Walking Through Life’s Transitions–What you need to know.
It’s September folks! Yes, I said, September! Man! One minute you’re barefoot in the grass humming, “Summer breeze, makes me feel fine…” [Seals & Crofts] and then, Ka-Pow! September happens. And for us summer loving people, when that calendar flips to September, we know our “barefoot in the grass” days are numbered. In other words, a transition is on the near horizon as the lazy days of summer turn to fall breezes and autumn leaves.
Transitions—the passage from one state, stage, subject, or place to another—or, in other words, tossing off the old yet not quite stepping into the new. Many actives in life can be considered a transition. Even mundane activities like driving home from work or getting your children settled in the evening and ready for bed. Others, are exiting like getting married, starting a new job, even sending the kiddos back to school in the fall (for parents that is)! But what happens when the transition is more challenging, like having to move to a new state, suddenly dealing with a serious illness, or learning how to live life with the loss of a loved one? Transitions, whether positive or negative, planned or unexpected can all be stressful and bring about mixed emotions.
These emotions come from leaving behind the familiar and having to adapt to a new way of living, even if only temporarily. Some transitions may be painful and difficult or just frustrating in the moment. Others can be sudden, leaving us feeling completely unprepared, shocked, angry, sad and alone. How we approach them, take what we learn from them and apply those skills to our next transition will determine whether we can enjoy and accept life changes or worry about and fear them.
HANDLING LIFE’S TRANSITIONS
I saw an ad for transition lenses the other day. You know, those lenses that automatically darken when you’re out in the sun and then lighten up when you go inside. Well, one of the tag lines that was used was, “Light intelligent lenses”. And because I was in the middle of writing this blog I immediately thought wouldn’t it be awesome if we could buy, “LIFE intelligent lenses?” That way our glasses could help us transition through whatever life wants to throw at us. I know, crazy thinking, huh? But just remember— back in the day, people laughed at the idea of transporting people in a metal tube miles high in the sky. So, with technology being what it is, who knows, maybe one day? In the meantime though, I think it’s best if we learn today how to handle the transitions that come our way.
William Bridges, an author, speaker, and organizational consultant was a leading authority on change and transition. Through his innovative research he transformed the way people think about change when he developed the Transition Model and published it in his 1991 book, “Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change.” His work provided a process that proved instrumental in guiding not only organizations but individuals as well during significant transitions that accompany a major change.
The main core of his model focused on transition and not change. While the difference between the two is slight it is still important. He proposed that change is something that happens to you, while transition is internal: it’s what happens in your mind as you go through the change.
THREE STAGES OF TRANSITIONS
In William Bridges book he highlights three stages of transition people go through when they experience change. They are:
1. Ending, Losing, and Letting Go
With every life transition, there can be a sense of grief at the loss you are experiencing. Even when a transition is expected and welcomed it is still normal to feel sadness for what you are leaving behind. Other emotional reactions that you might surface are fear, anger, frustration, and even denial. Oftentimes this comes about because you are being confronted with the unknown. Your initial reaction might even be to resist. Acknowledging and understanding your emotions while striving to be positive and patient during this time will go a long way in helping you to move on to the next phase of transition.
2. The Neutral Zone
The neutral zone is somewhat like a bridge between the old and the new. It can be a confusing and stressful time as you deal with the uncertainty of letting go of the old while trying to adapt to the new. Emotions you may feel during this time are anxiety, resentment of the change, depression, vulnerability, overwhelmed, etc. It can also be a time of feeling lost, so be kind to yourself and learn to be comfortable with your own discomfort as you navigate through unfamiliar territory. Before you know it, just like walking over a physical bridge, by taking one step at a time, you will get closer to the other side where you can start enjoying your new beginning.
3. The New Beginning
Now that you’ve done the tough work of letting go, and persevered through the confusing time of the neutral zone, you finally start to feel more comfortable with the change that has taken place. A new beginning (a new normal) has been made. At this stage you will likely feel more energized and more optimistic about the future as you experience feelings of acceptance and renewed hope as you move forward. Bridges states that while people go through each stage at their own pace and in fact might even cycle back and forth among the stages, but those who are comfortable with the change usually move ahead to stage three quickly, while those that aren’t will linger at stages one or two.
All in all, change is an inevitable part of life and transitions provide us the opportunity to grow and learn but that doesn’t mean we find it comfortable. And especially so when it is sudden or unexpected. These times can be hard and we often struggle because our situations do not match how we thought our lives would be. But just know that regardless of the circumstance you are experiencing right now, it’s important to remember that the mental and emotional adjustment and discomfort you are experiencing is a natural part of the change process.
If you don’t have a regular support system in place to help you during this time, I invite you to call me, Kris Henderson, at 616-516-1570 or schedule an appointment with me online. Together, we will work on developing the skills and attitudes needed (mostly being positive, patient, and forward thinking) to successfully move ahead through transitions you are going through now, as well as ones you may encounter in the future.