Wise and inspirational… sure to strike a chord with readers…
From Publishers Weekly
Neeld, a consultant to Fortune 500 companies and a former professor at Texas A&M, offers useful guidance on handling difficult life passages, like divorce, illness and the death of a parent or spouse. She also includes transitions that blend joy and challenge, such as retirement, the birth of a child or a desired career change. Her program is well thought out, incorporating four steps—responding, reviewing, renewing and reorganizing—illustrated by inspiring personal testimonies (including her own). For instance, in responding, which means handling emotional swings, the author recommends, among other things, slowing down and seeking the help of a professional. After emotions have subsided, it’s time to review by exploring hopeful possibilities, and reorganizing means beginning to find a new sense of purpose. This stage flows directly into renewing, a period of new creativity and celebrating a stronger self. Throughout each stage, Neeld (Seven Choices: Finding Daylight After Loss Shatters Your World) strongly advocates listening to music as an escape, an aid to meditation or simply a soothing activity (she even recommends specific works for particular needs). Neeld’s wise advice will help many through life’s inevitable transitions.
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Read the AARP interview on responding to job loss with Elizabeth Harper Neeld
Book of the Month Selection for One Spirit Book Club
Published by Warner Books
- Navigating Your Way Through Difficult Times
- Moving far from home? Expecting a new baby?
- Adjusting to new in-laws or stepchildren?
- Starting a new job? Facing retirement?
- Going back to school?
When you face life’s tough transitions, you need someone to light the road—and the pitfalls—ahead. This extraordinary book does just that…and shows you how to make your journey one of growth, wisdom, and happiness. From the author of Seven Choices comes a comforting book offering insight, information and inspiration for anyone experiencing a major life change, from job promotions to empty nesting to retirement to the loss of a loved one.
Life is constantly handing us opportunities, challenges, and changes—a new baby, retirement, a new job, new step-children or in-laws, a move to a new community. In her highly acclaimed previous work, Seven Choices, Dr. Neeld helped thousands deal with mourning and loss. Now, with TOUGH TRANSITIONS, she teaches us how to adapt more easily to change of all kinds…and offers a new path that leads to happiness and growth.
Using a life-map created exclusively for this book that, at a glance, shows the unfamiliar territory ahead, she guides us through the four R’s, the distinctions of every transition: responding, reviewing, reorganizing, and renewing. Then, blending the latest scientific research, real-llife stories, and the wisdom of many traditions, she reveals what experiences you’re likely to encounter and what crucial actions you can take to move forward.
For each of the four distinctions of the transition process, Elizabeth Neeld offers a thoughtful blend of scientific research, learned teachings, and personal anecdotes to help readers navigate the difficult challenges we all face. The areas of tough transition are all-encompassing, covering any kind of change that requires individuals to create new structure for their lives: from retirement, to moving, to blending families, to surviving health problems, to dealing with financial setbacks, to infertility, to divorce. Dr. Neeld has discovered that no matter what the transition is, there are certain coping mechanisms that help move through the chaos of change and reach creative and victorious outcomes.
- What issues you’re likely to face with different kinds of change
- How your body, mind, and emotions are affected by transition
- New thinking and new behaviors that can transform your life
- The difference between surviving and thriving—and the secrets that will make you a thriver.
- Facing the unknown can be confusing.
Why read a book about tough transitions? Aren’t these transitions as count-on-able as rain and as normal as crab grass? What more needs to be offered than perhaps a gentle admonition to buck up and move on or, on a really difficult day, a steady hand of support? No one wants to give time to words that only belabor the obvious, even if those words do aim to be inspirational or encouraging.
This book is about something more than inspiration or encouragement, (though I hope it’s that, too.) Its purpose is to distill the most current information available related to tough transitions—from science, philosophy, the arts, ancient spiritual thought, medical studies—and to show how individuals have used this information to navigate their way through some of life’s most difficult times.
Tough transitions are inevitable. But the fact that they are inevitable does not mean that they have only to be suffered through with clenched teeth and fisted fingers. There is information—if we know it—and ways of thinking and behaving—if we do them—that can give us a facility to navigate through tough times with more insight, understanding, and sense of direction. I’ve written this book to offer just such an possibility.
Your Transition Is Not My Transition
If we look back over our lives, each of us can make a long list of transitions we’ve experienced. Some of us can have a list just by calling out what we’re in the middle of right now. Try putting a mark by the side of every situation listed here that you’ve dealt with or are experiencing now, and you’ll see what I mean:
___ losing a job
___dealing with illness
(yours or someone close to you)
|___changing careers by choice
|___taking a new job
___losing someone by death
___facing one’s own aging
___dealing with financial loss
___looking for work
___living in a country you weren’t
___going to or coming from war
___choosing a public alternative
___becoming a stay-at-home mom
|___experiencing empty nest
___caring for elders
___being divorced, separated or left
___having a baby
___having someone go to war or
come home from war
___losing sense of security
___having a new grandchild
___losing a baby
___finding adoptive birth parents/child
___blending two families
As you look at your own list of transitions, you note that each is a different kind of challenge…this one hurt for years…that one is a challenge but a bit exhilarating…this one shook everything in my life…that one brought at least as much joy as hard work…this one makes me angry as a buzzing bee…that one knocked my breath out of me. A short list of three or four transitions matched with the challenge or emotion or experience will illustrate this variety in intensity, pain, duration, and effect on wellbeing.
Here are a few of my own transitions matched to my experience:
Moving to a strange city for a two year job assignment in my husband’s work: disoriented, feeling of emptiness, excited, challenged by daily essentials, feeling I had stepped out of my real life into a vacuum, lonely, sense of enormous opportunity. Looking back, now that I’ve been home a couple of years, I’d say that transition, though difficult, particularly at first, was much more positive than negative.
Caring for elderly parents with health problems: discouraged, tired, confronted, sad, watching for any breakthroughs made in medicine or science that might help, anxious about their daily wellbeing, angry when they wouldn’t accept help that was available in the community, wanting to be with them as much as possible because I loved them so much. That transition was many years long—ended only by their deaths eight days apart and the start of a new transition–and was mostly hard, though there are many memories from that time that warm my heart today. And I am a font of information for my friends who are just starting into a similar transition with their elders.
Changing careers: scared, excited, surprised, jolted by ideas and ideals slamming into reality, experienced loss, supported by others, required to learn over and over, gratified. This transition had a long blank spot in the middle; it was several years after I left my position as tenured, full professor before I felt grounded in my new career as a writer. Because I initiated the change entirely, I had expected a much quicker and smoother transition. But I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I really didn’t have a clue what personal fears I would face, what I would have to learn to become a woman good at the business aspects of another career, what long, upfront investment I would have to make of my time and hard work before I could hope for any return to come to me.
When each thing is unique in itself,
there can be no comparison made.
–D. H. Lawrence
Your list of transitions will show a similar variety of pluses and minuses, loss and gain, pain and satisfaction, long and longer duration.
When we talk about transitions, then, we are not talking about cookie-cutter situations. In every transition, it is a particular individual living a specific set of experiences. That set of experiences varies just as personally and uniquely as the individuals themselves differ from every other human being on the planet.
A Paradox: Different, Yet the Same
Even while each of us lives out a tough transition in our own unique way, we are all standing on the same threshold. A threshold that marks the passage from how things were to how things are going to be. Anthropologists write a lot about thresholds, those times that mark an individual’s leaving one way of life and beginning another way of life. Any of us would smile when we looked at the origin of the word threshold in Old English—where it refers to a thorn—then going all the way back to the Danish—where the origin means to thresh or beat with a stick. That’s how a lot of transitions feel when we’re experiencing a tough time.
What is living on a threshold like? What is normal when we find ourselves propelled into a tough transition?
The word threshold in Old English refers to a thorn.
In Ancient Danish it means to thresh or beat with a stick.
People who study such things say this: standing on a threshold and living a transition is a time of “betwixt and between,” a time when we feel as if we are traveling through a realm or dimension that has few or none of the qualities our lives will have in the future, a time that can be compared to feeling invisible, being in the wilderness, falling into the dark, and living in floating worlds. There can be terrible ambiguity and confusion.
At the same time, finding ourselves on a threshold in a tough transition is marked by enormous potentiality. It is a time when we can be inwardly transformed and outwardly changed. A time associated with major reformulation, open-endedness, and of possibility. Instead of a time of what is, it is a time of what can be. At any moment the way we ordered our thoughts and actions in the past can be revised. There is a strong chance that we will come up with ways of thinking, ways of making connections and relationships, that we have never experienced before. We may break free from old ways of thinking and come up with new ways we want to live.
Leaving the old, both worlds at once they view
That stand upon the threshold of the new.
It is all this that we share in common, no matter the specificity of our individual transitions. We share the experience of living a threshold event, of navigating ourselves in that “floating world” between how things used to be and how things will be.
The Promise of This Book
Once I and five other women, together with our guides, explored a part of the Mojave Desert. We left behind the world we knew so well—asphalt highways, running water, roadmaps with markings printed in different colors, bathrooms, and Starbucks coffee—to enter a wilderness. There were no set markings and no clear path. Even our guides got lost on several occasions and we had to retrace our route to attempt to find some kind of landmark.
Gradually, however, all of us—guides and neophytes alike—got better at reading the terrain and recognizing the signs that nature provided. We learned to make a distinction between a dry-creek bed that would be safe to camp by and a wide crevice that was likely to become a rushing torrent when the rain fell. What had been only twenty shades of brown—ground, bushes, cacti, jackrabbits, roots—became, as we grew more and more familiar with the wilderness we were exploring—purple and gray and red and soft sage green. We were learning the territory. Over the days we came to know more and more what to expect.
Life offstage has sometimes been a
wilderness of unpredictables
in an unchoreographed world.
–Margot Fonteyn, Dancer
This book exists as a guide through the unfamiliar terrain of tough transitions. Many experts have studied these wildernesses of change that we traverse as we retire, blend families, lose money, change jobs, move house, age, tend elders, grieve the absence of family and friends, deal with chronic illnesses, and watch the kids grow up and leave home (or come back home, as is often the case now.)
Like you, I have experienced my own share of tough transitions; divorce, sudden death of a young husband, job loss, career change, suicide of a grandfather, remarriage including blending families, several moves, illness of parents and then death of parents eight days apart, to name a few. And I have talked to dozens of friends and acquaintances about their tough transitions.
From the research of the experts, from my own experience, and from the wisdom of friends and acquaintances, I describe in this book the territory of a tough transition—the terrain that is similar for all of us, even though our individual transitions are personal and specific. No matter the exact nature of our transitions, we share many things in common.
We all start the transition in a place of uncertainty, newness, unfamiliarity, and potential strain. We all must, at some point, take stock of what our options are, what we can and can’t do in a particular situation, what will help us move forward and what will suck us down into the quicksand of apathy. We all take steps into new places as part of navigating a tough transition, practice, fall back, practice again new ways of thinking and new models of living. We all have the opportunity to create a life that includes in an honest way the implications of the tough transition without our being defined by or identified by that tough transition. And we all have the possibility of achieving what Dr. Heinz Kohut calls “victorious outcomes” from our tough transitions. We can all be not just survivors but we can be, in spite of the hard times, thrivers.
…through ditches, over hedges, through chiffons,
through waiters, over saxophones,
to the victorious finish…
–Edna St. Vincent Millay
With this book, you have a guide that describes the passage through tough transitions. We can learn what people have done who have stood on the threshold and then stepped out into the unknown and the unfamiliar. We can be taught—and inspired–by people who walked out into the wilderness and lived to tell the tale.
Neeld, a consultant to Fortune 500 companies and a former professor at Texas A&M, offers useful guidance on handling difficult life passages, like divorce, illness and the death of a parent or spouse. She also includes transitions that blend joy and challenge, such as retirement, the birth of a child or a desired career change. Her program is well thought out, incorporating four steps—responding, reviewing, renewing and reorganizing—illustrated by inspiring personal testimonies (including her own.) For instance, in responding, which means handling emotional swings, the author recommends, among other things, slowing down and seeking the help of a professional. After emotions have subsided, it’s time to review by exploring hopeful possibilities, and reorganizing means beginning to find a new sense of purpose. This stage flows directly into renewing, a period of new creativity and celebrating a stronger self. Through each stage, Neeld (Seven Choices: Finding Daylight After Loss Shatters Your World) strongly advocates listening to music as an escape, an aid to meditation or simply a soothing activity (she even recommends specific works for particular needs). Neeld’s wise advice will help many through life’s inevitable transitions. Agent, Chris Tomasino.
–Publishers Weekly, May 9, 2005, p. 62
In TOUGH TRANSITIONS, Dr. Neeld takes the formula from her successful book Seven Choices and expands it to focus on adapting to changes of all kinds, from promotions to retirement, a new baby to empty nesting. Using a life map of her own creation, Neeld demystifies and illuminates the choices individuals will need to make to navigate the four Rs-Responding, Reviewing, Reorganizing, and Renewing. Through a thoughtful blend of scientific research, real-life stories, and wisdom of numerous traditions, she assists readers in gaining perspective and bringing a sense of equilibrium back to their lives as they learn the difference between surviving and thriving.
Wise and inspirational… sure to strike a chord with readers.
I loved Tough Transitions. It came yesterday in the mail, and I started reading it immediately. What a great read! I loved the map and I loved your list of transitions. I checked them out and found that I’d been through most of them. I also decided that I am a thriver, I like that. I’m up to page 71; I’ll get back to finishing the book as soon as possible. I like the title and I love the picture on the cover. It induces a feeling of serenity.
–Dr. Betty Miller Unterberger, Professor Emeritus, Texas A&M University
“Elizabeth Neeld lays out a realistic recovery path for life’s most difficult challenges. Her illustrative research and real world examples bring hope and possibility, even when it feels like none exist. Tough Transitions is a great reminder that we can learn to live again, to endure and find joy.”
–Yvonne Donaldson, Houston, Texas
“In this straightforward book, Elizabeth Harper Neeld escorts the reader through the hazards of our major life changes, and in the process illuminates the profound joy that lies hidden along the way.”