You’re Not Changing…You’re Transitioning
- March 1st, 2019
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When I was still in school (an era which I’d rather leave unidentified, LOL), March was the season of change—the month of graduation that heralded the shift from one crucial stage of life to another. Even if you didn’t belong to the graduating batch, you could still feel the older students’ excitement, anxiety, anticipation and fear.
While adjustments in the academic calendar in recent years have eroded the significance of March as a milestone month, these very adjustments are indicative of why it seems increasingly more difficult to adapt to changes these days. While change is a fact of life, the rate of change is constantly accelerating in this day and age—and we’re struggling to keep pace.
And by change, I don’t just mean the obvious passages to new stages of life marked by major ceremonies like graduations—I also mean job promotions, occupational switches, residential relocations, relationship break-ups, sudden illnesses, and so on and so forth. Whether positive or negative, change stresses us out simply because something old and familiar is ending and it takes effort to acclimatize to the new and unfamiliar. Of course, the bigger the change, the larger the effort required and the greater the stress.
What can help us weather these disruptive shifts is knowing the distinction between change and transition. As change expert William Bridges once put it:
Change is situational. Transition, on the other hand, is psychological. It is not those events, but rather the inner reorientation and self-redefinition that you have to go through in order to incorporate any of those changes into your life. Without a transition, a change is just a rearrangement of the furniture. Unless transition happens, the change won’t work, because it doesn’t “take.”William Bridges
Elsewhere, he adds:
We resist transition not because we can’t accept the change, but because we can’t accept letting go of that piece of ourselves that we have to give up when and because the situation has changed.William Bridges
The key, then, to weathering the jarring (and increasingly more regular!) vicissitudes of life is to shift our focus from directing the external process of change to shepherding the internal process of transition. Fortunately, much of this shepherding can be supported and enhanced by grounding and nurturing practices such as yoga, mindfulness and meditation.
I hope that with this crucial distinction, you can begin to facilitate all of your transitions with ease and grace!
P.S. I highly, highly recommend William Bridges’ book Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes as an indispensable resource. I wouldn’t have survived my 20s without it. But if you’re already dealing with a major change now and don’t have the time to go through a book, just click here!
Photo courtesy of Chris Lawton.