A transition is "the process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another".
Transitional times are challenging times. There are highs and lows, factors in and out of our control, and it can take a long time to go through a transition completely. Some would argue that all of us are in some kind of transition most of the time.
It's worth knowing whether you're in a transition and where you are in its cycle. When you understand what you're experiencing, you can develop new perspectives, learn how to be a little kinder to yourself and prepare for what's coming next in your transition.
Some of the most insightful ideas I've read on transition are from Carol McClelland, PhD, author of The Seasons of Change. She uses a metaphor of the seasons as a way to describe our personal transitions.
Fall is about preparing for what's to come. You get news of change, you feel your feelings, you wait and you worry.
Winter has three parts. Early - when you retreat and reflect. You feel tired, and you don't know anything. Solstice - when you catch sparks of hope in the darkness. This is the turning point in the transition journey. Late - when you define your vision. You catch new insights, are open to new insights and see glimmers of spring.
Spring is about bursting with energy. You experience some storms and struggle with reentry.
Summer is about celebrating the harvest. You feel confident, have clarity and feel that life is abundant.
Here's an example of how the seasons metaphor applies to a career situation:
- Summer: Work is easy because you know what you're doing and you like it.
- Fall: Rumors start flying about a reorganization. Within a couple of weeks your work group is disbanded and your job duties are changing. You're worried you'll need to make changes soon.
- Winter: You're confused and obsessed about whether you should stay or go. There's no one left to talk with. Then you realize that you want to find a situation more in line with your interests and values. You start to look at options and get ideas on how to proceed.
- Spring: You make connections, leads come in, and you land a great job. Because you spent time during Winter identifying your talents, you negotiate a package that is right for you. You're excited about the potential of this new job.
One reason I appreciate using a metaphor from the natural world to describe change is that before our world was industrialized human beings had a strong connection with nature and its cycles. (Some of us still do but many of us do not.) There is much wisdom in nature. When we were connected to nature we knew that change takes time and is gradual, that it might come in the form of growth or decay, and that we were not in control of it.
Now many of us feel pressured to master change quickly and live in a state of perpetual growth. We believe we should be able to follow a formula and enjoy instantaneous results. When we realize that despite all of our scientific understanding and all of our technology we are still subject to Earth's laws of nature, we are better equipped to navigate our transitions.
The seasons metaphor also brings reminders of tales of the "hero's journey", when heroes or heroines embark on journeys and return home with new wisdom and strength. According to Joseph Campbell, the hero's journey is undertaken by people of all cultures and across many periods of history.
How can all this help you with your transition? When you know what season you are in, transition-wise, you can know what is normal to expect and what are helpful steps to take (read Carol's book for more detailed information!)
For example, most everyone I coach goes through some kind of winter period while we work together. Winter is not a place our society wants us to spend much time in - to be in eternal spring and summer are the expectations. But there is valuable and essential work to be done during winter! Winter is the key to unlocking the future. However, you can't do that work if you are denying that you are winter or trying to skip ahead too early to spring.
Transitions can be exciting, and they can be difficult. When you're aware of your own transition journey and work with it rather than fight it, you are on your way to creating a successful future.
I'd love to hear: What Season of transition are you in right now?