Transition through Change

Change and transition are sometimes used interchangeably but they are very different. Change is an event that happens, often externally and out of our control, but a transition is the psychological processing that is necessary in order to cope with change.

 We know we are facing change on every front right now. Our familiar world of just a few months seems a distant memory already. Had any of us imagined the enormity of what Covid-19 would do to our lives, we would probably have thrown our hands up in horror and given up all hope of being able to manage. However, we now realise that monumental change has happened and there will be still further change in the future. But, as William Bridges reminds us, “it isn’t the changes that do you in, it’s the transitions”. How we manage our personal transition through this crisis and beyond, will determine how successfully we cope and thrive.

When change happens the first stage of transition is an ending. We need to recognise and deal with the ending in order to leave the old and familiar behind. Facing endings is always tinged with sadness and loss of some kind. A lovely holiday coming to an end, a time at University, or a relationship ending, all involve loss. Even happy planned events like moving home, marriage or having children, all involve endings and letting go of the older order. We have all faced a huge amount of having to let go in the past few weeks. Of jobs, of daily routines, of usual patterns of travel, of workplace banter, friends and colleagues. Overwhelming loss both for adults and children.

Covid-19 and the crisis it has created loss of control at best and chaos at worst. Instead of counting the days to get out old lives back we need to start to let go of many things we took for granted. Allow feelings of sadness to surface and not hide them under anger or denial. Everyone will process the losses at their own pace. None of us knows what our futures will look like and right now we are in a no-man’s land.

In this new reality that still feels strange we will have days of being optimistic, and others being pessimistic. This is natural and normal and knowing that is important for keeping our resilience topped up so we don’t crash emotionally. Your transition is a personal journey. It isn’t going to be exactly like anyone else’s journey. You will dig deep to find your meaning so have the confidence to know that your opinions about what is right for you, are preferable to someone else’s. We need to discover who we are, what matters to us most, and deal with all the emotions around letting go. Then, in time, the transition will ease into a new beginning and new reality. What is vital is not to rush the process and brush the old order aside too quickly. That is a lost opportunity. Instead use this time to be genuinely creative in your thinking and tap into your emotional strengths. It will help you focus not just on what you want for the future, but why you want it. Your future may look very different to your past.

We cannot control change, and the endings that happen but we can influence our transition and design our new beginning.

Bridges. W (Managing Transitions, Nicholas Brearley 2009)