Are you worried about your new job, an upcoming military separation, getting married or another life-changing event? Fret no more.

Today, I'd like to provide students in online degree programs with steps to make sense of any transition, whether it's work-related, family-related or otherwise.

Allow me to introduce the "4S System" for a successful transition of any sort: self, support, situation and strategies.

The 4S System, conceptualized by Nancy K. Schlossberg in the early ‘80s, entails the aforementioned four variables that influence a transition. These variables describe the factors that make a difference in how one copes with change.

Self: Have you ever wondered why someone says they're having a bad day? Typically it’s because we live day-to-day following routines, and the moment these routines are disrupted, we become flustered, confused and frustrated - sometimes even depressed.

When it comes to transitions, change takes place. Sometimes it puts us out of our comfort zone. As a result, we experience moments of anxiety, depression, grief, even meltdowns.

On the other side of the coin, change can also lead to happiness, relief, joy and excitement. It all depends on how you perceive the transition.

This perception of 'self' outlines the framework for a successful transition.

Support: Within the support variable are social support types, such as family, friends, intimate relationships, etc. If one or more support types are assets to you, there is a good chance for a successful transition. The opposite is true if you don’t have a solid support system. It’s all about what you have and what you don’t have in each variable that makes the difference in how you will cope.

The other 2 S's can be understood by answering the following questions for each variable:

Situation: What is happening? For example, the transition to retirement differs from the transition of getting married. Naturally, individuals will appraise situations, weighing what a situation is worth in relation to perceived benefits. The sooner you define what is happening, the sooner you can put your mind at ease.

Strategies: How do you cope? Understanding how you cope in situations can help you prepare for the unexpected, relieving stress and/or anxiety. Prepare an inventory of coping mechanisms so you are ready for any challenge.

Transitions are a natural part of life. When it happens, human survival mode kicks in.

The more that you engage in orienting yourself to fresh elements, such as meeting new people, moving to another city or moving into new roles, the sooner you will become more comfortable.

My advice: learn the 4S System. Apply it as early as you can prior to your transition. Find out what resources you have, what resources you lack and how you can go about gaining more resources to make your transition a success.

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