transitioning from life changes

It isn’t the changes that do you in, it’s the transitions. – William Bridges

For many in the L&OD world, William Bridges work in the change management arena has been widely utilized and received as a staple to navigating various enterprise wide change initiatives. So when it came to reading his book:

  • Transitions: Making sense of Life’s Changes by William Bridges

I was eager to dive into it and learn more about how to apply some of his famous thinking to life outside of the corporate world. The first place to begin is around understanding his Change Model/Process which looks like this:

  • Endings. Every transition begins with one. Too often we misunderstand them, confuse them with finality: “That’s it, all over, finished!” Yet how we recognize endings is key to how we can begin anew.
  • The Neutral Zone. The second hurdle of transitions: a seemingly unproductive “time-out” when we feel disconnected from people and things in the past and emotionally unconnected to the present. Yet the neutral zone is really a time of reorientation.
  • The New Beginning. In transitions, we come to beginnings only at the end, when we launch new activities. To make a successful new beginning requires more than simply persevering. It requires an understanding of external signs and inner signals that point the way to the future.

Change is a constant in life and when an event shows up, you can bet some type of life transition is occurring. Here are 5 common places change occurs:

  • Losses of relationships: death, friend moving away, marital separations, children leaving home, alienation of friend, death of pet or hero
  • Changes in home life: getting married, having child, having spouse retire or becoming ill/recovering, returning to school, changing jobs, going into depression, moving to a new house/remodeled old one, experience increase/decrease of domestic tension
  • Personal Changes: getting sick or well, experiencing notable success or failure, changing eating habits, sleep patterns, sex, starting/stopping school, changing lifestyle or appearance
  • Work and Finances changes: getting fired, retiring, changing jobs, changes within organization, increase/decrease income, taking on new loans/mortgages, discovering career advancement is blocked
  • Inner changes: spiritual awakening, deepening social/political awareness, psychological insights, changes in self-image or values, discovery of new dream/abandonment of old one

One of the major reasons we struggle so much with life’s transitions is that we let fear control our thoughts, causing us to either get caught in a hypnotic state or stall from moving forward.

The key to overcoming this fear is to understand how to navigate these transitions and begin moving forward. Below are 7 ways I found in my research to support you in navigating these transitions without getting stopped: 

  1. Realize that transitions are inevitable. 
  2. Adjust your usual schedule around the transitions. 
  3. Take the time to acknowledge the past, the present, and what you believe is the future.
  4. If you find that anger or sadness, or some other strong emotion, is holding you back, acknowledge the emotion.
  5. If you are able to break the transitions into smaller pieces you may deal with them better.
  6. Reinforce each positive step you take towards the transition.
  7. Educate yourself about what this transition means to you.

Final thoughts: No one ever said navigating life’s challenges would be easy, but it is possible. The easiest way to make any life transition more challenging is to fight it. Although it can be natural to resist the change, holding on to the past will only cause more challenges and prolong the adjustment period. Allow yourself to practice “being” with the change and the transitions that occur and you will not only grow in the process but you may just surprise yourself regarding your own ability to successfully navigate what’s in front of you.

The floor is yours: What’s your tip for overcoming unexpected challenges?

Please leave your comment below as your insights are greatly appreciated and a learning opportunity for everyone reading this article.

With leadership,

Joshua /

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