Making Meaning, Moving Through Transition

Dr. William K. Larkin

PlanYou don’t shower because it’s unplanned. You don’t brush your teeth because it’s unplanned. You don’t take care of yourself because it’s unplanned.

These are all plans we make. And well-being and life satisfaction, ultimate living in life, does not happen unless it is planned or intentioned.

When I look at mentally ill people, when I look at people who are in neurosis and especially people who are in psychosis, when I look at people who are addicted to negativity and negative emotion, which is our most basic addiction, what you’re looking at very often times are people without a plan. You’re looking at people who have no plan, no sense of destiny, who are expressing “lostness,” lack of a sense of personal significance and no meaning-making plan in their lives.

That in itself should tell us something.

Things unfold, this unfolding that we love so much, those things unfold because there is always a plan. Now that plan may not be experienced or known just as consciously as it could be, but there’s Unfoldingalways a plan, and those things that unfold, unfold because there is a meaning making system in place.

When your meaning making scheme isn’t there, that unfolding doesn’t happen in a positive, coherent way.

That unfolding is experienced, even if it is healthy novelty, as chaos.

It’s experienced as everything that’s going wrong, it’s experienced as one more day of everything coming at me that I can’t control and I can’t put into any meaning-making or sense of my personal significance.

Goal Vision BlueThere’s always a unique and very personal way that we make meaning, except that in the DownSpiral, the characteristic, typical experience with meaning-making is that it doesn’t work, that it doesn’t fit.

You may not even be in touch with all of the ways in which you make meaning in your life, unless you have done some serious work on knowing what you want, what your goals are, and given some consideration to what the vision is that drives your life.

That’s why we attract into our lives what we attract into our lives.

Our goals and vision can either be at the whim of the unconscious or under the direction of the conscious mind/brain intentionality to evolve towards greater well-being and unique self-expression.

It is altogether possible that people’s meaning-making system is changing, that your meaning-making is in a transition. There are stages of making meaning in life, stages of the way we think and reason, and there are transitions between these stages.Shake 3

It is these transitions that usually get the most of our attention because they can shake up our world, if we are holding on too tightly to where we have been, rather than where we need to be developing.

We like to talk about holding on and letting go. Letting go and “going with the flow” can be an excuse for not really defining what we want.

It is easy to put our power outside ourselves so we don’t have to come to grips with ourselves. Most people in transition fight to “hold on” to what “is” in the face of uncertainty. Going through a transition is one way of making meaning out of life, and moving into another stage of making meaning can seem very bleak, frightening, and dark.

Hold OnMost people try to make sense out of life by holding on for dear life to what they know.

Others choose to just “let go” and see how things unfold.

Superficial ideas of “letting go” have led us to believe that we are passive receivers of a “plan for our lives,” rather than the active determiners of the life we want to lead.

More than any other time in life, transitions are the times to ask the deeper questions about what we are wanting.


About the author

Dr. William K. Larkin
  • MissTowner

    It’s refreshing to know we can live the life we want by planning it out. We don’t exactly need the details drawn out, just a basic outline of where we would like our lives to go. I used to be one of those kinds that would just let things unfold, but was never truly happy. Now that I’ve written down all that this heart of mine desires, I feel a sense of excitement because I feel and know I will achieve what it is that I want. It is such a blessing!!

  • Joanne E Harrington

    For people who prefer planning their lives as a means of being in control and thereby believing there will be less stress in their lives, it can take some time to understand the process of meaning making as it relates to the amount of control that you have to exert to see your PLAN unfold. I needed to first accept that I wasn’t as much of an optimist as I thought. I am a positive person by nature but I was not naturally a consistent optimist. When I am coaching people to develop their goals as a means of confirming and affirming what makes meaning in their lives, I first spend time on the concepts of optimism, pessimism and hope. The assessment provides the reality check. As I learned to strengthen my emotional resilience, I more easily identified a list of dreams and goals. There was no doubt that I was in a period of transition but once I accepted that I needed to develop a sense of what I wanted and how that would feel, and then trust the process, I have felt grounded and focused ever since.

  • Marilyn Pyle

    I see the stages of transition like Tarzan swinging through the jungle. You cannot hang on to one vine and reach out for the other one at the same time. One must let go to move forward. Even in transitions we make meaning of things that make our strengths sing. Our strengths are what we use to maintain our upspiral. And by being in the upspiral we make meaning in those things that allow us to feel good, to feel love, to feel peace, to feel joy and hope. Through the transition of each of the stages we are moving closer to our interconnectedness and oneness with each other. In discovering this flow we can begin to lay our plans out, knowing that we can change them at any time as they can change as we do as we become more interconnected with ourselves and what we truly want.

  • Yogess1111

    Letting go of things that you know and that are comfortable can be a daunting and terrifying leap of faith but each time I have braved the leap I have ended up stronger and in a much better place. I ultimately trust life. Sometimes I lose my focus and get scared but when I pull back inside and allow my strengths to surface I come up stronger, wiser and knowing that I am on the right path. I am grateful for all of you on this journey of life. May you be free from harm, my you be happy, may you be healthy and may you live with ease. Blessings!

  • Dr. gloria wright

    I do admit that sometimes that I like to “piddle.” But I notice that I have a greater sense of accomplishment when I plan and make a list.

    I also notice that my time seems to be more focused when my goals have meaning in my life.

    When faced with a major transition of moving from GA to NC and moving into semi-retirement, I needed some down time to recover from burn out. After a while, I noticed that my life didn’t have much meaning or demarcation. That’s when I begin to set goals – littles one a first. Then I set goals that added meaning to my life. That was when I realized that I was finally beginning to feel motivated again.

    In my research on Peak Performers (compared to Workaholics and Average Performers) one of the distinguishing factors was that PP had an internal locus of control and WA and AP had an external locus of control. Being internally motivated certainly makes for a more meaningful life.

    I didn’t find “knowing” what I wanted readily available to me at this transition period. I had to rethink and think and feel to figure out what I did want. Wanting a meaningful life was one of the first things to surface, but it took a while.

    Put what you want and what gives your life meaning into your goals and your motivation will increase. If you start toward these goals and they don’t “hold” energy or focus, it’s just a way to know that you need to adjust your sights. It may be a process of trial and error. But if you listen to your Geiger counter and observe where your energy increases, you’ll begin to identify what has meaning for you.

  • joseph967

    We must learn to let go of things that no longer serves us. We are only in control of are thoughts are vision and are actions. If things we are trying to co-create don’t match up with are vision ,we must take a different prospective on the actions we are taking.

  • joseph967

    Not only having a different prospective on are action but are thoughts and feelings as well. We can control are thoughts and feelings by focusing on are strengths and pulsing on gratitude, peace, love, joy and hope . Then take action on a positive outcome while Appling those positive emotions and focusing on are strengths.

  • Joe_Mojo

    By any account I am in a time of great transition in my life. My study with ANI, especially around my strengths, has helped clarify and firm up my vision for where I want to ‘go’ with my life. It is a very clear vision to me. Work with the emotional gym has helped me find calm space. It allows me to enjoy the ride during this transition.

    Recognizing and probing my strengths, and their opposites, has been very helpful in developing a more complete plan to make the changes that bring me in line with my vision. I also have the elasticity to go with the flow and accept the gifts and signs from the universe that may alter my course, but still lead to the fulfillment of honoring myself and my vision.

  • Kathleen Burkhalter

    At this point in my life, armed with my NeuroPositive knowledge, I am in transition from cancer-challenged to cancer free. I cannot ever afford to “let things go”, because I would get more of the same. I have cheerfully and enthusiastically rearranged my whole life into something very focused on health, and healing. As I move through my days, I get a lot of synchronicity…little signposts from the universe that I am on the right track. I stay grateful and have a 2015 calendar with plans and people to see. I am here, feeling great, and moving toward my goals, the most supreme is to be cancer free.

  • Mary Garvey Horst

    When examining a life plan and corresponding goals from the context of our meaning-making system, so much creative space is freed up for exploring the deeper questions about what we want. I look back to times in my life when I was somewhat externally driven to formulate goals, objectives, and lesson plans because of someone else’s expectations of me. The section in this blog article about things unfolding because there is a meaning-making system in place “hits the nail on the head” for me. I am aware that something has shifted in me to ask: “What do I want?” that is grounded in my own sense of meaning and purpose. I wake up each morning ready to meet the day, optimistic and focused on my PLAN that is rooted in my own meaning-making system. As such, I can’t wait for more to unfold!

  • Gina Beaney

    Transitions are part of the unfolding of our meaning making system. With this knowledge it makes the transitions not feel separate and foreign to the process. Transitions are part of the process. I use my strengths often when going through transitions because they keep me very grounded and remind me of what it is I want.

  • Macarena Ybarra

    The why, the real sense, the mission really help me to be focus and overcome all possible obstacle coming from transition. It is also important to be aware of all strenghts as they will be the one that will help us to reach the objective. I have learnt that when what you want is clear, more than that, it is transparent for you and has an important sense in your life, “the how” comes alone. I have clarified all my objectives with the Future Pack in the course and I am greatful for that as I am already in my way !!

  • Swanstar98

    This blog post points my mind to Dr. Seligman’s work on Learned Helplessness. In that research there are significant implications for that which we perceive as being uncontrollable. A statement Seligman wrote that stands out to me tonight is, “Being told – particularly by someone ‘who should know’ – that a given event is uncontrollable will create an expectation that the event is uncontrollable, even without the experience of the contingency. Conversely, just being told that an even is controllable will also short-circuit experiencing the contingency.” That uncontrollability reminds me of when I participate from a superficial letting go.

    Thank you, Dr. Larkin and Dr. Johnson, for the ongoing reminders here at ANI. I am reminded in this moment of the value of this blog. Right here, I have “someone in the know” telling me that I am “the active determiner of the life I want to lead.” YES! And thank you!!

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