Three Steps to Navigating Change

Paula-Jenkins-HeadshotHi, I’m Paula, a life coach and retreat leader living in the San Francisco Bay Area. I love a good laugh, long spiritual discussions, and spending time brainstorming ideas for ridiculous niche products with my friends. Learn more about my coaching practice on my site, or connect with me via my blog, Instagram, or Facebook. To find out more about by upcoming Dream Into Action retreat in November, visit my retreat site

Over the last year, I’ve been on a journey to make a sweeping changes in my life. I’m actively working to become a life coach and entrepreneur after working in advertising for nearly 15 years.

It’s a welcome change and something that I’m ultimately very excited about. Even with the positive nature of the change, and fully owning that it’s something I’ve sought out for myself, it’s not without its fair share of anxiety and stress. Learning how to navigate the feeling of being overwhelmed and learning to stay focused on what I can control have been at the heart of managing my own emotions during this time of transition.

"Learning how to navigate the feeling of being overwhelmed and learning to stay focused on what I can control have been at the heart of managing my own emotions during this time of transition." - Paula Jenkins

Here are a few thoughts on navigating change and how to make times of transition a little easier:

1) Putting Your Thoughts in Writing Makes Them Actionable

“Make a commitment to have what you want in life and then make a plan to get it. A plan of action ought to be written down on paper. If it’s only in your mind it may be more of a dream than a plan.” – Debbie Ford, The Dark Side of the Light Chasers

Late last year, armed with the knowledge that I’d be starting a certification program in January, I sat down and wrote out a list of things I knew I wanted to accomplish in conjunction with becoming a life coach. It started as an exercise to quiet my mind: taking a few minutes to empty my mental to do list onto a piece of paper stopped me from feeling so anxious. Seeing the list written out took the anxiety out of the equation for me. I refined the list to ten things I wanted to accomplish in the next three years.

The magic happened AFTER I’d written down all of the goals and published them on my blog. I could no longer ignore them. I’d made a public declaration! I also shared the list with my family and my own life coach. This sharing built in accountability and provided a place to track my progress.

Even more profoundly — and I’ve heard this now from multiple people (including clients) — once I’d put that list out into the universe, I found uncanny synchronicities happening, enabling me to reach the goals. The universe loves to rise up to help us reach our potential. All we need to do is to begin to own our greatness and our gifts, and then we’ll begin to see the inter-connectedness of everything.

“In the universe, there is an immeasurable, indescribable force which shamans call intent, and absolutely everything that exists in the entire cosmos is attached to intent by a connecting link.” – Carlos Castaneda

Something to try if you’re feeling overwhelmed:

If you’re in the beginning of organizing change (and maybe feeling a bit overwhelmed), this is a great place to start: sit down and do a complete brain dump of all of the things rattling about in your head. Give the list a thorough and objective review. Is each thing really needed to start acting on your goal(s)? Is there duplication? Is each thing something that’s small enough so that it’s achievable? Organize the list sequentially and see what you have. You’ll likely find it’s much easier to evaluate what you’re dealing with if you get it on paper, especially if you’re feeling stressed about it.

2) Getting Clear On Your Values Helps You Understand What You Really Want

“It’s not hard to make decisions once you know what your values are.” – Roy Disney

Something quite interesting happened to me, a few months into my journey. Getting PMP (Project Management Professional) certified had been on my list for years (and was originally the second item on my “Ten in Three” list), yet it was something I had slow and quiet resistance around for a long time. Sitting down to study for the exam was agonizing, and every time I thought about taking the test, my heart sank. There was no joy, no excitement, no sense of grand accomplishment awaiting me if I passed the test. Further, what seemed even more confusing and painful was that taking the test was something I was supposed to want and should’ve been easy for me to do.

I felt stuck, frustrated, and disheartened until I had a major “aha” moment, after completing a values exercise. After I reviewed my list of values, I realized that nothing close to “planning” or “organization” appeared in my top ten core values. What I value is connection, intellect, creativity/inspiration, “no toggle” authenticity, and joy. My top five values didn’t include the key traits that would draw someone to project management as a fulfilling career. It was big moment for me to realize that these traits were so glaringly absent.

I loved making this discovery because it shed light on why I haven’t felt at home with project management over the past few years. I love working with people, love figuring out what makes them happy, love working with groups and group dynamics, but the planning and organizing part? It had been slowly driving me nuts. Connecting with my core values quickly showed me why project management no longer felt like a fit for me and lightening-bolt-clarified that the change I’d already started working toward in life coaching truly made more sense than I’d even been able to put words around.

Something to try if you’re questioning your path or having a hard time making a decision:

Take a few minutes to think about how you’d eventually like to feel about the big areas of your life: friends and family, career, health, spirituality, money, your life’s work, environment, and relationships. List the things that you most value about each of these, choosing one or two words to describe each. If you’re having a hard time, try formulating each area with a question such as “I value __________ the most when I think of my family / career / money.”

3) Meeting Resistance with Persistence and Love

“Rule of thumb: The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.” – Steven Pressfield, The Art of War

If you’re working toward a big change or transition in your life, it’s inevitable that you’ll encounter resistance. This may be internal resistance, or it might actually show up in other ways. What you’ll likely discover as you strike out on your own is that the resistance gets louder and stronger as you get closer to the goal. The aim of resistance is to keep you from reaching your potential, and your aim is to keep moving past the resistance.

It would be easy to let resistance wear you down or to give in to it and give up. What I’ve found is that while persistence is important, so is being kind to myself when I run into a bump in the road. If I hunker down and get real with myself, it becomes clear that most set backs don’t reflect on me, my worth, my abilities, on how much I want to reach my dream, or on how hard I’ve worked to accomplish my goals. It’s just a set back, or in some instances, a roadblock that can help me get clear on how badly I want to get to my pre-defined end game.

I can decide to get upset by the things that get in my way or decide to give up on the goal. Or I can choose to be kind with myself, take a break, and then get back to work. Day to day, my success is far more heavily based on my mindset than anything else. Being kind to myself helps me get through the tough stuff. When I feel the emotions of frustration or overwhelm coming up, I try to remind myself that it’s only temporary and to take a long hard look at what’s gotten me to that emotion. Taking a break often helps because, ironically, space and time tend to give perspective and distance, even to things that seem too hard to tackle.

Something to try if you’re met face to face with resistance or overwhelm:

Take a deep breath. Think about the bigger picture and about what the easiest next step would be to get closer to your goal. Remembering to keep it simple often helps present a next step.
If that doesn’t work, step away from your work and make a point of doing something you love. Reconnect with nature, your garden, or do something creative. Often times, the act of doing something else makes room for the answer. Then, when you return to whatever seemed overwhelming, it often seems doable. Most importantly, treat yourself with love and kindness, and look back upon how far you’ve come, celebrating the distance you have traveled, instead of focusing on how far it seems you have to go.