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Countdown to Lift Off! A Technique for Getting Through Life's Transitions

Updated on June 6, 2018
denise.w.anderson profile image

Denise speaks from her own experience. She has had many trials and difficulties in her own life and seeks to help others through theirs.

Transitions create conflict in our relationships. There are things we can do that strengthen us during the transition process and help us rise above conflict.
Transitions create conflict in our relationships. There are things we can do that strengthen us during the transition process and help us rise above conflict.

Are you experiencing a major life transition in your family?

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5...4...3...2...1...Blast off! We all love to watch the countdown. Whether it is a rocket going in to space, or our favorite sports team getting ready for the final competition of the season, we sit on the edge of our seats and watch with wide-eyed anticipation.

The major transitions of our lives are no less important, and yet we often drag our feet through them, complaining and wishing for something different rather than looking forward to new adventures with anticipation. The best way to counteract this backlog is to use The Countdown technique. We map out what it is that we want to accomplish during the transition process, and then set up a countdown mechanism for making it happen.

Births, graduations, weddings, moving, and retirement all require major effort on our part to make them happen successfully. The Countdown technique is a great way to put some excitement into these major life events and at the same time, keep our emotional health intact. The table below gives us examples of how this technique works:

Things to Accomplish
Prepare room, bed, clothing, changing area, child care, mother care, transportation to hospital, and doctor appointments
Months until three months left, then weeks. In the final month, count down the days
Pictures, college applications, scholarships, exams, employment plans, housing, announcements, open house, travel for guests, accommodations, and food
Years starting in high school, months during the senior year, then on the final month, count down the days
Engagement, pictures, marriage ceremony, guest list, announcements, flowers, honeymoon, accommodations, family, and food
Months if more than four, if less, count the weeks. In the final month, count down the days
Place to go, employment, transportation, sorting, packing, cleaning, family transition, food en route and while unpacking
Months if more than four, if less, count the weeks. In the final month, count down the days
Finances, health, home base, things to do, people to see, places to go
Years starting at five, months in the last year, then days in the final month

What is "The Countdown?"

As our seven children each prepared for their high school graduations, we found that they became headstrong, wanting to exert their independence, and make decisions on their own. We, as their parents, wanted to have some input on the final outcome, including where they would go to school, and when they would leave our home.

We created The Countdown as a way of focusing both our efforts, and that of our children, on the desired goal, having them successfully registered for school and settled in approved housing in pursuit of their educational goals.

At the beginning of their senior year (in come cases, even earlier), we would sit down and brainstorm what needed to be done prior to them leaving home after graduation. We talked about colleges, scholarships, exams, entrance requirements, and plans for graduation. We helped them determine how much money was needed, where it would come from, and how they would finance their education.

Then we would make a month by month timeline. Using a calendar that was visible to all, we wrote on each month how much time was left and the preparation objective to be accomplished. If a conflict occurred between us and our soon to be graduate, we would remind ourselves of the time left in The Countdown, and focus our efforts on the preparation objective. The conflict would fade away as we worked together for the common goal of them leaving home after graduation.

The Countdown enables our preparation to give us the power to make it through the transition with our emotional health intact.
The Countdown enables our preparation to give us the power to make it through the transition with our emotional health intact.

How does "The Countdown" help us during a transition?

Transition often throws us for a loop because of the changes that occur in our relationships, circumstances, and routines. Our family dynamics change when we add or subtract people from our household.

Some transitions are predictable. We know that these changes are coming, and yet our feelings are still close to the surface. We encounter frustration, tension, and conflict easily. We may even have fear associated with the transition such as fear of the unknown, fear that we are not good enough, or fear that we won't be accepted and loved by others.

Transitions often bring us into new territory that we have never encountered before. There is much of uncertainty and trepidation. Fear easily turns into anger and frustration, especially when stress increases and we have more things to do than we have time to accomplish them.

Talking about our transition and setting up The Countdown timeline gives us peace of mind, and a mechanism whereby we can make the transition happen more smoothly. The most important benefit is that The Countdown gives us a method of dealing with the conflict that arises.

The moment we experience conflict during transition, if we have The Countdown in place, we immediately remind ourselves how much time is left, and what the goal is that we are currently working on. Then we focus our energy and efforts on preparation rather than on the conflict and our feelings of anger and frustration fade away.

Kindness is powerful, especially in a family setting.

— Dallin H. Oaks

Using "The Countdown" in preparation for retirement

Another example of The Countdown is our current family situation in preparation for retirement. The last few years in any career can be trying. Stress is high and physical energy is low. We want to be done in the worst way, and can see retirement beckoning us just around the corner. We have plans for travel, seeing friends and family, and doing full-time volunteer work for our church.

Our time-line is five years. Between now and then, we need to:

  1. get out of debt
  2. do some work on our home
  3. obtain supplemental insurance
  4. stay physically active and healthy
  5. look into options for full-time service

In looking at these five things, we have made concrete plans for getting ourselves financially independent and making sure that we will have the income we need to enable a successful retirement.

Getting out of debt means no mortgage, car payments, or other loans that will need to be paid out monthly. While we have the income to do so, we are making repairs on our home. We are taking the time to sort through our things and get rid of unwanted accumulation. Since our health insurance is provided by our employer, we are looking into options for supplemental plans once we retire.

On our calendar, we are currently counting down the years. We check our finances regularly to see that we are on track. We talk about our plans, and visit them often. The Countdown gives us the incentive to keep going when the going is tough at work. We remind ourselves of our goals and what we want to do. We look forward with great anticipation to the future as a result.

In this case, The Countdown is not so much a mechanism to deal with conflict between family members, but within ourselves. It gives us a reason to stay focused on our ultimate objective and continue making those choices that enable us to endure successfully for the remainder of our career.

Transitions can be difficult because we don't always know what is on the other side.
Transitions can be difficult because we don't always know what is on the other side.

Transitions are inevitable. No matter who we are, or what our current family situation, there will be transitions through which we must pass. The difficult part about them, is that we don't always know what is on the other side. Even when a transition is planned and successfully navigated, there is still a learning curve once we reach the other side of it.

Using The Countdown, we can successfully navigate ourselves through the many unknown variables that are part of the transition process, and keep our emotional health intact. We will need it during the adjustment time that automatically comes afterward. Then, we can look back and see how far we have come, and pat ourselves on the back for having stayed the course and kept the faith.

© 2016 Denise W Anderson


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