How to make an effective transition

“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” Charles Darwin

A transition is a period or process of change from one state, situation, or context to another. Some occur as we go through life, while others, such as those we seek or have imposed, are less predictable. How we view and cope with periods of transition is understandably essential, and we are prepared from a young age to view and manage with them as positively as possible. There are few more critical times in life than transitions, and in this post, we ask how to go through them successfully.

Acceptance

All we can do is accept our current reality. We have no choice in this. And yet, many of us struggle to comprehend the reality of transition. Emotional attachment to what we must leave behind and fear of what we are stepping into being two very understandable reasons for this. So why is it necessary to accept? Because acceptance is not resignation but the first stage of transformation. Acceptance frees us up to thrive and survive in the ‘moment’ of transition, not get dragged back unhelpfully into our past or propelled uncertainly into our future. With acceptance comes an appreciation of what transitions are for: opportunities to grow. Acceptance means we can balance the stress and anxiety of change with excitement and enjoyment.

Recognition

At one level, a transition is easy to recognise. When we change careers, move home or start a new relationship, it is clear we are in transition. What can be more difficult is recognising the psychological shift we go through as a result. So how do we recognise it? Self-awareness is the answer. Self-awareness, the most important emotional intelligence, allows us to tune in to our internal and external worlds for signs of transition. Internal signs include changes in our self-talk and how we think, feel and behave. External signs include changes in our relationships and the acquisition of new skills and abilities. Recognition keeps our psychological transition in harmony with the life transition we are going through, ensuring we are not out of step.

Support

While a transition is a very individual experience, it doesn’t mean we have to go through it alone. If we have an existing support network such as a partner, friends, or family, we can ask them to help us. The shared experience of a transition often strengthens relationships.  If we no longer have the same access to support, using professionals such as life coaches or therapists is another option. And of course, there is 24/7 support available – from ourselves. If we are waiting for our new support network to form and do not yet feel close enough to the new people in our lives to ask them for support, positive self-talk and self-care can go a long way.

Strengths ‘checklist’

One thing is inevitable about transitions: they will test us. Listing our strengths can help us to meet the challenge. For example: recognising our ability to form new relationships can help us make the most of early social encounters; acknowledging our strength in learning new skills can enable us to embrace new opportunities; appreciating how we have come through previous transitions can equip us with the right mindset. It can be easy to lose sight of our strengths in the fog of transition. Identifying our strengths and making full use of them can ensure a transition becomes an opportunity for growth and development. If listing your strengths feels awkward and boastful, consider asking someone you know well to help.

Visualisation

Visualisation is a fantastic psychological tool. It uses the brain’s ability to actively bring about what we focus our attention on. Visualising a successful transition, therefore, makes it more likely to happen. Parts of the human brain exist simultaneously in our past, present, and future. This remarkable capacity allows us to engage in a sport of time-travel, so even if we are at the start of our transition, we can journey to the end of it in our imaginations. The following exercise, one used by people in business and sport, is a great way to use visualisation.

In your imagination, travel into your future – to your desired destination – when you have successfully come through your transition. Visualise how your life is in as much detail as possible:

Who have you become?

What are you doing?

How is your life different?

How do you feel?

Once you have a clear visualisation, travel backward through the journey you took to reach your destination. For example, if you moved to a new town or city and made a new circle of friends, how did you meet them? Did you join a club or start a new hobby? Or, if you changed your career, what was your job-search strategy? Did you employ a careers consultant or a C.V. specialist? As you go through your transition, spend time using visualisation to travel back and forth between your present and future to ensure your journey and destination remain aligned.

A helpful approach to transition

Transitions require us to develop new habits and ways of doing things, involving a significant investment of our time and energy. As a result, it can be easy to fall back into old patterns because they come ready-made. Having a helpful approach to transition is how we avoid this trap. It stops us from forcing Plan A to work when what we need is a Plan B. Being flexible in this way means we evolve and adapt to our new situation.  Below is a list of characteristics of a helpful approach:

  • Acceptance of one’s current reality and a commitment to doing what it takes
  • Time and patience
  • Positivity – towards oneself and from others
  • Self-belief and trust in one’s abilities
  • Turning setbacks into opportunities
  • Useful ideas, sound knowledge & practical resources
  • Skills – practice and repetition
  • Alignment of realistic goals with effective strategies
  • The right type of support and encouragement
  • Positive emotions that help rather than hinder
  • A resilient mindset

Strategies

We don’t fail our transitions; our strategies do. Too many people give up on their transition goal, believing it is beyond them. When this happens, it is a real shame because it is someone’s strategy that needs addressing more often than not. Below is a 9 point challenge audit for effective strategy-making to ensure your goal and strategy remain aligned:

  1. Resources: do I have what I need? If I don’t, can I acquire them myself, or does someone else have what I need?
  2. Skills and abilities: do I have the necessary skills and abilities? If I don’t, can I develop them myself, or will I need support?
  3. Confidence and belief: do I have enough? If I don’t, can I build these qualities independently, or will I need support?
  4. Wellbeing: do I feel resilient enough? If I don’t, is boosting my wellbeing something I can do by myself, or will I need to involve someone else?
  5. Support: do I have the support I need? If I don’t, who will provide it?
  6. Motivation: do I feel motivated enough? If I don’t, can I motivate myself, or will I need encouragement from someone else?
  7. Time: do I have enough time? If I don’t, how can I find the time I need? Is this the right time? If it isn’t, when will it be?
  8. Environment: am I in the right environment? Or do I need to be somewhere else?
  9. Strategy: do I have the right strategies? If I don’t, how will I acquire them? By myself or with support?

Benefits

Even though transition periods can be difficult and demanding, they can also be fantastic opportunities for our personal growth and development. One of the main benefits is making subsequent transitions easier to get through and more personally rewarding. The knowledge that we have succeeded before increases our confidence and reduces our fears. We go into the next stage of our lives expecting to achieve rather than doubting. And with increased confidence comes greater focus, concentration, and self-belief, making new skills easier to acquire. Other benefits include improved relationships, enhanced problem-solving skills, leadership capabilities, and positive mental and physical health.

Getting support

Are you going through a life transition, or are you about to embark on one? If you are and woud like professional support, then please get in touch. I’d love to hear from you and to support your growth and development at this important time in your life.