Change and Transition
The only thing that won’t change is change itself.
About a decade ago, there was a competition between the cell phone brands - Apple and Blackberry. One blackberry executive is remembered for saying, “No one wants apps.” Over 2 million apps later, it’s safe to say he missed the mark. No one knew that the competition wouldn’t even be a conversation 10 years later. As things changed with the way cell phones were used with apps, Blackberry didn’t change soon enough and no longer get discussed as a major player among cell phone companies. I believe that underneath people who can't succeed in life is a resistance to and fear of new ideas and new ways of doing things. Often, change is vital to continued progress towards reaching one’s goals. Flexible people are agile and able to respond to change. These people can change their minds when evidence suggests that they are not on the right track or may be mistaken. They remain patient with the process of change and transition. People who lack the ability to be flexible continue to practice old behaviors in new settings and are ultimately rendered ineffective. As a result, opportunity slips through their fingers which inevitably leads to regret. Change is a part of life and if you do not prepare yourself for it, you will be doomed to a life of unnecessary frustration and stagnation. The degree to which you can embrace endings is the degree to which you can face new beginnings.
There is a story in the Bible about Moses and the people of Egypt. In this story, the Hebrew people are the slaves of the Egyptians. Moses is a Hebrew who was raised as an Egyptian but discovers his calling to deliver his people out of slavery in Egypt to take them to the prophetically promised land. Talk about a change. These people spent hundreds of years in captivity and now had to change everything they knew about their way of life in order to adapt to the series of events following the change and prepare to reach a new land. They would be in a process of change and transition. The change had to do with their circumstances. The transition had to do with their thinking and how they handled their emotions. Change can show up in our lives in a lot of different ways and oftentimes, it’s forced upon us if we are not proactive with it. Types of changes include:
-Going from high school to college.
-Going from college to starting your career.
-Being released from prison back into the world and getting back on your feet.
-Going from being an employee to starting your own business.
-Changing careers in your midlife and having to go back to school
-Going from unhealthy living (not sleeping, working out, and eating properly) to healthy living (getting enough sleep, eating right and working out).
-Going from spending money recklessly to living financially responsibly.
-Getting free from an unhealthy substance like drugs or alcohol.
-Leaving dysfunctional relationships and learning to be in healthy and safe relationships.
Most people are not taught how to handle change and transition in their lives. Without guidance, people will fumble through the process and oftentimes experience needless pain or a sense that the wrong choice was made. It’s important to know that life is full of different seasons and stages. As you go through these stages, you will have to grow as a person. That will inevitably bring about change. It’s a part of maturation. Without that process, one cannot sustain anything because change is necessary when you learn new information that’s needed to sustain the new way of life. You cannot trust and rely on past knowledge, habits, and experience in a new stage, season, or environment. Looking at the story of the people of Egypt, there were 3 stages of the change – the ending, which was Egypt, the neutral zone, which was the desert, and the new beginning, which was the Promised Land. Here are a few considerations for the stages where change and transition occur that can help make the process more manageable and ultimately result in a sense of completeness and health.
Egypt (Ending) – Things to Remember
When the in the process of change in a particular area of your life, you have to recognize when something has come to an end. If you do not embrace the need for change, you will prolong the process of the transition and waste time and energy that could be put to better use. The quicker you let go of the idea that things have to stay the same, the sooner you can begin making the transition.
Here a couple things to ask yourself and think about in this stage:
1. What is it time to let go of? What activities are you doing that are no longer serving a purpose in your life? What habits and relationships do you need to consider changing or even ending because they no longer serve a purpose in your life?
A key thought is that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Naming what has to end is powerful in making the transition to a new way of doing things and a new life.
a. For example, going to college means you have to let go of the way you thought and acted when you were in high school. In high school, there were probably more people who held you accountable and responsible for your actions. Now, you have to decide to end the irresponsibility and dependency on others because you have to grow up and take responsibility for your own actions and their consequences. If you don’t make the transition, you will have a hard time figuring things out in college and beyond. So name the things that have to end. This should be a constant practice in your life as you evaluate the stage of the change you’re in.
b. Another example is rethinking how you spend your money and changing those financial habits require that you name the ending of spending recklessly and living without sound financial disciplines. That is hard especially if you’ve been living like that for a while. But you have to decide that you will put an end to those ways in order to have a solid financial foundation in the future.
2. What actions can you begin to take to help you with the transition? The longer you wait to delay the change, the harder it will be. Talking with a coach, therapist, or participating in a support group can be helpful when dealing with the grieving process associated with ending things. In a way, endings are like a death. There is a process of letting go that is not always easy, but it’s important that you learn to end well to not leave things unresolved in your mind and heart. See chapter 31 on grieving.
The Desert – Neutral Zone
When you begin to move in a new direction, you give yourself the opportunity to make a smoother transition. To be sure, in between ending and beginning something is like a desert, which is not always a comfortable time. There may be times of boredom, restlessness, confusion, fear, panic, self-pity, and distress, but with energy and forethought, it can be a time of reinvention and repositioning for something great. Sometimes, it feels like you’re taking 2 steps forward and 1 step backward. Depending on what change is happening in your life, transition can take months, sometimes years and most of the time will be spent in the neutral zone. I don’t say that to discourage you. I say that so you can know what to expect and plan accordingly. I believe knowing and dealing with the hard truth right away helps you get adjusted more easily than learning it later on. Change can only surprise you when you don’t expect it. Expect that your anxiety will rise and motivation will fall. You’re not weird or wrong. It is normal that with change and transition, you will feel disoriented and self-doubting. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. When you stop letting fear and anxiety control your mind, it’s like you release yourself from a self-imposed prison. What you are afraid of is rarely as bad as you imagine. Have faith in God to lead and sustain you during this time.
Here are a few things to consider during this stage:
1. Holding on to a vision of where you will be is one way to make this time easier. Review the exercise in chapter 8 to remind yourself of this. In order for the change to stick, you have to see the advantage to changing yourself. Think about the kind of person you will be when this is done.
2. Know your values. During this time, anything that you were clear about can become unclear. That’s why it’s important to know what you assign ultimate importance to in your life so you can build your life the way you want from there. Review the exercise in chapter 3.
3. Remember to always be you. Review chapter 2’s exercise on the false self. It’s tempting to retreat back to being what everyone thinks you should be because this discouraging time can make you fall into the pressure of social acceptance which isn’t bad unless it moves you away from your calling. Stick to your guns regarding who you are and how you want to be in the world. Over time, you will begin to regain your strength and confidence. Be patient with the process.
4. Think more about what can go right than what can go wrong. Watch your self-talk. Review chapter 27 which offers a great tool called STOP. When you change your beliefs, you change your actions. Much of your success during the transition will depend on what you choose to believe.
5. In this season, there are some things that have to be allowed to die and sometimes intentionally brought to death. Old systems of thought, old self-images, and old outlooks need to go in order to for new ones to be brought to life. What are the lessons that you need to learn during this season?
6. Laugh at yourself. Laughter is a great medicine and is a valuable tool during these times. Take what you’re doing seriously but not yourself. You may be all over the place so don’t be afraid of your awkwardness in dealing with things. Simply laugh at it.
7. I always recommend a coach, counselor, trusted and wise friend, or a support group to help you during this time. Times when you can be quiet and/or share your feelings in a safe place are really helpful to process the emotions around the change in a healthy way.
The Promised Land – The Beginning
Now that you have reached the point where the change in your life is complete and the circumstances around the change are final, there may still be some unresolved emotions that you’re having around the change. You got the new house. You changed careers. You started the business. You’ve been out of prison for a few months and been employed for a few months. How you thought you would feel may not exactly be how you’re feeling or the beginning of the change may not be as impressive as you thought it would be. In most cases, that is totally normal and to be expected. The true beginning of a change comes when there is a re-alignment internally.
Here are a few things to consider doing or questions to answer to help you finalize a transition:
1. What is the new beginning going to require? What new outlooks, habits, and systems of thoughts do you need to think about and commit to? At the beginning, don’t focus on results of what you want to happen. Focus on the process in order to sustain the change you want. For example, when I first started leading workshops, I had to be more focused with preparing than I was with the idea that I was a facilitator. I’ve met folks who bought a new house and were so excited about the house that they neglected to factor in the work and cost to keep the house in order. Remember that maintenance takes just as much work as acquiring, if not more.
2. What mental or emotional obstacles will you need to overcome in order for this change to be complete? Is it fear? Is it the desire to have the comfort from before? See chapter 27 for ways to deal with adversity.
3. Study people who have gone through the type of change you’re going through. Great people don’t always show you the confusion and/or hardship they endured during their transitions. Learning their stories can help you stay encouraged and help you identify yourself with the final result of a new beginning. Read their books, listen to their interviews, watch their documentaries, etc. to get a blueprint of the perspective to cultivate and what to expect.
I wish you well.