In 2016 I finished my MA in Transpersonal Psychology (TP) which is the psychological study of human potential. One of the things I love about TP is the non-judgmental way it values and explores a diverse range of religious and cultural traditions. In particular, it looks at the variety of ways milestone moments – times in life when a person’s experience changes due to physical, emotional, psychological or culturally defined growth – are highlighted and celebrated around the world.
Milestone moments often come with a healthy dose of unknown. As such, they can challenge our ability to make the most of inevitable changes. They also call for us to become aware of new skills and abilities not previously needed before the change. This topic is on my mind because last month I had the pleasure of speaking on a panel of college admissions professionals supporting high school students and their families to prepare for their transition towards college.
I was specifically invited to the panel to highlight the impact of transitioning from being cared for to caring for oneself. To know what it’s like for a teenager to make this transition today, I’m sharing the story of a Move Strong client named Morgan and her perspective of facing the transition from high school to college and college into the professional world.
Here’s what Morgan realized and learned about leaving home:
“For the first 18 years of my life, someone else told me what’s good and how to do everything. I got used to having results and experiences handed to me most of the time and when I left home, I felt frustrated when this stopped happening. Suddenly it was like, ‘Welcome to the rest of your life’; only there was no instruction manual. Now instead of waiting for others to tell me, I had to seek out the answers for myself.”
I asked Morgan, How did you get from “there’s no instruction manual” to “I can seek out the answers”?
We both laughed as she said with a thick layer of sarcasm, “By considering being in charge without a pessimistic attitude for more than five minutes! With coaching, I gained perspective and I realized I’d have to adapt.”
Adapt to what, I asked. “A life of living without instructions and living self-managed where I’m not answering to anyone but myself at the end of the day. I am officially in charge of my existence.”
And what have you learned about being in charge?
(Wait for it! This is my favorite part of the story and a bit of wisdom from a Gen Z’r that we can ALL use!)
“Being in charge of my life is fluid, non-linear and it’s not going to manage itself. I have to step in when I can, tweak things, pull my own levers and see what happens. A lot of it is rooted in experimenting and that’s my job now. To try things and figure out what works so I can find the answers for myself and make the choices that are best for me”.
When faced with a “Who moved my cheese?” reality where the thing she was most used to having available was gone, Morgan realized she’d have to adapt and that adaptation required learning new skills, being willing to not know and finding a process – like experimentation – by which she could find her own answers.
In Morgan’s case and in the case of every high school or college senior poised to step into the next phase of their lives, the impact of the transition from being cared for to caring for oneself cannot be understated. As Morgan realized, not only do milestones challenge us to adapt and change, they require us to figure out how to learn.
What’s significant about intentionally marking milestone changes like Morgan’s is that people get a sense of what the change is going to mean for them. Ceremonies may even require them stepping into new behaviors to get ready for each milestone and when the time comes to transition, a sense of readiness – even confidence in some cases – has been cultivated in the hopes of supporting each person’s willingness and ability to embrace the change in their lives.
Together, the panel members and I sat spread across a long table like a tribal council in support of helping both parents and students to make the changes they need to be successful in their college application and in beginning to prepare for their overall transition to college. As I reflect on American culture and celebration of a high school graduation, I can see that we often celebrate more than we prepare ourselves for the inevitable milestone moments we all experience.
Making Your Own Milestones
Your ability to be in charge of your life impacts your performance and your experience in every area be it social, academic, financial or professional. This makes milestone transitions an amazing opportunity to connect with the life skills you truly need to be good at for the long haul including:
1) Learning how to be in charge of yourself and your lifestyle
2) Building your Awareness – the ability to consciously notice and know
3) Understanding who you’re Being in the world – your presence and unique personal characteristics
4) Honing your ability to Choose – Aligning your lifestyle, your knowledge and who you want to be in the world with choices that reinforce all three
No matter your age or the milestone you’re facing, if we’re all being 100% honest, it’s not a one and done learning to master the four points listed above. These are lifetime lessons. New milestones will continue to come and we all must re-evaluate what, why and how we do things. Awareness, Being and Choice are lifelong practices and I’ll venture a guess that most “adults” would agree that the earlier you begin building your awareness, understanding who you are and improving your ability to make choices, the better off you’ll be indefinitely.
To put these thoughts and ideas into practice, here is an exercise you can use at your own pace. While coaching is an action-oriented practice, contemplation and reflection come before action. To that end, this practice is a reflective one and may require writing things down or talking it over with a trusted friend or family member.
Think about a time when you experienced a major change or transition in life.
Ask one question from each life skills area and write down what you notice:
How did that change impact my lifestyle and how I care for myself or how others support me?
What did I become aware of after that change?
How did I feel about myself as a result of the change?
What choices have I made since?
These answers will create picture of what happened then and give you a sense of what you may like to be different for your next life’s transition.
Once you’ve worked this process for a past experience, you can use your awareness and wisdom to reflect forward and with imagination design what you want for your next milestones by asking:
How do I think that change will impact my life?
Will it change my routines and how I care for myself?
What will I need to be aware of before this change?
How do I want to feel when the change comes?
What choices can I make to get ready and create the experience I want after this change?
Always feel free email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave comments here. Your story will inspire others to explore their own. Sharing is just one way we support each other and create the possibility for all boats to rise. Good luck!
Lots of Love,