Ep. 12 – Words: Creating Personal Graduation Ceremonies

This episode is being posted on the day that my oldest son graduates from high school. In honor of this, today’s topic is about how specific words have the power to propel us forward. 

The Bottom Line on Top (or BLOT) is that certain ceremonies of life are within our control to designate, recognize, celebrate, and claim. 

There is often much ceremony for milestone moments around graduations, but some of the most important markers in our lives are not the steps taken across a stage or shared in a community setting. It’s up to us to matriculate onward from major events in our life. 

“Graduate” is an important word to adopt and apply to different facets of your life. It allows you to mark complete your time, energy, and investment. You can honor each of those aspects while still allowing yourself to move on. 

We can – and should – graduate from levels of education, jobs, people, places, and ideas. Just like with our primary education, we are not meant to stay in one spot indefinitely. 

Progress means movement. 

You can honor and appreciate the place you’ve been and the people with whom you shared the journey and still move forward. I have graduated from jobs, from cities, from outdated dreams, and even from a marriage. By becoming an alumnus of the experience, you get to retain the wisdom, affinity, and the experience itself while being open to the next Next for you. 

Often, our emotions get entangled when we are faced with transitions. We overthink and overexplain or allow others to have a say or a vote in when we move on. A key component of self-anointed graduation is that you no longer are indebted to pay intellectual tuition to anyone. 

The definition of ‘transition’ is the process or period of changing from one state or condition to another. The verb in that sentence is “changing” and that, my friends, is what we must allow ourselves to do. 

Our brains resist change, especially after you have achieved some level of comfort where you are at. We are hardwired to resist change. In episode 3, we talked about how the amygdala is the emotional center of your brain and often tries to interrupt focused tasks when you have feelings that pop up. It wants you to respond to messages from friends or go play on social media instead of hanging out with your boring cerebral cortex who likes to get stuff done. 

The amygdala is also our brain’s alarm system. It interprets change as a threat and releases the hormones for fear, fight, and flight. So if safety is our brain’s comfort food, the ceremonial act of transitioning or changing becomes an important signal that progress is on the horizon. It’s important for our brain to see our previous or current stage as being complete, otherwise, it can get disoriented between desire and safety. 

This is the mental diploma that you give to yourself. 

You already have the instincts that are telling you when the lesson or the experience has been received. There is no extra credit for staying longer in a situation that you have outgrown. Recognize this internal resistance you are experiencing as a cognitive safety valve that is just asking you one more time: are you sure? 

Another word you can use is “complete.” When you are making a change – even if that change is to stop doing something versus starting something new – using the word “complete” allows there to be an accomplishment of the previous effort and a line of finality to the decision. This can be especially helpful when the change isn’t always understood or accepted by others.   

“My time here is complete,” you can claim – as a full sentence. 

In our achievement-oriented societies, there is often a focus on more, better, bigger. Being complete puts forth the power of perspective – from your view. 

If “changing” is the verb during the act of transition, “release” is the verb that helps mark the final steps of that change. Release refers to the actions you take to support your movement. Release makes room for what’s ahead of you. It empties that cognitive closet. 

Change requires action, and it also benefits from a corresponding vocabulary. See where you can mark graduation milestones, where you can claim completion, and where there are things that still need to be released. 

I graduated from high school in 1990, which was the same year that the final Dr. Seuss book was published. It’s called “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” I’ll plan to give my son a copy of this book today in hopes that a few of the words in it light the way ahead for him. 

So in that spirit, I’ll end with a quote from that book:

“You have brains in your head, 
 you have feet in your shoes, 
 you can steer yourself any direction you choose. 
 You’re on your own. 
 And you know what you know. 
 And you are the one who’ll decide where to go.” 

Congratulations, graduates – I can’t wait to see where you decide to go. 
 Until then, take good care. 

Your brain is hungry. Give it some intellectual snacks in the
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I'm Kristin

I left my corporate work and dove further into how to navigate this noisy, digital, exhausted world. The result is a methodology centered on communications, productivity, and culture that blends theory with practice and helps people better enjoy the life they worked so hard to get.