Finding Your Place in Life's Transitions

place planning Feb 28, 2024

As the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “The only constant is change.” While this point of view is timeless, this life perspective may never be truer than it is now. With the rapid change of technology, the interconnectedness of the globe, and shifting social and cultural norms, it isn't easy to know what the future holds, not just in ten years but even a year.  

All of these changes can trigger life transitions. And, with each life transition, a change in place may occur.  It is one of the reasons an adult in the U.S. moves on average a dozen times.


 Life transitions may involve a move to a better place for a new life chapter (Photo by HiveBoxx on Unsplash)


Life is Full of Transitions and Life is in the Transitions

Particularly in the quiet and uneventful moments of life, we can forget that our adult lives are marked by transition. Leaving home for college. Educational transitions. Career changes. Entering new social circles. Marriages. Parenthood. Empty nest. Divorce. Loss of loved ones. Health changes. Retirement. And the list goes on.

Finding ways to cope and embrace change is a core competency of life in the 21st century.

In his book, Life is in the Transitions: Mastering Change at Any Age, Bruce Feiler explores the concept of life transitions and how individuals can navigate them effectively. He draws from his own experiences and interviews hundreds of people to provide insights into various life transitions and the strategies to help individuals deal with and thrive during these periods of change.

Feiler introduces the concept of "lifequakes," which are major life disruptions that challenge individuals to adapt and grow. He identifies three stages of transition: the Long Goodbye (letting go of the past), the Messy Middle (navigating uncertainty and chaos), and the New Beginning (embracing the future). Key themes include the importance of storytelling and narrative in making sense of one's experiences, the role of community and social support in facilitating resilience, and the significance of embracing vulnerability and uncertainty as opportunities for personal growth. He also emphasizes the need for individuals to actively engage in self-reflection and self-reinvention, rather than passively waiting for change to happen.


More than a city with a great football team, Pittsburgh scores highly as a place for singles looking for love according to Porch (Photo by Jordan Faux on Unsplash) 


Finding Your Place is Key

One of the keys to making the most of life’s transitions is place. In some cases, a life transition triggers a move. In other cases, it initiates changes to an existing place, such as material changes, like a home renovation, or, more commonly, non-physical changes, like making new friends or changing a workout routine. In nearly every case, a life transition should at least raise whether a change of place could be a strategy to make the most of a new life stage.

On one end of the spectrum, a life transition from college to a first job, place features prominently. There is the decision not just on what organization to join, but what place to become part of. Urban, suburban, rural? Within or outside of the U.S.? What type of neighborhood? What physical dwelling? This decision can shape social networks, physical activity, financial well-being, and more. For young people, the decision of what metropolitan city to move to can have a direct impact on your likelihood of finding a mate and the type of mate you find.

On the other end, empty nesters or retirees often confront decisions about place, too. Downsize, upsize, or “rightsize”? Where? What type of community or neighborhood do you wish to be part of? Which places positively influence social connections and sense of purpose? Combing over a “best of” lists can be deceptive as these compilations often overweight weather and cost of living and underweight other factors that drive broader well-being.


Good Decisions Matter, but So Does Your Attitude

If you are in the midst of a life transition, focus on place. It’s a decision that matters, but have realistic expectations. Landing in the perfect place may be unrealistic (perfect places don’t exist, anyway, and if they do, it is not for very long). It may be better to focus on finding the “right-ish” place.

Just as important is making your place right for you. This starts with your attitude. This is an area where Bruce Feiler’s work is so important. As hard as it may be in the cases of “lifequakes”, such as losing a partner or having health setbacks, transitioning to the New Beginning phase is important to make the most of life’s next chapter.

As the English writer Alan Watts once penned, "The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance." Embrace the rhythms of change and recognize that sometimes this dance may take you to a new place.




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