RANCHO SANTA FE — Positive psychologist and life transitions specialist Ilene Schaffer of La Jolla shared her expertise on how to handle the changes that life can bring to members of the Rancho Santa Fe Women’s Fund. The general meeting took place at Fairbanks Ranch on Feb. 27.
Before Schaffer spoke, Sandra Coufal, advisory chair for the Rancho Santa Fe Women’s Fund, welcomed guests and said a few words.
“We wanted to present something that would be helpful to each of us individually, and that’s a hard thing to do with a group of 130 members,” Coufal said. “The topic today is about life transition, and I hope everyone can personalize that to themselves.”
Schaffer started off by saying that not only was it a pleasure to speak at the Rancho Santa Fe Women’s Fund but that she was also truly in awe of the work the organization has done over the years. Since the nonprofit was established in 2004, it has collectively gifted $3.1 million from its annual grant distribution program for the San Diego County area.
“The work you are doing is significant and clearly making a life change for someone,” Schaffer said. “You are impacting the trajectory of someone’s life.”
She also said when one focuses on others, it helps move them forward. For Schaffer, a transition is when one door closes and there is a neutral time before the next door opens. With each transition, she said, there is an ending not a beginning.
“We always think it is the beginning, but it really is the ending,” she said.
Schaffer explained that sometimes this transition allows a person a rebirth process, also referred to as a new perspective.
It’s normal that transitions may be uncomfortable at first, she said.
“Transitions help you figure it out and get you to build resilience,” she said. “Each transition offers someone the opportunity to become a better version of themselves.”
Schaffer was quick to point out that it’s based on the idea of learning how to struggle well. While life transitions can indeed cause stress, it’s a matter of navigating the situation at hand with grace and confidence.
During her presentation, Shaffer referred to a 75-year longitudinal Harvard study helping to pinpoint what makes a good life.
“More so than wealth, and career, all those things pale in comparison to community — a support system,” Schaffer said. “Quality relationships keep us happier, healthier and living longer. They protect and buffer us and that is the important thing in life transition.”
A community of the right people in one’s life can make all the difference, she said. She added that it’s about choosing the right people in one’s circle — those types of people who can lift someone up through the good and tough times. And of course, reciprocating this type of support in those relationships so it goes both ways.
“Invest in relationships that bring out your best self like your family, friends and community,” she said. “It’s critical.”