Understanding where you are in the transition process and knowing the three stages can successfully help you navigate through it
We’re marked by transitions, from the innocuous to ground-shaking game changers. Although some are expected and welcome while others are not, they all deserve the same thoughtful examination. This will help you discover where you are in transition and help make that transition more successful.
Our lives are full of transitions: transitions in life, relationships, jobs/careers, business, society, technology, and even the evolution of our own ideas and perceptions. Often, we successfully manage these transitions and arrive at the other side without losing a step. However, there are times when issues go unresolved, and we find ourselves stuck somewhere in the process of transition. We may appear to have moved forward because things have simply changed, but that doesn’t mean we’ve moved on.
Although it’s true that transition can be energizing, unresolved transitions can become draining, eroding your resilience, and stopping you from enjoying new experiences. Sometimes you believe you’ve made it through a transition only to be hit by something down the road.
I knew a person who was terminated from a job after she was treated unfairly (for which the employer ended up paying significant compensation). Three years later, this person, while working at another job in another city, bumped into someone from her previous place of employment and found herself experiencing a panic attack. Although she had technically moved on, she had never resolved her feelings about the situation. She had moved forward but left the ending unresolved.
Here are the Three Stages of Transition:
- The Ending: experience of change or loss
- The Journey: searching for understanding/clarity
- New Beginnings: achieving acceptance and renewal
When transition proceeds smoothly, this is how it looks: We move from loss through clarity, if not always understanding, to acceptance and leave the old behind. The process of navigating transition is, of course, not always linear. There will be times when you move forward and times when you feel yourself slipping back. Ultimately, though, a successful transition allows you to move through these stages.
How do you recognize if you’re stuck? Examine your thoughts and emotions and see if the following sound familiar.
You may be lost in:
- The Ending if you feel fear, anger, sadness, cheated, defensive, trapped, mislead and disorientated (not necessarily the same as confusion, because disorientation involves more of a sense of loss of direction or focus) when thinking of the ending or during experiences that remind you of what you’ve lost.
- The Journey if you feel resentment, worry, apathy, uncertain, lethargic, doubt, skepticism, and confusion (not necessarily the same as disorientation, because confusion is more tied to uncertainty about what you’re doing or expected to be doing or what’s happening next) when you think about moving on.
- New Beginnings if you feel nervous energy, surprise, over enthusiasm, off balance, you need constant research or learning, and you’re bounding between over/under confidence when you try to think about what you’re leaving behind and what you’re trying to begin.
None of these emotions may be felt all the time. You may feel you’ve accepted an ending and let it go of it, you may feel confident and energized and have great clarity, but at other times, you’re less certain. This is part of the process. The question is not if you experience a full range of emotions; the question is if you’ve resolved them.
If everything is going well and you feel positive about the future most of the time, you have few unresolved transitions pulling you down. However, if you feel you’re lost and not certain how to pinpoint where you’re stuck, you’ll have to work to figure it out. Try developing the skill of being more conscious. Being conscious or mindful requires you to cultivate an ability to stop, look and listen, both inwardly and outwardly.
When you feel an emotion pass through you, whether positive or negative, stop and become mindful of and pinpoint the emotion and consider:
- Where you are or just were
- What you are or were just doing
- What you are or were just thinking
- Who you are or just were with
Stopping in the moment can sometimes be enlightening. You can be hit with an insight into what’s gripping you. Other times, this takes a more work.
Many things can trigger an emotional reaction: a familiar site, sound, smell, person, or even a word or phrase. In the example of the woman who was terminated from her job, it was clear that a specific person had triggered the emotion. Sometimes, however, the connection isn’t as obvious.
If you’re talking to a clerk at a store and feel a wave of sadness, it may have nothing to do with the clerk or the fact that you just spent money at a store. Perhaps the clerk said something that reminded you of a recent relationship or the money you spent reminded you of the loss of a job or business. Learning to be more conscious of your thoughts and feelings can help you discover what they mean and, ultimately, find ways to rule them instead of having them rule you.
Why does this matter if you can’t change the past? Your future actions and reactions are significantly impacted by your past experiences. And failure to understand or resolve the past sometimes makes moving on very difficult and can increase your chances of repeating previous mistakes.
Understanding if and why you’re lost in transition is a great way to take your performance to a new level, enabling you to embrace change and take positive steps in new directions.