The 7 Crucial Stages of Personal Transition

It’s March. In the Northern Hemisphere, Spring is in the air. 

In many of areas of the world, it is this time of year when winter begins to let up, the days begin to grow longer, the sun begins to appear more often than not and we commence our days hearing the faint sounds of birds singing in the distance. 

Winter is almost over and Spring is almost here. 

It’s a season of change. 

While this change – from Winter to Spring – is typically a welcome change, there are other times, change is not so welcome. We call these times “transition.” 

Our world has experienced a great deal of transition in recent months. The economy has tanked, work has shifted, jobs have been eliminated, the digital transformation has been forced upon every corner of the world as over 100 million lives and families have been affected by the worst pandemic in over 100 years. More than likely, you know someone whose life has been upended by the current global pandemic. They are experiencing change… transition. 

Rarely do we like change. We almost never like transition. Why? Because normally change or transition has been forced upon us by an outside force. We are living through a process we did not pick for ourselves. We are confused, disappointed, discombobulated, frightened, sad, hurt, even angry. All feelings that are perfectly acceptable and normal. 

Yet, it is important to understand that transition is just that. A process. Just like any process there are stages you must get through in order to make it through the transition in a safe. Productive and timely manner. The old saying goes, “Never waste a crisis.” Transition, in many ways, is a crisis. The question is, “How can you come out better on the other side?” 

Briefly, I want to walk you through the stages of transition. Understanding each phase can help you understand where you are, what’s in front of you and the steps you can take to work through the process. 

It’s important to note, everyone is in one of these phases or another. Transition is a fact of life. Just as the seasons are constantly in the process of changing, so are you. 

Here are the seven crucial stages of transition: 

COMFORT PHASE

Transition begins in the comfort zone. 

Life is comfortable. Life is good. The bills are being paid. You can afford one good vacation a year and two dinners at the local restaurant once a month. Your job is going well. Your boss is talking about promoting you. Your company is stable. Nothing worrisome is on the horizon. 

This is the phase everyone desires to be in; the phase we work hard to remain in. 

Yet, understand this: Comfort is the enemy of greatness. Where there is no change, there is no growth. 

CHANGE PHASE 

You get the news you did want to hear. The doctor’s appointment did not go as planned. Your child did not get into the college she was hoping to attend. Your company is being merged or, worse, acquired. You did not get the promotion. A loved one received the dreaded diagnosis. Your spouse asks you for a divorce. 

These are all negative happenings. 

Yet, transition can also come from positive life happenings. 

Your daughter got accepted to her dream college… 2,000 miles away. Your company is being merged or being acquired… and you are running the entire division. You got the promotion you have been working hard for… but it means you need to move 600 miles from your current location. Your partner has asked you to take the next step in your relationship… which means marriage or moving in together. 

For better or for worse, life has been upended. 

CHAOS PHASE 

Once life gets upended, you enter into the “chaos phase.” 

Let’s start with you. Whereas life was fine and comfortable three days ago, today you are waking up to massive anxiety every morning. There are a lot of unanswered questions. You are happy… or sad. You are celebrating… or in the pits of despair… or both. Your 3-year plan has instantly become moot. Your spouse is happy… or sad… or both. 

Whatever the reason for the transition, you have now entered the chaos phase. Life simply seems confusing and little makes sense. 

CRUSHING PHASE 

With every transition, positive or negative, there will come sadness. 

Your spouse wants a divorce? Sadness. You got the promotion and now need to leave the team you have invested in? Sadness. A close loved one received the dreaded diagnosis? Sadness. Your child got accepted to a top-tier school 2,000 miles away? Sadness. You are losing your job? Sadness. You are retiring after 30 years of service to one organization? Sadness. 

You get the idea. All transition brings an element of sadness. For the harder transitions, you may even experience anger, grief and deep pain. 

This is the phase that causes everyone to dread change and transition. No one wants the pain that comes with transition. Yet, it is important you allow yourself to feel the sadness and pain associated with transition. Feeling the pain will allow you to move with more clarity into the next phases. Take the time you need. Feel the feelings. Experience the pain and sadness. 

CORRECTION PHASE 

Once you have come through the Crushing Phase, you can begin the ask the following three questions: 

  • What did I do well? 
  • What can I do better?
  • What do I need to change? 

You got fired? Ask those three questions. You got promoted? Ask those three questions. Your partner left you? Ask those three questions. You left your partner? Ask those three questions. You received the dreaded diagnosis? Ask those three questions. 

This phase is where reflection takes place. Whether or not you brought about the transition, this idea of “personal excellence” means taking personal responsibility for every aspect of your life. Take time to reflect and see where you can grow and evolve as a human being. 

CULTIVATION PHASE

If the Correction Phase is all about reflection, the Cultivation Phase is all about growth; implementing actions based on the reflection. What did you do well? Do more of that. What can you do better? Get better. What do you need to change? Make the necessary changes. 

COOPERATION PHASE 

This is the phase where you come to acceptance about the transition process you are coming out of. You have made the necessary peace with where you are and where life is headed. You have come to place where you can wish your former boss, former lover, former team, former organization and former co-workers “all good things.” If your child is moving 2,000 miles away for a better opportunity, you send them with warmest wishes, as hard as it is for you. If your loved one must live with the dreaded diagnosis, you dig your heels in and make a plan to either overcome the diagnosis or make the balance of their days as special as possible. 

Instead of fighting the transition, you move with it. Like catching a giant wave, you surrender and allow the wave to take you where it will. 

You are at peace, come what may. 

BACK TO THE COMFORT PHASE

And the process begins again.

It is important to note this process will take different amounts of time for different people. Depending on what you are facing, the transition process could week, a few weeks or even a few years. Yet, is important for you to experience every phase of the process. You will not come out of the transition if you try and skip any of the above phases. 

I wish you “all good things” as you move through your season of transition. Remember, there is no growth without transition. 

Rise Higher,

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