Sometimes life feels like a tornado touched down on an ordinary day and left broken shards of everything you knew. Change is often sudden and all-encompassing. When a major shift comes into your life, you may feel vulnerable and frightened. But keep this in mind. When a lobster grows, it sheds it shell. It’s pink and raw in the in-between times But it’s about to grow into a stronger and greater expression of itself. So are you.

When you’re frightened your mind tends to spin around and calculate a thousand scenarios all at once. You can’t imagine how you will ever navigate your way through this kaleidoscopic unknown. You may feel tired, hopeless, ill-equipped and burdened. You may feel as though you just wish you could go back to the way things were. You may feel terrified that you will make a bad decision. These are all normal feelings. But they’re feelings. They are not facts. They are just the first layer of reaction.

Underneath this raging sea of emotions and first reactions, you have a competent decision maker. You have excellent radar. You have what you need. Underneath your confusion, you have a resourceful self. You do have a way of coming to clarity.

Just because you can’t see your choices, doesn’t mean they’re not there. Fear often puts up a shield that blocks out other information. But remember, change is the nature of life. The embryo leaves the womb to inherit this world. You left kindergarten to go on to first grade. Being in transition is a natural and vital part of existence. It’s up to you whether you will interpret it as a void or an adventure. All true growth originates in newness and confusion. That’s why the great philosopher Nietzche said, “It takes chaos to give birth to a rising star.”

While you’re “giving birth to a rising star,” these strategies can help you discover the next right step for you:

Find a Next step, not a whole life

In times of change, most of us start asking “what should I do with my life?” That’s way too huge a question. You may need to ask “what do I do in this moment?” What do I feel energy to do? The best way to find your way through times of change is one moment at a time. You may think of it as following a path of breadcrumbs. You don’t need to find the whole loaf, wheel of cheese, and salad bar. You just need to find one crumb. Find the one thing that you feel like you could do right now. It’s okay if the one thing you want to do is take a nap. Each step leads to another. It also helps you to realize that you always have a direction in the moment.

Make the decision to Support your Choices
It’s hard to make a good decision with a guillotine hanging over your head. You may be afraid of making the wrong choice or of missing something crucial in this situation. It helps if you create an emotionally safe space for yourself. That means you will commit to listening to yourself without criticism, judgment, or self-attack. Renowned psychologist Abram Maslow, said that “All creativity comes from safety.” Consider writing yourself an agreement or contract, saying that whatever you choose, you will stand behind.

Here is an example of this kind of agreement: “I will not judge the outcome of this situation. I am making the best decision I know how to make given the information I have. I will be honest with myself. I will be diligent in doing the best I can. ” And here’s a kicker clause you might add in: “I am willing to forgive myself if I have made a mistake. I am willing to be kind with myself if, later, I learn things that make me wish I’d chosen something else. I’m willing to grow from the situation and learn new things.”

Let go of your old identity
It doesn’t matter how you would have chosen in the past. It doesn’t matter what someone of your stature would normally do. What do you want to do right now? Is your past in the way of your future? You may try to salvage or maintain a certain self-image and it may be time to retire this. Your best decisions come when you are totally free. If you woke up with amnesia tomorrow, and had no past at all, what would you want to do right now? That desire has true energy and power. Sometimes an old identity is a matter of conditioning or habit. Sometimes, your former self must be celebrated and laid to rest. Someone new is emerging on the scene.

Give yourself Permission to Experiment
Sometimes you can’t just think about what to do. You must take a step. You can’t have certain experiences in the shallow end of the pool. Some lessons come only with immersion. Can you imagine what it would feel like to know that you had to immediately marry the first person you dated? It would stop you cold. But the experimentation of dating yields valuable feedback. Sometimes it’s just not possible to choose in a vacuum.

Give yourself free reign to change your mind. This isn’t flightiness or the inability to make a commitment. It may be a natural process of coming to clarity. Invite yourself to start anywhere and then change direction. A scientist learns by beginning research at one point and then following the trail of discoveries. If you insist on perfectionism upfront, you’re almost sure to guarantee paralysis.

Genius often accompanies flexibility. Ray Kroc, the CEO of McDonald’s began by starting a company that sold milkshakes. He originally got interested in McDonald’s, a small hamburger company at the time, thinking he could sell more milkshakes there. But he allowed himself to change course as he proceeded. He wasn’t distracted or weak. He committed to his instincts more than a particular outcome.

Uplift Your Confidence
In-between times can be acid on your ego. It’s a strong chemical that can eat away at your self-worth and self-esteem. It’s easy to look upon a bleak future when your heart is closed down to yourself. But when you get clearer about who you are, the love in your heart you have to give, your unequalled value, it is impossible to imagine a narrow path to a dire future. Remember, there is an infinite self within you that believes in you, and knows the brilliant and fluid life you came to live.

It helps to remember that you have felt confused before, and you got through it. You might journal about past successes and good decisions. If you find your mind being negative and roiling with self-criticism, try a daily “Win List” to reinforce your current progress. It’s a technique that has you record 5-10 positive things you did that day. Write down any achievement. Concentrate particularly on non-tangible accomplishments and small positive steps that you might otherwise overlook because you don’t yet have a final outcome. For instance, you might write: “Caught myself thinking negatively and made myself focus on something good instead.” “Got out of bed even though I wanted to roll over.” “Wrote in my journal when I wanted to yell at my husband.”

Draw Near to a Higher Power
When you feel confused, it’s often a good time to strengthen your connection to whatever Higher Power you believe in. It helps to remember that you are not alone and that nothing is without meaning or purpose. Where have you found this source of connection and comfort in the past? For some people, walking in nature can provide an exalted experience. Meditation is another way that many have connected with a strength and love beyond their conscious understanding. Sometimes you may find grace in the religion of your upbringing. Sometimes, you may need to explore new spiritual paths that touch your soul now.

You might find it helpful to write a letter to God or to your Inner Teacher and allow yourself to write back from this powerful perspective of loving wisdom. If you have a hard time imagining what this Loving Power would say, imagine what you would say to someone you loved who reached out to you.

Stop Fighting What Is
Many spiritual paths teach that when we can’t escape our pain or change our circumstances, a deeper, true life begins. Buddhists believe that freedom comes when we face our pain with awareness and acceptance. There is a teaching that advises us to “lean into the sharp edge of the sword.” In the Judeo-Christian tradition, we are taught to “Resist not evil.” In modern psychology we are taught, that “what we resist, persists.” On the path of healing, all roads lead to acceptance.

You might find it helpful to write a “Declaration of Acceptance.” You can write a list of resolves, something like this: “I resolve to see this as positive.” “I resolve to see this as useful.” “I resolve to no longer look backwards or focus on blame.”

Sometimes you may feel as though you don’t want to embrace your circumstances because you do not want to resign yourself to them. You may think that if you stop fighting your life, you will settle into it like concrete and be stuck forever. But this is a melodramatic thinking. This is not the rest of your life. This situation is a stepping stone. It’s not set in stone. Nothing in life remains static. Show up with love for this moment. It’s your moment. Love changes everything. Embracing your life makes you strong, centered, and focused and helps you grow inevitably into your next rightful expression. St. Catherine of Siena said, “All the way to heaven is heaven.”

Choose from Love Instead of Fear
Your frightened mind might want to act fast. Your angry mind might want to make someone else pay. Your small mind does not make the best decisions. Your first reactions may come to you strongly, but it doesn’t mean that you want to follow them. Remember there is a deeper, brighter part of yourself that trusts more and may be willing to take the high road in different situations. Sometimes the voice of fear within you can sound like being “reasonable.” But often it limits you to past conditioning. Choosing with love makes you feel peaceful. It makes you feel bigger and freer. It has a long-term beneficial effect. It helps to ask, “If I wasn’t feeling fear, what would I choose?” or “If I didn’t have any limitations, what would I want in this situation?”

In most situations, it helps to choose with your ultimate dream goal in mind and work backwards toward it. Many people get stuck because they are trying to find big, revolutionary answers while keeping circumstances exactly the same. It helps to think of what you want in an unlimited way, not what you think you can have, not what your present mind can figure out. Remember, you can’t plan an inspired life. Be honest about what you truly desire. Your real desires will give you energy and stamina. You have more strength and faculties than you can imagine. You will unlock these secret resources when you listen to your true heart’s calling.

Seek Peace in the Midst of the Problem
Many times we think we need to make a decision in order to feel peace of mind. But find peace of mind first, and then you will make a better decision. Part of you may want to obsess about the situation, play it over again, and count the grains of sand in your options. But it helps to take a walk, take a hike, read a novel, or get a massage. Relax and let go. Relaxing can help you access your creative resourceful mind. Letting go can help you remember a vital perspective or a past strength. A quiet mind is a powerful machine.

They say that what you focus on grows. If you focus on your problem intently, you will see nothing but your problem. Albert Einstein reflected, “You cannot solve a problem from the level of the problem.” Modern brain research indicates that you will tend to have more “Eureka moments” when you’re not specifically thinking about your problem. This is just how the brain works. In an Austrian brain study, scientists discovered that the more people focused on the tests they were trying to solve, the more their brains produced gamma waves which created a mental block or impasse in their thinking.

Surround Yourself with Support
Take leave of people who make you feel small. Oprah Winfrey says “surround yourself with the people who lift you up.” Why not join or start a support group? Sometimes friends and family are asking you questions you can’t answer yet. Don’t take on the responsibility of making them feel good. This is your time to take care of you.

The right people ask the right questions. You might need people who don’t find your new identity threatening or upsetting. Your husband can’t be as neutral with you as a therapist or life coach, especially when you’re contemplating issues that affect him. Your mother may not be able to comprehend or support your decision to go on a “vision quest” or take classes in photography.

Sometimes it’s hard to justify paying for professional help, especially when you’re nervous about money. But keep in mind that skillful, supportive people can save you years, thousands of dollars, and untold amount of opportunity costs. They can see the best in you even in times of pain. They can help you reach your highest potential in life.

Where you’re Wounded, You’re Gifted
You may be in a situation that will call forth new strengths. Author Ernest Hemingway said, “We are stronger in the broken places.” Your situation may help you feel a deep compassion for others. It may give you a purpose that you didn’t have in life before. One mother lost her child to a drunk driving accident. To resolve her grief, she formed MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Many freedom fighters righted an injustice they once suffered. Healers help those with the pain they know most intimately. What is your situation currently teaching you?

You might find it comforting to help someone else. When you’re frightened or suffering, it’s easy to be consumed by pain. You may forget that you still have gifts to give someone else. In Alcoholics Anonymous, it’s suggested that when you’re struggling to stay sober, it’s best to reach out and bolster someone who has less sobriety than you. It helps you to remember that even when you’re in pain, you can make a difference and alleviate the suffering of others. It helps you to tap into your natural sense of love, your deeper faculties, and strength you may have forgotten that you have.

And, when giving birth to your lobster shell or rising star just seems to demand too much, remember you will get through this, you will thrive through this, and “This too shall pass.”

Copyright 2008 Tama J. Kieves, All rights reserved.

Author's Bio: 

Tama J. Kieves, an honors graduate of Harvard Law School, left her law practice to write and to encourage others to live fulfilling, meaningful lives. She is a sought-after speaker, career and transition coach and best-selling author of THIS TIME I DANCE! Creating the Work You Love (Tarcher/Penguin). Learn more about Tama’s workshops, international retreats, coaching, free monthly supportive e-newsletter, or download her Free Report on “Finding Your Calling Now” at < a href="" target="_blank">