We hear a lot about change, its perils, and how often we fail at change. But change is not the real problem. The difficulty lies in the transition, that intricate, turbulent, and convoluted process that people go through to incorporate the change into their lives.
There is a difference between changes and transitions. Change is situational, while transitions are psychological. Change relates to events outside, transition has to do with the inner-reorientation, the new way of making meaning we have to tackle in order to navigate to the other side. Transitions are difficult because they often force us to re-examine our values, lifestyle, and learning.
William Bridges brought a three-stage roadmap of transitions to mainstream culture with his 1980 book,Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes. His latest revision of the book was done in 2009. He tells us that transition is a three-phase psychological reorientation process that people go through when they are coming to terms with change.
1. Ending, letting go
A Transition begins with an ending, with letting go of old realities and old identities. It’s a time to deal with loss. Unless you can make a real ending, you will be unable to make a successful beginning. Every change, even a good change like getting married, getting a promotion at work, or having a baby, involves a loss of the old.
Each person has an individual way to deal with endings. You need to acknowledge and utilize your own way to let go of the old. Some need more time than others for recognizing there is an ending and dealing with it. For some it’s some kind of ritual. For others it’s taking something from the old into the new. Still others prefer a time to say good-bye, and then jumping into the new.
Once we say good-bye and let go we may feel lost, empty or confused. The ending process usually brings disengagement, loss of identity, disenchantment and disorientation. Don’t try to numb the feelings. You have to embrace the pain before you can let it go.
2. Neutral, or no-man's, zone
This is an in-between time when the old is mostly gone, but the new isn’t operational yet. It’s a time of chaos. It’s the zone where the crucible of change happens. It’s here where the critical psychological re-alignment takes place. It’s the furnace that gives birth to transformation.
The neutral zone is a time of personal reorientation. You’ll feel a need to think, to meditate. A need for introspection and self-awareness. You will feel the need to rely more in your intuition and insight. To take stock of your inner resources.
3. New beginning
It’s the new equilibrium, the full embracement and mastery of the new situation, habit, or life. It’s a time of new energy, the discovery of a new sense of purpose, of a new identity. It’s a time to celebrate and innovate!
Your inner attitudes toward life, your renewed self-knowledge, and your intuition are really the hallmarks of your new beginnings. Once the new directions become clear, it is time to take action to make things happen, to identify yourselves as traveling on a new course, and then to complete the process step by step.
New beginnings incorporate some continuity from the past. You never give up the old completely, but use what you need from the past as a resource for your journey into the future.
Remember. . .
Don’t be afraid of transitions. Don’t fight the flow. Keep moving forward in your journey, stay positive. Things develop, grow, expand, rise, fall, and work out as you go through the common stages of the transition. While transitions are challenging times of loss, fear, vulnerability, and loneliness, they are also times of great hope, renewal, and transformation. Don’t let the transition do you in! Navigate it with hope and resilience.
Photo by: familymwe