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The How-To: Making Successful Transitions To The Next Chapter In Your Life There are three crucial factors for successful transitions: a timeline with clear goals and actions; a support system of people and tools; and method for holding yourself accountable.

By Michelle Wu

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Statistics show that the average person will change jobs ten to twelve times during his or her career. Therefore, the question is, how can we find transitions that are meaningful and fulfilling?

At age of 39, I have my own share of transitions, in both my personal and professional lives. I've changed roles seven times in my 16-year career with my company; moved between continents four times; and became the owner of a professional coaching service, KRMW, three years ago.

In recent years, I have gotten to know more and more people in their late 30's and early 40's exiting the corporate world and entering the startups scene. Many consider this career transition move an "encore career movement," a term coined by Marc Freedman in his book Encore: Finding Work that Matters in the Second Half of Life.

In the US, baby boomers (born between 1946 and 64) tend to enter their encore careers in their 50's through 70's, with many going into the non-profit and healthcare sectors. Interestingly, the Xennials micro-generation, (my own generation born between 1977 and 1985, between Gen-X and Millennials), are now entering encore careers at their early 40's, 10 to 12 years earlier than baby boomers, and often with startups and small-and-medium enterprises.

Reasons for transition can vary greatly, and include job loss, role promotion, career switch, or other life events. Major changes in life can be incredibly stressful and uncertain. Is there a way that we can make these transitions more positive?

I believe that with a structured approach, people can successfully make a change at any stage in life. There are three crucial factors for successful transitions: a timeline with clear goals and actions; a support system of people and tools; and method for holding yourself accountable.

Clear goals, actions, and timeline

Each year, 80% of New Year resolutions fail by the second week of February, and only 8% of people keep their New Year's resolutions. Why is it so hard for us to commit to goals? The main reason for the high failure rate of New Year's resolutions is because changes require a person to sustain motivation and deal with discomfort that evolves during transitions.

Regardless of age, making a change, having clear goals, realistic actions, and a structured timeframe can help to successfully transition to the next chapter in life. Clear goals are targets that will give measurable and meaningful outcomes. Actions are steps that should be taken in order to see, or feel, progress toward goals. Lastly, a timeline frames when a person will be able to begin moving forward and how long he or she will be willing to give themself before they can expect results.

I often advise my coaching clients who are going through transitions that they need to first write down three goals, personal or professional, on a piece of paper, and prioritize them by asking three questions: "how important is each goal to you;" "if you can choose only one goal to work on, which one is the most meaningful to you;" and "in six months, which goal is the must-meet so you feel fulfilled and content?"

In each quarter, focus on only one goal with actions that are forward-looking and reachable. I ask them to further break down actions into manageable steps that can be taken each month.

Lastly, commit to duration for the transition event. Be it 6 months or 2 years, having a timeframe can put a right structure back to their lives.

Support system and accountability

Transitions can feel uncertain, and a support system can help minimize stress while providing a sounding board for regular check-ins.

A support system can be who or what will sustain commitments during transitions. For example, a loved one or coach can keep a person on track of goals, by giving emotional or financial support during ups and downs time.

A support system can also be a "what." For example, optimism can help someone approach uncertainties and unknowns in a more productive way, combating how people tend to become anxious over the worst-case scenarios. Even though people may experience roadblocks at points during the transition, optimism can help them bounce back much quicker. Additionally, positive thinking can stop negative self-talk!

I recommend my coaching clients list out 1 to 3 "who-and-whats" that can help support them emotionally, physically, or financially during a transition. Then, they need to set up how frequently they need to connect with them so to keep their motivations positive and high.

Lastly, a commitment to the timeline is the final success factor that supports a person during change. Accountability provides a sense of stability, helping reduce anxiety while facing the unknown. This can also enable positive results, like an increase in feelings of self-competency, and confidence in performing actions.

Take a leap of faith

Whether you are deciding to become an entrepreneur, switching your career path, or taking on a promotion, transitions are major life milestones that can define who you are and what you stand for.

Commit today that you will make a change. Put a framework around your transition with clear goals, actions, accountability, and most importantly, a solid support system to keep yourself on track.

Related: Finding Your Path To Success: Start By Defining Your Goals

Michelle Wu

VP Digital Technology & Chief Information Officer, GE Power Services - Middle East & Africa

Michelle Wu is VP Digital Technology & Chief Information Officer at GE Power Services - Middle East & Africa.  Michelle champions GE Women’s Network Women in Technology initiatives in the Middle East, with a mission to increase the number of women in the STEM fields in the region.  Since 2015, Michelle has set up STEM mentorship programs for university female students and mid- career women in 4 countries.  Michelle is a certified professional coach through International Coach Federation (ICF) and certified 200-hour yoga instructor.


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