Don’t die here!
Change involves several stages to its fruition. The first stage is the status quo – where you are right now. Where you are now may not even be a bad place, but you know it is not serving you any longer. You are not growing; you are not fulfilled; you are not happy. In fact, you may be frustrated and angry. The next stage is a painful catalyst that drives you to get a picture of what you want your new normal to be. It can be a painful event or situation; it can be an ‘aha’ moment; a defining moment; a revelation – whatever it is that shakes you enough to wake you up and get you moving toward your new normal. What is that new normal? It is the vision of the new thing, the new place or the new existence that would best serve you. You can see it, you can feel it, and you know what it would be like to be there: blissful. All you need to do is act. Take that first step, then the next, then the next and you’ll get there. That’s transition. What’s so hard about that? Well? It’s harder than it seems.
Change is hard enough. Deciding to make a change is never easy but now transition? You may be asking, ‘What is transition, exactly?’ Transition is the process or period of changing from one state to another. So for example, you decide to redecorate a room in your home or apartment. You know what it looks like now (status quo) and you know for sure that you want it to change (painful catalyst to change). You find photos of how you want your room to be (vision of the new thing). You take the plunge, set a budget and go about getting started on this project (inspired action). The transition is the period of making the actual changes needed to see the end result: the vision of your new room. The transition involves deciding on an alternative as to how you will cope while this room is out of commission, moving all of your furniture and items out of the room, pulling up and replacing the old carpet, priming and painting the walls, changing the curtains or blinds, shopping for new accessories, discarding items you may be attached to… and the list goes on. It is in the period of transition that for a moment, you look at the room that is torn up and nothing like the way you envisioned it would look, “What on earth was I thinking?” You will be too far gone to turn back, far enough away from the vision to be afraid you made the wrong choice but too close to give up without all your efforts being a colossal waste of time. It is in this period of transition where you are defined and refined as a visionary and discover whether you have what it takes to push until you see your vision come to pass. This is true for any change one undertakes, whether leaving a job, starting a business, going back to school, deciding to have a child, walking away from a relationship, or changing habits.
One of the most famous stories of transition is the one of Moses leading the Israelites to the Promised Land through the wilderness. The status quo was the Israelites being enslaved in Egypt, an unbearable yet oddly comfortable place of hard unrewarded labor. The painful catalyst was the intensified pressure they began to experience because the Egyptians were intimidated by their numbers and feared a revolution. The Israelites cried out to God in their suffering and God answered by appointing a leader who would take them from the grasp of the pharaoh and the confines of Egypt to a place he promised that would be flowing with abundance and freedom. What God didn’t give a clear picture of was the transition: what would be required to survive and conquer the wilderness or the people they would have to fight in the Promised Land to lay hold of what was promised to them. There were so many necessary transitions – within the leader, Moses, within the people and their attitudes, the journey itself, the death of Moses, taking possession of the new land. There were times when the people wanted to go back to Egypt, to the place that may have been uncomfortable but it was familiar. It was just enough to live – not happily, but survive. There were times when Moses got fearful of the assignment and angry at the people who challenged his leadership and his God, but giving up was not an option.
“I suppose whenever you go through periods of transition… closing of a certain chapter of your life – I suppose those times are always going to be both very upsetting and also very exciting by the very nature because things are changing and you don’t know what’s going to happen,” said actor Daniel Radcliffe.
We are no different. We know a chapter in our lives has to end, and we have to go through the process of letting go, even though the vision of the new thing seems so grand and wonderful and what we know is best for us. We feel that as we let go and venture into that place of unknown that we might die. The process is too long, too hard, too painful, too frightening, too embarrassing. Don’t die here! Don’t give up! Embrace everything: every emotion, every loss and every fear; learn from every lesson and move forward confidently toward your place of newness and fulfillment. It will be worth it and you will wonder why you took so long to get started.
• Simmone L. Bowe, MSc, SPHRi, is a seasoned human resource and organization development consultant & trainer, speaker, author, and mentor who focuses on helping business owners, leaders and professionals diagnose their people and performance problems and implement strategic solutions. For comments, queries or to book a consultation, email firstname.lastname@example.org.