When there is a whole lot of change going on in your life, do you stop and think, “I’m going through a transition”? Or, when you actually are previewing a change you’d like to see in your life, do you look at it like a transition?
Here’s why I ask…
Most people meet up with change when it’s happening and treat it like it’s happening to them. Very few of us stop and think, “Well, what’s the meaning I’m going to make of this?” It turns out, the latter is healthier and here’s why…
The definition of a transition is the process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another. During times of forced change or calculated change, if you give yourself a chance to see it as a process or period of changing, then instead of the change making meaning of you, YOU get to make the meaning of the change. Same thing happening to you but two very different lived experiences depending on how you orient yourself to the change.
But most important is to make the distinction that change is situational, transitions are psychological. Most transitions in our lives, we are faced with becoming something new. For example, you may not be structuring your life around your job anymore due to a growing family or retirement. That is a change. How you adapt to your new identity without that work or that title is a transition. Your children may not live in the house anymore. Yet, how you address this situation as an “empty nester” lies at the heart of a healthy – or not so healthy – transition.
Something that I teach all my clients is the breakdown of transitions. I think you’ll find this interesting.
All transitions have 3 phases; the letting go, the messy middle, and the new beginning (a model inspired by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, William Bridges and Bruce Feiler).
The Letting Go can feel like a kick or internal shift, maybe some denial, emotions and just plain feeling off.
Which bleeds into…
The Messy Middle where you may feel overwhelmed, adrift, even lost. There is struggle here as you are faced with old beliefs that no longer work for you.
The New Beginning starts to appear as you wade through the Messy Middle you start to find a thread that feels right. You start to develop a sense that you are becoming someone who sees things from a new perspective. Maybe you feel more creative, maybe you feel more organized… whatever it is, a shift has occurred as you enter a new flow with life.
One of the best metaphors for this is the transformation process of a caterpillar to a butterfly. Simply put, the caterpillar has to let go of its caterpillar-ness. It makes a cocoon in which its body goes through a transformative process – it decomposes into a soupy mess where there is no more caterpillar to be found. In that Messy Middle, the cells start to take shape in a new form. It must struggle to break open the cocoon in order to fully transform to its New Beginning: a butterfly.
I wanted to share this with you so you can be mindful of navigating the multiple changes that you face either in your work and/or personal life. I also find that looking at transitions in this way gives a bit of room with which you can play. You can ask yourself, “What do I need to let go of in order to move forward?” You can feel ok that the “messiness” is just a normal part of navigating change and transition and that by going through it, you will get clear on who you are becoming – the new beginning!
You may want to take some time today to reflect on looking at all the changes you face as a transition to something new. What would that be for you? Take a moment to explore all stages. Once you name and see where you are at, you can make some meaning and choices to move forward.
If this brings up more questions than answers, then I invite you to book a Discovery Call with me where I can walk through the transition with you and shed light on its meaning and next steps.