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Try Being an Explorer in Times of Life Transitions

By Ardith Bowman November 08, 2023 Lifestyle

If you are experiencing some kind of life transition, you may be eager to get settled into your new phase. It might be leaving full-time work, or living alone for the first time in years, or having to adapt to new physical conditions. No matter the reason, life changes may be a time to reassess your sense of self and approach to life.

I had a recent conversation with a woman about how to create a revised life that is more fulfilling and satisfying. She asked me how she can know what she really wants out of all the possibilities and her perceived limits. That’s a very good question that requires a thorough response. Here we go!

“Thinking” That You Know

Knowing is more than what you ‘think’, literally. For example, when I left full-time teaching, I planned to teach courses part-time and enjoy more personal time freedom. I was doing what seemed “logical.” That lasted for about three months. I had entered a new phase of life, and I was dragging around remnants of my old life. The result? I was disengaged and bored. Of course, those feelings carried over into my freedom. I knew I needed a different approach.

I learned that I needed to draw on my inner self, not just my thinking about what seemed logical at the moment. Earlier this year, a newly retired, professionally successful client sent me a bullet point list of the activities she had in mind for herself upon retirement. This list was created by thinking about what to do next.

After several months together, she created a life full of personal meaning based on expanded relationships and creativity, with some of the bulleted items serving as support. The bullet points missed the mark. She needed time to listen to herself deeply.

I’ve called this deeper knowing “listening to your inner wisdom.” But how do you do that?

Not Knowing Is Perfect

The first step is to allow yourself to live without knowing. If you have recently entered a new phase of life, of course you don’t know yet what you truly want. Our first reaction is to fill that void and try to get clarity as quickly as possible. I invite you to do the opposite!

Be an explorer. Be curious. How can you create a map of a territory you have not yet explored? As you explore, give yourself time for daydreaming and self-care. Notice what you notice in your reading and in the people and events that enter your life. If you hear a fleeting, “I’d love to try this,” why not try it? Notice what feels like guidance. Give yourself spaciousness, rather than limits. It is seldom in life we take such significant time for ourselves.

Exploration is not floating through life aimlessly. Your aim is to hear yourself and feel what you feel. You know you want fulfillment; you are allowing yourself to know what supports that for you. It is not copying what others are doing; it is not taking counsel from “experts.” You are your own expert.

Stand at Your Portal

As you allow yourself the opening to explore, at some point you will realize that you do have a sense of what you truly desire. Some women have called this standing at their portal. It is like you are at an opening looking out on the life you choose to create from where you are. Some women can describe their portal in detail, even how it smells. For some, it is like looking at an extensive, beautiful landscape. Simply notice that you are standing at the opening.

This is an exciting time because you can feel what is ahead for you, even if it isn’t completely clear yet. Sometimes it helps to write or draw what comes to you. Perhaps you may describe a partner, or a home, or a lifestyle, or something you are creating. Once I knew I did desire to be married, I drew the great room and view that we have from our home… a year before I ever met him!

One Step, Then Another

So, now, at last, it is time to take action in the direction you choose. After all, a portal is for walking through, right?

Once again, this is not yet a project plan. It is asking yourself every day what you can do to move toward what you are creating. Notice if you feel fear or try to tell yourself there is some reason you should not go forward. If thoughts begin to stop you, go back and stand at your portal. You deserve to live the life you want.

Small steps might be exploring dating services, or visiting an area where you may want to live. It might be joining a group to meet others who share your interests. It might be going to a bank to explore financial options or finding a source for volunteer or part-time work opportunities. Think of this as finding support along the way.

Each step will lead to the next step if you keep asking yourself what is next each day. As you move forward, you will find that support for your journey will present itself. Open yourself to being aware of the support around you.


Finally, trust yourself. Trust life to offer what you need. Trust that you will live with fulfillment.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

I’d love to hear about how you have approached life transitions. What has worked for you? Have you ever noticed how what you need next appears at the right time? Are you going through a transition now?

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i’ve had a major transition..last March in fact and the first 6 months were so hard but at a distance from that confusion I see, not my way clear, but methods to get in touch with me…to ask questions and mostly to be patient with myself for the answers.

Angela Waddell

I have really enjoyed this article of the Portal. Angeles Adrian in her must read book: The second Half of life describes the Gate and threshold for transformation. The book by Richard Rohr : Falling Upward speaks of the two halves of life.It has been very instrumental to me to have found Sixty and me !! Thanks to all the women whom has helped with this path in my life.


Thanks for the tip about the gates of wisdom book. I found it used for a very good price! I’ll check out what else Angeles Arrien has written too. Let’s live this life each of us has been given! Ardith


Retirement marked the beginning of a whirlwind of transitions for me. I pursued new passions and roles, from teaching Zumba at a women’s correctional facility to volunteering for various organizations. Though I found joy and fulfillment in these activities, I realized I had spread myself too thin, was stressed and needed to scale back. I learned to prioritize what mattered and focused on small fundraising efforts for those in need. Just as I thought I had found my groove, life threw another curveball: my husband’s pancreatic cancer diagnosis, which came shortly after the passing of my parents. These saddening transitions tested me in ways I never imagined, but they also reinforced my strength and resilience. Looking back, I’m amazed at the diverse paths I took and the lessons I learned along the way. 


Our phase of life can present profound challenges. I’m sure your time of loss was very difficult. I can see that you are a deeper and wiser as you came out the other side. Many of us start out by over doing! Exploring slows us down a bit. Great job of reassessing what works for you and what does not. That is exactly the kind of self awareness that will continue to serve you. Ardith

Jane Coombs

So right about life’s transitions.Such a privilege to be able to comment. I took green archetypes test and Explorer is one of my strengths and also part of my life history.


Thanks Jane,
How inspiring to live with Explorer energy! I’m sure how you approach life is a great model for others.


I am at this portal after loosing my 2 children cats of 15 years to aging. Reality of my own aging has stepped in. I miss my house mates and know that I like caring for pets but do I do as good a job with myself? Can I practice loving myself as I loved them? What do I need to do to transition to aging comfortably and with grace? No role models to copy. I am my own role model.

The Author

Dr. Ardith Bowman is a woman-centered coach, advancing the positive aging movement. Her mission is to empower women aged 60 and beyond to live with fulfillment throughout life. She will walk beside you, providing unwavering support and guidance as you navigate your path into more fulfillment and vitality. Find her at Becoming You After 60.

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