How to Embrace Any Major Life Change

Senior hispanic man sitting on bed in thought

You’ve been there before. That moment when you realize you have no idea what to do next. The one thing you do know is a major change is upon you.

Perhaps you left that painful, but familiar relationship, or you got your dream job and have to leave all your friends and family. Maybe you took that “great opportunity” and lost all your money. Or perhaps your job has been amazing for years, but now your new boss is a total jerk. Maybe you even received a diagnosis you never thought was coming.

Whether your situation is, there’s hope. In her book, Finding Your Own North Star, Claiming the Life You Were Meant to Live, Martha Beck calls these Square One time period catalysts. These catalysts can spark changes that last anywhere from days to years, depending on the extent of the event. They are usually overwhelming and confusing, and no one can really tell you what to do.

However, Beck offers some beneficial guidelines that can help you understand where you are in your journey and support you in uncovering a deeper mission. When you arrive at Square One, you have an overwhelming sense that one way of life has died and a new one is being born, and it is impossible to go back to the way it was.

During a Square One, it’s common to ask yourself lots of questions. The key is navigating through them to step into who you were created to be.

Why Do I Feel So Confused?

If you’ve experienced a catalytic event, it’s OK to not know exactly what’s going on or what to do next. Chances are, you’ve arrived here in one of three ways:

  • Life shocked you. In other words, an outside event, negative or positive, occurred that dramatically changed your life. It had nothing to do with whether you deserved it or not; it just happened.
  • Life gave you an opportunity. Maybe you have been working for something for a long time, and it’s finally coming to fruition. It’s time to act, and now you must step up and stretch yourself like never before.
  • Life is transitioning. You have come to the realization that you must act on an inner yearning; you have dealt with frustration for far too long or a new exciting adventure is calling your name. The way things have been is no longer working for you. You may even be more fraught with indecision and shame during such a transition, since it feels like you are acting solely on passion.

Whatever your situation, one way of life is over and another must begin. You are going places internally and externally you have not been before. Confusion is natural.

What Can I Expect Now?

There are three phases to Square One. The first phase is when you must let go of what was and allow your old identity to dissolve and die. This might lead to feeling exhausted or bewildered.

The second phase is when you are between an old and new identity, which can be an unsettling time. You may feel panicky and have the sensation that you are working hard, but nothing is getting done.

The third phase is the beginning of forming a new identity; you may feel elated and joyful, like the feeling of falling in love. It is also possible to cycle through these phases quite a few times before moving on.

What Do I Do First?

Any catalytic event will bring with it some pain. Even when the event is positive, the first thing you want to do is to reflect and let go of what was, including any identity that you had. And particularly if the event is negative, then make space to grieve. If you skip this step and rush to the “next thing,” the grief will get masked and come back down the road, often in unforeseen, difficult ways.

Recognize healthy grieving patterns. Don’t mistake pain with suffering and wallow in your grief for years, telling others and yourself the story over and over to try and get relief. This will only keep you in a cycle of suffering. 

Learn to grieve in a healthy way, even if the changes are positive, and always stay away from unhealthy or toxic habits. 

Who Can Tell Me What I Should Do Next?

You will be the only person who will know how to authentically move forward, but don’t rush anything. It’s usually best to not make big decisions or commitments during this time. Give yourself time to adjust to all the changes. 

Hiring a coach or finding a mentor can be an effective way to get support in charting your new life and finding new ways to tap into your inner wisdom, guidance, and intuition. Remember, it’s OK to not know what is going on in Square One; don’t pretend to know something you don’t.

How Should I Make an Action Plan?

During this time, your mind will probably be pulled into the infinite ways the future could go. Running through these possibilities over and over can make anyone feel a little insane. The best thing to do in Square One is to become present and take one day, or even 30 minutes, at a time:

  • Make small moves
  • Try on new identities
  • Play with new ideas

Don’t make any specific plans around something until it has become genuinely anchored in your heart and in your being.

Is There an Upside to Any of This?

There are many magical possibilities during Square One. When you are between identities or ways of being, you tend to have more freedom than at any other time. Let yourself relax into this space of limitlessness. Being nobody nowhere can lead to becoming anything anywhere. 

Once you understand Square One for what it is, you can decide to take the good, leave the bad, and choose to use your awareness to build a life that is authentic and exhilarating.

How Do I Know When I’m Ready to Move Forward?

Once you have let go of all the labels and identities of what you should be or what you were, and can complete the sentence, “I was always meant to be…”, you know you have reached a crucial point. While the completion of that sentence might change in the future, if you have a sense of how to answer it today, then you’re on your way to moving forward.

To help identify your purpose, notice all the things that you feel drawn to and give your body a positive physical sensation. Then, narrow down what specifically is meant for you until you can finally give it a name and move forward.

As Richard Nelson Bolles, author of What Color is Your Parachute: A Practical Manual For Job-Hunters and Career Changers, says, “Your mission in life is where your deep joy and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

Square One provides an opportunity to find your fulfillment and serve your greater purpose for the benefit of others. Your task is to stop fighting the process, accept the foreignness of this time, and allow something deeper to come through. Experiencing Square One takes patience and a certain persistent surrender, but its gifts are infinite.


Develop tools to release stress and overcome obstacles in order to live a more balanced life at the Chopra Center’s yoga and meditation retreat, Seduction of Spirit. Learn More.


 

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About the Author
Nicolette Stinson

Nicolette Stinson

Certified Coach, Yoga Instructor and Perfect Health Instructor
Nicolette is an online personal brand strategist for coaches and wellness professionals. She is also a Certified Coach, Chopra Center Perfect Health Instructor, and Yoga Teacher as well as an avid student of mindfulness, creativity, personal development, and spirituality. Visit www.nicolettestinson.com to learn more.Read more