Learn how to ride the cycles of life

Life is change, and we’ll find peace of mind if we learn to look along the way for the positives it has bestowed.

Barbara Barb Bowes Transitions
Barbara Bowes

Do you ever reflect on the cycle of life? We grow up, attend advanced education or training, get a job, get married and have children. Before you know it, the children have grown up and are going through the same life cycle.

What about your work life? It has cycles as well. For instance, you get your first job, perhaps take additional training and gain more experience and before you know it, a promotion comes your way. Or, in many cases, you accept another job opportunity with a new organization and start the worklife cycle again.

Have you ever stopped to reflect on how many jobs you’ve had? Some readers will have changed careers altogether! Others will have experienced general layoffs or resignation and termination due to interpersonal conflicts with their boss.

Change brings on melancholy
As you age and can count 25 or 30 years plus in the workforce, you’re probably starting to think about retirement options. And by this time, you are probably also looking at housing options and weighing the pros and cons of selling your bigger house, downsizing and taking life a bit easier.

But when you reflect on and laugh about the good times, personal or professional, why are you also feeling a weird sense of melancholy? Why is it that when your children move out on their own you feel a hole in your heart? Why is it that when you change jobs and/or retire from the workplace that you also feel a sense of discomfort? It’s because you are entering into another life cycle, the cycle of life change.

The life cycle of change concept was developed by a Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross who initially applied her model to counselling for personal trauma, loss and death and dying. Her simple model suggests that people being confronted by personal trauma, no matter how challenging, go through five stages of change. For instance, at first there is denial that something is happening, then anger and an attempt to bargain your way out of the situation. Next, you will experience a sense of depression, and finally you will accept the situation and move on.

We all go through a life-change cycle
Over the years, this model has been applied to many types of life challenges. It has been especially helpful for individuals overcoming job loss and confronting career transition. The model also provides insight to anyone experiencing an emotional upset and/or a major personal trauma for the first time. So, when you find yourself feeling sad or despondent for no apparent reason, think about this model of grief and loss and see how it can help you.

I also know from professional experience that further emotional turmoil can occur if you are caught in the spiral of change and don’t immediately deal with your emotions. In fact, you can find yourself feeding off your own negativity with what is called “twisted thinking”.

For instance, you might be looking at your situation in terms of absolutes, or “all-or-nothing”, where you see only failure and never opportunity. You might see your current situation as a never-ending negative pattern and something you can’t control. Or, you may jump to conclusions without any evidence or blow things way out of proportion.

It doesn’t matter what personal and professional change you go through, be it children going off to college, marriage breakup, losing a job, and/or confronting death in the family, everyone will go through the same life change cycle. Recognize your feelings, know and understand the life change cycle and deliberately begin bringing yourself back to balance. While attending and working with a professional counselor is advantageous, there are also several tactics you can do yourself. These include:

Label your emotions. This gives you focus and awareness and allows you to separate yourself from the experience. Once you recognize the emotion, you can consciously begin to overcome it.

Start a journal. It is often very helpful to write down your thoughts in a journal. This allows you to separate yourself from the emotion and be able to review your notes from a more objective viewpoint.

Identify your successes. Most people take themselves for granted and don’t fully recognize the many successes they have experienced in life. Think of a challenge and how you handled it. This in itself is a success. Make a list, sit back and read it. Allow the words to sink into your thoughts. This will help raise your self-esteem and make you realize you have solved challenging problems before.

Put a smile on your face
Look in the mirror. Put a smile on your face and look in the mirror. Hold yourself straight and tall. Pay attention to your body language, no matter where you are. Holding yourself tall gives you confidence and people will see confidence even if you don’t feel it.

Change your questions. Instead of asking, “What’s wrong with me?” ask, “What can I do to make this work?” Ask yourself questions that allow for an open-ended answer instead of focusing on finding a personal fault. Explore and determine what you can control and what you cannot.

Read, read, read. If you don’t have access to a counselor, read self-help books that will help you analyze your feelings, replace negative thinking and start you back on a path to positive thinking. Read about the life cycle as it relates to grief and loss, recognize your own behaviour and read how to get out of the rut you have found yourself in.

When you accept the ups and downs, and recognize and manage your emotions as you travel on your life’s journey, there is a good chance you’ll then be living life to the fullest.

Barbara J. Bowes is president of Legacy Bowes Group and of Career Partners International, Manitoba. She is also a radio host, author and professional speaker. She can be reached at barb@legacybowes.com.

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