We’ve all heard the word “transition,” but what does it really mean? Simply put: CHANGE. It’s defined as “passage from one state, stage, subject, or place to another.”
Have you ever stopped to think about what transitions might be down the road for you and which are already in your rearview mirror? Have you noticed that, during certain periods of your life, you were unhappy or uncomfortable with your circumstances but weren’t really sure why? You likely couldn’t clearly name what was happening to you.
When I had just finished undergraduate school, I cried all the time for seemingly no reason. My mom would ask me what was wrong, but I could not articulate a clear answer. In hindsight, and only after a boatload of additional learning, I now realize that I was amidst a transition into adulthood. Entering the “real world” was scaring me to death!
Again, after my first child was born, more waterworks. Looking back, I see that I was struggling to be both a professional and a mom. The transition was so painful, because I didn’t know how to manage and reconcile the competing obligations. I constantly wished I had a sacred space to feel out the best way to navigate this new terrain. My resolution? I quit my big executive job and walked away from the panoply of perks to become an executive coach. I wanted to be there for people and help them through their own transitions, to quell their pain, to embolden them to face fears on their own journey.
More recently during COVID life, I saw my four children swivel to a different school, better equipped to handle the challenges of a pandemic. I felt their pain and discomfort as they made their new place in their new school, trying to fit in and be comfortable. It clearly was not easy for them on many levels, and I have deep compassion for their struggle, because I have come to understand the process.
A wise woman and executive coach named Chris Wahl once told me that, in general, “Our culture doesn’t ‘do’ transitions in a very intentional or supportive way.” What did she mean? We’re expected to just suck it up and deal (read: move on) without really knowing what is happening inside of our hearts and souls. In reality, these matters need to be reconciled in order for us to move forward.
The Power of Inquiry
These transitions in our lives can be better managed through deep personal inquiry and questioning of self, such as:
- What does this transition seem to be about?
- When did I notice this transition beginning?
- Where do I feel this transition in my body, and what else do I notice about my thoughts?
- What am I afraid of and what feels at risk?
- What are the possibilities that this transition presents for me?
- What question am I “sitting in” and working to solve for self?
One great question that I have used in my practice and in my own life is: What are you walking away from and what are you walking towards?
This visual of one’s journey helps people suddenly “see” the life path that is being traveled and what may lie ahead. Being aware of your experience as it’s happening holds the greatest potential for personal growth.
Dig into change. As William Bridges encourages, “It is when we are in transition that we are most completely alive.”