To cope with change, learn to transition

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

Endings are not always easy.

If we want to step fully into our new identities and the possibilities that come with them, we not only need to manage the practical changes we will encounter (new people, new places, and new 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.”

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 moving home, the pregnancy before having a baby, the last days in our old job when we have resigned but haven’t yet left. We know something new is coming but we’re not sure what it will 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, or give birth, our first day in the new school or new role. This is 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
    This is when we are finding our feet: we’ve moved in but are still unpacking. “Which box did I put the cups and plates in? Where shall we hang this picture?” It is the first few days or months of learning to be a parent or getting to know your new colleagues or classmates. This is when we take on and define our new role and identity.

These are the psychological transitions that go with any major change. And the better you can manage them, the easier the practical changes become. The better you can manage your own transitions, the better you will then be able to facilitate the people around you to manage theirs. Another step to becoming antifragile.

How well are you and the people around you managing the changes that are currently happening in your lives? Would it be useful to get better at managing the transitions that are occurring— to fully let go of life as it was and move fully 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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