Category: <span>Life Transitions</span>

What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?

The American culture puts a lot of emphasis on what people do for a living. When you first meet someone, they often as, “what do you do? Other cultures ask about your background, family, etc. first. We ask small children, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” A dumb question really because they don’t even know what they’re doing next month since they don’t have a sense of time.

This emphasis on career puts a lot of pressure on people, especially young people. At the age of 18 and even younger, they feel pressure from school and parents to know what they want to do, without being given any guidance as to all of their options. As an adult, you may compare yourself to other’s career success, making yourself feel bad about yourself. It’s really silly because for all this pressure we’re given about career choices, no one really teaches us how to figure it out.

At most, in high school you’ll meet with a guidance counselor and take assessment tests that tell you what jobs best match your interests. This is such an old model of looking at choosing a career. Whether you’re still a student feeling lost with so many choices to make, or an adult wanting to do something more fulfilling with your time, here are some suggestions for figuring out what you should do for work.

If you’re happily content where you are, forward this to someone who could use it.

Instead of focusing on a job title, focus on an area of interest.

There are only so many options for the types of jobs there are out there. There is Business, Health Care, Service Industry, Technology, Arts/Entertainment, Law, Sciences, and Labor jobs. Underneath these areas are a whole lot of subareas. For example, in the service industry, that could be anything in hospitality, restaurants, accounting or mechanic. Under healthcare, there’s doctor, nurse, billing, management, medical supplies, etc.

When you have no idea what you want, think about the areas you know you definitely don’t want to do. For example, maybe you’re not interested in anything healthcare related. That’s good because that just eliminated a whole area of jobs.

The truth is, most people change jobs 8 times before they find the one they feel the most satisfied in. And even further than that, most successful people change job roles, in the same industry. You don’t have to be stuck in ONE job until you retire. Typically, as you grow and gain experience, you’ll get interested in other opportunities that you had no idea even existed.

 How do you want to contribute to move society forward.

Today, we are more connected then ever. A problem that is going on in another country can affect you in indirect ways. I think instead of getting stuck on a job title, it’ll help you get clear on your passions by thinking about what local or world problem you would like to contribute to improving. A good way to figure this out is…

What gets you upset vs what gets you excited?

What are some topics that you LOVE talking about? What do you enjoy doing, just for fun? Or what are some topics that you HATE? What is something that when you see it, it bothers you so much?

Someone who hates bullies for example, can go into teaching increasing confidence, or self-defense. Or even just simply live by example and advocate for kindness.

For example, I believe mental health is the foundation for every single area in our lives. And it bothers me that there is a lot of misinformation out there on what is a mental illness vs life events out of our control, contributing to the stigma of mental health.  Your mental health status  will affect your relationships, how much money you earn, how you treat others, your physical health, etc. Therefore, I’m passionate about educating others on how to improve negative thought patters, doubt, heal from negative experiences or stop self-sabotaging behaviors. My job is not to “cure” anyone, that’s not how it works. But I’m contributing to improving individuals, and in turn those individuals can be a better parent, a better daughter, etc.

For others, they hate seeing kids being mistreated. So they go into social services, or start an after school club for kids.

And some people enjoy hands-on work and go into service type jobs.

Change the way to look at work.

All this emphasis on career and work could be a cultural thing. In reality, a job is just how you make money in order to enjoy life. If you’ve ever been in a situation where you don’t have enough for what you need, life is stressful. Therefore, how nice would it be that what you do for a living is not torture? You don’t have to LOVE it, but at least it could be enjoyable.

For many people, because of circumstances, they feel that they can’t really do what they enjoy for money. Instead, they view a job as just a means to pay bills, but then focus on their passions outside of work. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this.


You are not going to figure out what you want by just sitting back and waiting for an opportunity to come to you. Instead, you have to try different things.

  • Research areas you’re interested in. YouTube or Google it. Or you can read biographies of known people who do or have done what you’re interested in.
  • If you know of someone who is doing something you may be interested in, look into how they did it and learn. If you personally know them, ask them questions.
  • Work for a Temp agency to get some experience.
  • If you’re not qualified yet to do what you want, try to get an entry level job or anything in that place just to be around the people who do what you want and learn by observation. You could have a work relationship with them and get “insider information” that you wouldn’t have know before.

It doesn’t matter what you do exactly, but the point is to explore different interests to see what it is that grabs your attention. And remember, you don’t have to be stuck with your choice for the rest of your working life.

About the author.

Liza J Alvarado is a Licensed Professional Counselor in private practice. She serves Adolescents, Adults, and the Spanish speaking individuals in the Lehigh Valley, PA area.






Developmental Stages In Our Life

According to psychologist Erik Erikson (1960’s), there are 8 psychological stages that we all go through in our life. Understanding these stages helps you understand what you and the people around you are going through.

According to the theory, when you complete each stage successfully, you develop a healthy personality and develop psychological strength.

But if you don’t pass through a stage successfully, you may develop an unhealthy sense of self and trouble with the stages that follow. However, you can work on resolving that stage successfully later in your life, through counseling for example.

According to psychologist Erik Erikson, the following are the 8 developmental stages.

Trust vs Mistrust

This stage is from Birth to about 1 1/2-years-old. This is where we learn if our world is trustworthy or not. If a baby cries because he’s hungry and his mom feeds him, he learns that his needs can be met. If he cries and his needs are not met, he learns that this world is not trustworthy. Infants that are severely neglected actually stop crying after a while because he learns that his needs are not going to be met.

Successful completion of this stage teaches us hope that our needs will be met. If this stage is not completed successfully, the child learns that the world is unpredictable and has a sense of mistrust. This could turn into anxiety later on.

Autonomy vs Shame and Doubt

1 1/2-3-years-old. At this stage the child is learning that they can be more independent. If you’ve ever been around a 2-year-old, you that that their favorite words are “mine” and “me do it”.

If children in this stage are encouraged and supported in being more independent, they become more confident and secure.

But if children are criticized or not given the opportunity to assert themselves, they begin to feel inadequate in their ability to survive, and may then become overly dependent upon others, lack self confidence and feel a sense of shame or doubt in their own abilities.

Initiative vs Guilt

Age 3-5, kids begin to be more assertive. During this stage the primary feature involves the child regularly interacting with other children at school. Playing is how they learn in this stage, not only learning cognitive skills but interpersonal skills as well. At this stage kids ask a lot of questions.

If a child is supported and is allowed to explore, they learn to show initiative.  If not, they can develop a sense of guilt.

Industry vs Inferiority

5-12-years-old. It is at this stage that the child’s friends will start to have more importance and will become a major source of the child’s self esteem. Kids now feel the need to win approval from others and begin to develop a sense of pride in their accomplishments.

If they’re enforced in taking initiative, they feel confident. If not, they can develop a sense of inferiority.

Identity vs Role Confusion

Oh the wonderful teen years. From 12-18-years-old, at this stage, teens are trying to figure out the big question, “Who am I ?” Kids change clothes styles, listen to different types of music, and want to explore different activities and jobs. This can be a very confusing time since there are so many changes going on at the same time; socially, physically, and emotionally.

Allowing teens to explore what they’re interested in helps them figure out what they want when they get older. Of course, they still need boundaries from parents.

Parents should talk to them as a person, not talk at them. Explain that what they’re going through is normal, and this will help them outgrow this stage in a healthy way.

Successful completion of this stage will give the teen a better sense of who they are as a person. What their own views of life are.

If it’s not completed successfully, the teen will grown confused about who they are as a person and what their own values are. They easily follow or fall for other people’s  opinions and views since they don’t have a strong sense of their own.

Intimacy vs Isolation

18-40-years-old. This is where young adults start to focus on relationships. Dating and finding a life partner is the major focus. Also, figuring out what career you want to be in is another focus.

Successful completion of this stage will allow a person to feel intimate with others. While it may cause a feeling of isolation if it’s not.

Generativity vs Stagnation

40-65-years-old. During middle adult hood, career is the focus. The goal is to be more stable in your relationships and careers. We start to give back to society and share our wisdom with others.

If this stage is not successfully completed, a person might feel stagnant, as if they haven’t accomplished anything in their life.

Ego Integrity vs Despair

65-years-old and up. This is thought to be the final stage where we look back at our lives and reflect. If you feel accomplished and good about your life, you get a sense of integrity, proud of all that you’ve done. But if you look back with regret, it may cause you to feel despair.

These stages  explained here are very general, but hopefully it’ll give you a better understanding of the different stages we go through. Of course a lot of factors go into whether or not the stages are completed successfully or not, such as personality, environment, and cultural influences.

If you liked this post, please share it with your friends. And remember to subscribe below to continue regularly getting great posts like this one.

About the author.

Liza J Alvarado is a professional counselor in private practice. She serves Adolescents, young adults, and Spanish speaking families in Lehigh Valley, PA.



How to better deal with life changes.

Change.  Some people welcome it, but the majority of people hate it. I hate to break it to you, but you just have to learn how to deal with it because change is part of life.

Whether it’s dealing with a break up, graduating from high school, going away to college, moving away, or any of the major life transitions that we go through, it can make you feel confused, lost, afraid…alone. When life forces you out of your comfort zone, you need all the help you can get to get  back on track.

Although you might not have a lot of control over what is going on in your life, you always have control over your reactions and attitude. Here are some tips that I hope will make this time a bit more bearable for you.

Take care of yourself physically.

The first thing to do is make sure you take care of your physical health. If you physically feel like crap, you can care less about anything else because you don’t have the energy. When we’re under a lot of stress, our nervous system is a little out of wack. You might  feel on edge and your sleep patterns can change.

You want to drink plenty of water and rest your body. If you can take a short nap great, but it can also be relaxing  listening to music or watching an episode of your favorite Netflix show. The point is to let your body relax as much as you can.

Also try eating healthy foods. When people are stressed they tend to go for foods high in sugar. Try to eat foods that give you energy such as nuts, whole grains, and veggies.

With taking care of yourself also comes Exercise. I know, I know, some people get tired just thinking about exercise. But it doesn’t always mean hitting the gym. Go for a walk outside, dance, stretch your body, follow a YouTube video to practice yoga, play tennis, ride a bike, etc. The point is to get your body moving. Being under a lot of stress during this time is going to build a lot of tension in your body so doing something physical will release that tension.

Look at past evidence.

We are always going through some type of transition in our lives. It’s those big ones though that we remember. Think back to another time in your life that you went through a similar change. If you’re nervous about starting high school, remember how you felt when you were starting middle school. If you’re going away to college think back to the first time you were away from home like going to camp or remember how nervous you were about starting high school. The circumstances may be different, but the feelings are very similar, maybe even the same. Remember a time you survived something in your life that you thought you were not going to get through. When you were also feeling afraid, anxious, sad, and hopeless. What did you do to survive it? The fact that you’re here now is proof that you did survive it. So you can also get through what you’re living now.

Surround yourself with supportive people.

During these times you need a good support system. But be careful because some people, who are well meaning, give horrible advice. Like when your girlfriends tell you to egg the house of the boy who just broke up with you.

You want to be around people who will reassure you, help you laugh and relax. People who you trust and feel comfortable with. Transitions are an emotional time. You want to be around people who uplift your energy, not drain it. If you feel that you don’t have anyone in your life who is supportive, watch motivational speakers on YouTube. There are also a lot of books about going through transitions. Some of my own favorite speakers/authors are Les Brown, John Maxwell, and Tony Robbins.

Don’t focus on the negatives.

It’s natural to focus on the bad side of  change. Going away to college means you don’t know anyone there. And it also means being away from family. However, it also means not having to see people you didn’t like in high school anymore, and making new, like minded friends. And also going away changes the dynamics between you and your parents. Typically for the better.

Ask yourself, what good can come from this life change? Sometimes we can’t see it until things have settled down.

Remember that there are always two sides to everything. Focus on the things that you can control. After you focus on the things you can control, take a step back and ask yourself “what can I do that would make me feel better?” “What action step can I take to be more clear?” It can be anything from creating a To-Do list to organize your thoughts, or reaching out to a supportive person. The point is you’re doing something.

Practice mindfulness.

I always remind my clients that it’s IMPOSSIBLE to think about two things at the same EXACT time. We have thoughts back to back and really fast sometimes, but not at the same time. So, try paying attention to what you’re doing. Be very mindful through out the day. Even if it’s 5 minutes here, and  minutes there. For example, pay attention to your breathing, notice how your chest rises and sinks as you breath in and out. Or pay attention to how your feet hit the ground as you walk.

If your mind just won’t be quiet, try asking yourself “I wonder what my next thought is going to be.” For a few seconds, you stop thinking because you’re now paying attention to thinking. It takes practice to keep that silence for a long time, but it’s a nice break when your mind is racing.

The point is that if you’re focusing on what is going on at this very moment, you shouldn’t be feeling anxious or stressed thinking about the “what ifs.” Take things 10 minutes at a time, and try to stay as present as you can.


Going through life transitions really shakes us up and makes us doubt ourselves. Just remember that we can’t really grow as a person unless we get out of our  comfort zone. Some of the most successful people put themselves in situations out of their comfort zones on purpose because they know that that’s how they can grow as a person.


As you’re in the middle of your life transition, do some of the things I have suggested here. You are stronger than you think. You will get through this.

“Since we cannot change reality, let us change the eyes which see reality.” -Nikos Kazantzakis




About the author

Liza J Alvarado is a professional counselor in private practice. She serves Adolescents, young adults, and Spanish speaking families in the Lehigh Valley, PA area.




Adjusting Back to School.

It's  that time of year again! The one where parents typically look forward to and kids want to forget. Back to school. Over the summer, kids can get off their routines. Sleep schedules are very different, and for working parents, trying to figure out what to do about childcare/supervision can be very stressful. But it's time for everyone to get back to their routines. Make the transition back to school as smooth as possible with the following practical tips.

  • Lead by example by showing excitement. Stress to your child that this is an exciting time, although they might not show it.  Starting a new school year is a step closer to starting middle school, high school, or graduating. Focus on the positives of this time of year. If your child is feeling Anxious about starting school, listen to their concerns and suggest relaxation techniques. If your child has experienced bullying or a difficult previous year, make sure to address this with the school.
  • Organize a get together for your child and some of their friends. Besides fundamentals, school teaches one of the most important skills we need, socializing skills. Think back to when you were in school. What are some of the  memories you had? Do you remember in detail the day you learned cursive, or how to do algebra? Probably not. But I'm willing to bet you remember an embarrassing moment, having fun at the pep rally, or the time the class clown made you laugh so hard you almost peed on yourself. That's because school is about socializing. Having a small get together before school starts reminds your child of what they've been missing, and could get them excited about going back to see friends again.
  • Attend open houses if possible. Getting familiar with teachers and the school building will prepare students on what to expect. It also helps to get familiar with the building without the crowded hallways.
  • Let your child pick out their own school supplies and outfits. (at a reasonable price of course) You could even choose several items that you approve of, and have them choose from the ones you picked out already. This will give them a sense of control.
  • Get back on normal sleep schedules at least a week before school starts.  Don't expect them to be able to fall asleep quickly when they've been used to staying up past midnight, and then all of a sudden having to go to bed by 9 pm. Get their bodies adjusted to waking up early again by slowly cutting back on bedtimes. If they've been up until 12 am, enforce going to bed by 11:30 pm and so forth. The same goes for waking up. If they've been sleeping in until noon, enforce them waking up by 11 am.  The majority of the students I work with express liking school, but hate waking up so early. Having a good nights rest ensures that they feel rested and complain less about waking up early in the morning.
  • Have everything ready the night before. This should be part of your every day routine. Have your child pick out their outfits and have backpacks ready and by he door the night before. This cuts down on rushing in the mornings trying to figure out what to wear or looking for supplies to put in the backpack. You could even ask them what they want for breakfast the next morning. The more streamlined your mornings are, the better it will be for everyone.
  • Discuss with your child goals they would like to achieve for the upcoming school year. It can be anything from joining a certain club, sport, or getting Honor Roll. Or even working on getting homework done right after school instead of waiting until the last minute. Having goals can give them something to work forward to, while also helping to build their confidence.

If your child is having a really hard time adjusting to school or having anxiety attacks in the mornings, that's a sign to get professional help. It's important to find the right therapist to teach them the coping skills needed to deal with these symptoms.

If you liked this post, feel free to share with your friends. And if you want to receive more posts and resources I share, remember to sign up for updates.

About Liza J Alvarado, MS, LPC

Liza J Alvarado is a professional counselor in private practice. She serves Adolescents, young adults, and Spanish speaking families in the Bethlehem, PA area.





Thinking of Starting Therapy? Here are 5 tips.

Seeking help when you’re going through a difficult time in your life can be hard. You might feel embarrassed, intimidated, …

A Beginners Guide on How to Meditate

I’m sure you’ve heard about the benefits of meditation and how it’s such a wonderful thing. Meditating …

Coping Skills to Help Reduce Stress in Difficult Times.

I know many are probably looking for coping skills that they can turn to in difficult times. – Learning how to share …