Mark Twain once wrote, “The only person who likes change is a wet baby.” People struggle with change. Even good change.
Why change is difficult has to do with transition.
Although these two words are often interchangeable, there is an important difference between change and transition.
Whereas a change is an external circumstance to be achieved, a transition is the internal process we go through to adapt to the change.
Until a person makes the internal transition from the old way to the new way, the change itself will not be successful.
Why change is difficult is because transition can be a frightening thing.
Transition means moving outside of our comfort zone.
Often, transition means giving up an old identity for a new identify. This can happen with career changes, promotions, transfers, termination, even retirement.
I am not speaking of core values, but rather the way we identify ourselves as who we are at work.
The better we understand transition, the better we are prepared for the challenges that lay before us.
First, we must understand a transition consists of three important stages. To successfully navigate the process, we must fully experience each stage.
The Ending Stage
Although it sounds somewhat backwards, all new beginning must always start with an ending.
For many people, this is the hardest part of the transition – letting go of what they once had.
I often see this with emerging leaders who have trouble letting go with what position advanced them.
I have seen this with individuals who have been laid off or terminated.
I have seen this with the recently retired.
We must remember that to become someone else, we must first let go of who we currently are.
The Neutral Stage
Once we learn to let go of our identify, we then must pass through the second stage – the neutral stage.
We have all experienced this stage. It’s the feeling of being uncomfortable in our new identity.
We find ourselves questioning our decisions. We wonder if we made the right choice.
As dismal as it sounds, the neutral stage does have benefit. It is a time for us to take stock of ourselves and re-evaluate what is important.
Toward the end of the neutral period, we begin to experiment with new ideas and behaviors. We begin to feel optimistic about our future.
Our confidence begins to show.
We are now ready to move into the next stage, a new beginning.
The Beginning Stage
When we have successfully transitioned the first two stages, we start to sense a new beginning.
As if having an internal autopilot, we begin to think and act in new ways.
Although there many be some lingering doubts and anxiety about a relapse, these feelings are normal during new beginnings.
It is important to remember, however, we can only reach the beginning stage when we are ready to part with the old ways and have traversed the chaotic neutral stage.
How long this takes will be different for each individual.
This is why a transition will always take longer to complete than a change.
If you are not feeling settled after a recent change, consider what you may still be holding on to.
Awareness of transition is the foundation for moving forward.