in with others who can observe your blind spots in a gentle constructive way. Group therapy can promote self-growth and healing during this time, especially if you feel isolated, lonely and far away from family.
- Focus on the positive. We are hardwired in our brains to perform better when we are in a positive mindset. Recent scientific studies showed that optimistic salespeople outsell their pessimistic counterparts by over 50%. Students who felt happy before taking math tests outperformed their neutral peers. For an extra boost of benefits, put more focus on keeping a positive mindset.
- Create visual reminders of your long-term goals. Transitions can make you feel scared and lost. During those times, it’s helpful to have a visual of your destination in view. It helps keep you balanced when the ground beneath you feels shaky. Visual reminders keep you on track when you are thrown farther away from your ultimate goal. They can spark the energy you need to hang in there until you make that new transition.
- Keep a journal, it will become a trusted guide for each transition. Your journal reminds you where you’ve been and where you want to go. It’s your place to reflect and capture thoughts of inspiration and insight. It’s one of the most underused, yet incredibly effective tools available. It helps you to slow down your process and reflect on what has happened to you. When you’re able to take a distant view, you will be able to see things and understand them better.
- Be kind to yourself and others. It’s okay if you make mistakes, learn to apologize when needed and move on. Mistakes happen when you put yourself out there, good for you for trying. There is no shame in asking for help when you can’t figure things out. You can’t possibly know it all. We were born to need each other. Find your sense of humor, it will lighten your path. When you are kind to yourself you will be kinder towards others.
Transitions are a natural part of life and necessary for change and growth. I hope this information will help ease your way, and be a tool for you to tap into the strength and courage already inside you.
“Just when the caterpillar thought, ‘I am incapable of moving,’ it became a butterfly.”
― Annette Thomas
Bonnie Katz, MFT is a licensed therapist in private practice. Her goal as a therapist is to help clients reach “optimal mental wellness”, so that they can feel happiness, fulfillment and joy in their everyday lives. For more information on Bonnie’s therapy practice, visit her website. Like The Conscious Actor on Facebook
I’ve created The Conscious Actor Inspiration Journal; to help actors develop awareness of what inspires them. Beautiful pages filled with inspirational quotes to help keep you strong minded. For New York actors, the journal is available at Drama Book Shop Los Angeles actors may pick up the journal at Samuel French Bookshop
Conscious Actor articles are not a substitution for professional psychotherapy.