Our latest adventure started when Mr. Lemonade and I realized it was time to get off of the hamster wheel and start living intentionally. We knew we needed to re-prioritize and make some big changes in order to pursue what really mattered. An unexpected opportunity for a new job for my husband, would enable us to fast track some of those pursuits, such as more family time with our young kids and becoming debt free. Sounds perfect right? Well, the reality of starting a new job and moving our family wasn’t exactly smooth sailing.
The day Mr. Lemonade started his new job was certainly bittersweet. While we were excited that this big new adventure had officially begun, we had also decided that we wouldn’t move our family and would live apart until the school year ended which was a whopping 6 months away! My left brain had it all planned out… Switching schools during the middle of year would be hard for the kids, I reasoned. The new job included housing but as it turned out, there wasn’t a house to live in yet, so we wouldn’t have had a place to move to right away. Then there was the matter of selling our house so, logically, staying behind made the most sense, right?
It wasn’t long (probably day 3) before the stress of being apart, started to sink in and I started to really question if we had made the right decision. Getting the kids ready, taking them to school, commuting 45 minutes to work, putting in a full day at the office, commuting 45 minutes back to daycare (praying there wouldn’t be any traffic), homework, dinner, bath time, bedtime, chores… wow I get exhausted typing it all. I know in my heart of hearts this was the right choice for our family but the challenges of this transition made me second guess this decision more than once.
Big life changes like moving to a new location or changing jobs can be challenging, frustrating and stressful; no matter how certain you are that it was the right decision. Perhaps you’re in middle of a big life change right now and things aren’t going exactly as you thought they would. Or maybe you’re on the verge of a big decision. Here are some tips that helped me keep my sanity through our big life changes.
1. Remember what you’re working toward
So you’ve decided to take that new job or start a new business or pursue some other big dream. That’s great! While you’re excited about this fantastic new adventure, take a moment to write down why you’ve chosen this path. List out all your reasons for this decision and what you hope to achieve. Now, put this note somewhere you can see it daily or refer to it easily. I wrote our reasons down in my journal so at the end of a long and frustrating day, I could reflect back and remember why we decided to do this in the first place. Sometimes we can get so head-down focused in the moment that we easily forget what we’re working toward. Reflecting back on what you’re working toward can be reinvigorating to give you that “second (or third or fourth) wind” you need to keep pressing on.
2. Have a plan
During a period of change, life can quickly start to feel out of control and unstable. Even the smallest unexpected wrinkle, can make us feel frustrated and overwhelmed. There have certainly been plenty of times, when I’d convinced myself that we’d made the wrong decision, that this was too hard and I wanted to throw in the towel but that just wasn’t an option. Having a plan (or making one right now) can help you remain focused on where you’re headed and be able to see that you are making progress. I recommend making a plan that captures the big milestones or tasks that have to be done before you can be fully on the other side of this transition. For us, these were things like prepping our house for sale, packing, listing our house, etc. For each of those milestone, consider breaking them down into smaller to do’s. Now, that you see how much work needs to be done and have broken the work down into manageable to dos, you can begin to set aside time to accomplish each task.
Finally, I recommend you have a daily action plan that combines the to do’s you just listed with the must do’s of daily life like daily chores, grocery shopping and meal planning. Knowing what you have to accomplish and how you’re going to achieve it, takes the stress out of a big transition and makes it easier to deal with the unexpected bumps that come up along the way.
3. Work the plan
I’m a to do list enthusiast (some days “make a to do list for (fill in the blank)” is actually a thing on my list, yes I know… NERD) but shockingly life RARELY goes exactly as I planned. Making a plan isn’t about being perfect every step of the way but rather creating and keeping forward momentum; moving you closer and closer to your goal even if it’s just an inch at a time. Having a plan during a time of transition in particular, can make the overwhelming manageable; it makes life easier and simpler so when some lemons get thrown your way you can scoop them up and make lemonade.
4. Leave some margin to Appreciate the journey
This one is probably the most difficult (at least for a to do list obsessed, planner like me). During a big life transition, it can be tempting to squeeze the most of every minute of every day to get past the transition and on to the destination, but that usually ends in burn out and disappointment. The unexpected is going to happen and sometimes the unexpected isn’t a bad thing. My biggest blessing during this transition was getting to know another sweet mama with kids at the same daycare. Lucky for me, this gal was outgoing otherwise with my super planned out schedule, I probably wouldn’t have made any margin for a new friendship. And I would have SO missed out! Her friendship was the biggest encouragement to me during a really difficult, exhausting time. It turned out she was going through the same transition and she and her husband were living apart too.
It can be hard to find joy in the journey when the transition is long, difficult or doesn’t go exactly as planned especially, when we don’t make margin to appreciate and reflect on the positives. I’ve found that when I struggled the most, it helped to celebrate and count my blessings. I know that sounds so cliché but seriously when I’m carrying my frustration around like a backpack, one of the easiest ways to lighten that load is to take a breath and count even the smallest of blessings but you have to make the time, leave some margin to appreciate the journey or you might miss it.
Big life changes are rarely easy but staying focused on why you set out on this path in the first place, planning how you’re going to get there and leaving room to enjoy the journey , makes life during a big transition less stressful and more enjoyable. For us, this adventure has been so much more about the journey than the destination. We have been finding freedom in living with less (more on this in a future post) and making margin for the more important things like becoming closer as a family.
And just when I was starting to think that this opportunity wasn’t going to be a bowl full of lemons, I got a text message from Mr. Lemonade one day with pictures of our new house….
Oh dear… these lemons are going to need a whole lot of sugar before they’re lemonade! (Don’t worry we did make some lemonade! Stay tuned to see our progress!)