To cope with change, learn to transition

Whenever we start out on a new project, role, or relationship the previous stage of our life comes to an end.

These endings are not always easy. So to step most fully into our new identities and the possibilities that come with them it is important not only to manage the practical changes we encounter (new people, places, and ways of doing things). We also need to make the necessary emotional or psychological adjustments. 

These adjustments are called transitions. And as change guru William Bridges says,

“It isn’t the changes that do you in, it’s the transitions.”

These transitions come in three stages:

  1. Separation Stage
    Here we let go of the old life and identity. This is the packing-up stage before we move home, the pregnancy before having a baby, the last days in our old job when we’ve decided to go but we haven’t yet left. We know that something new is coming but we’re not sure yet what it is going to be like. We’re in the process of letting go of our old identity.
  2. Liminal or Threshold Stage
    Here we cross the threshold, stepping into our new life. Our old identity is gone but the new one hasn’t formed yet. This is the day we move into our new house, the day we give birth, our first day in the new school or new role, the time when the new president has been chosen but not yet sworn in. This period is uncertain. We can feel pressured and tense.
  3. Consolidation Stage
    Here we are finding our feet: we’ve moved in but are still unpacking. “Where is the box with the cups and plates? Where shall we hang this picture?” It’s the first few days or weeks of learning to be a parent or getting to know our new colleagues or classmates. This is when we take on and establish our new role and identity.

These psychological transitions accompany any major change. The better we can manage them, the easier the practical changes become. And the better we can manage our own transitions, the better we can facilitate the people around us to manage theirs.

All these are steps to becoming more antifragile.

How well are you and the people around you managing the changes that are happening in your lives? Would it be useful to get better at managing the transitions that come with them — to let go of life as it once was and move enthusiastically into life as it is going to be?

Adapted from Inner Leadership: a framework and a set of tools for building inspiration in times of change.

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Photo by David D via

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