By Kailey Bowser

During this time of year, I feel a sort of inner shift happening as so many things are changing and shifting around me. Students are going back to school, people are adjusting to new schedules, and the weather is starting to cool. I begin putting away my summer clothes and bringing out sweaters and scarves. I am harvesting the last of my garden goodies as daylight hours begin to wane. Fall can feel like a new beginning for some people as they hunker down, prepare for the holidays, and look forward to the changing of the seasons. For others, all of this change can be very overwhelming and unwanted. But the truth of the matter is, whether we welcome or dread it, change is inevitable, so how can we manage and maybe even embrace change? 

While it can be uncomfortable and icky at times, change is what allows us to grow and accomplish our goals. One thing to recognize is that while a change is occurring, there is also a transition happening. Change and transition are not the same thing. Change is a specific moment in time. It’s usually visible—where something stops and something else begins. Transition is what happens within us—transition is often emotionally charged. Transition is more complex. There are stages of transition that we go through, and for a change to be successful, we must acknowledge and address our feelings. 

Let’s take the example of Jamie, an 18-year-old leaving for college. At a specific moment in time, Jamie will leave home and go to live at college. That moment is the change. However, leading up to that time and perhaps through and after, transition is occurring. Transition is the emotional side of this story. Following is an example of the transition steps and what they may look like in this situation for Jaime’s parent or guardian: 

  • Denial: “This is not happening.”
  • Letting Go: “This could be happening. I don’t like it. If this happens, it’s going to be really hard.”
  • Transition: “This is a really great opportunity for my kid to go to school. I need to start thinking about how things will be different once they leave.”
  • Acceptance: “They will be home for fall break, holidays, and back for summer. And they promise to call every weekend. I am really going to miss them.”
  • Integration: “My kid is going to college, and we are so proud of them for taking their future into their hands.”

I’ll be honest, I used to fear change. I liked predictability and structure. I avoided unnecessary risk when it came to my career path. I enjoyed being the expert and knowing all the ins and outs of procedures, and what to expect tomorrow and next week. I had the school of thought, “Why stir the change pot if I am comfy here.” It wasn’t until a leadership coach asked me the right questions, that I began realizing that I was stuck, and I wasn’t happy. I realized I needed to make a change and decided to pivot in my career path. But let me assure you, while I knew the change was necessary, the transition was anything but easy.

I was sad. 

I was excited. 

I was scared. 

Sometimes all of these emotions would happen in the span of an hour. Once I made the decision to make a career change, I moved through the above transition steps for around FIVE MONTHS! I relied on people I trusted to help me move through the stages. At times, it felt like a nightmare, and I wasn’t sure that I was making the right decision. Other times, I was excited about all of the new experiences, opportunities, and changes. There were times I cried because I was so scared of what I thought I would lose. The biggest takeaway for me is that all of the feelings that I was having surrounding this change and transition were 110% valid. 

I was fortunate enough to have the support and understanding of those around me so I could safely move through these stages and sit in my discomfort. As much as I wanted to snap my fingers and make the change happen and move on, that wasn’t the reality. 

The transition part of change is different for everyone. Some people can move through the stages of transition quickly and seemingly painlessly and for others, it takes a lot more time. Some of it depends on your personality, the nature of the change, and your support network. It also depends on how much skin you have in the game. Leaving a position where I had stability and a comfortable, known environment for a new position where I would be starting over and have a lot to learn felt like a lot of “skin in the game,” so it caused anxiety and doubt.

Another key takeaway for me was that keeping a positive mindset and a growth mindset was what kept me moving forward. I realized I needed to stop obsessing over what I could be losing and focus on what I would be gaining by embracing this new change and opportunity. Again, having my “board of directors,” what I call the trusted people around me who know me best, helped me to keep this positive mindset and keep moving forward through the discomfort of the unknown. 

Here are some helpful tips to help you manage change and transition:

    • Acceptance. Acknowledge that change is a natural part of life, and to achieve your goals, change is necessary.
    • Be aware of your emotions and reactions to change. Understand that this process may invoke a wide range of emotions and that is okay. Allow yourself time to move through and address these emotions. 
    • Remain positive. Focus on the benefits and opportunities that come with change.
    • Set realistic expectations. Understand that change takes time. Don’t expect immediate results. Create a transition plan or set clear goals for what you want to achieve during and after the change.
    • Stay flexible. Embrace the idea that your initial expectations might need to change as you learn and adapt.
    • Take care of yourself. Prioritize exercise, meditation, a healthy diet, and sleep to help you maintain your physical and emotional well-being.
    • Use what you know to your advantage. Think about lessons you’ve learned from past transitions and how you can apply that knowledge to the present situation.
    • Communicate. Voice your needs and concerns with others who are involved in the change or transition. Be open to feedback and listen to the perspectives of others.
    • Maintain a long-term perspective. Remember that change is often a part of a larger journey. Keep your eye on the prize and don’t get caught up in the short-term difficulties. 
  • Develop a support system to help you through the process.

I will leave you with a favorite quote that I turn to quite often when I need reassurance during a transition, “What if I fall? Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?” ~ Erin Hanson

If you find yourself facing a change or you are stuck in a transition and not sure how to keep moving forward, we would love to talk with you. At Innovative Connections, we understand that the continual, rapid change we are currently experiencing is hard. We have helped countless individuals and organizations through very difficult times. We would love to be part of your journey as you navigate the successes and challenges that lie ahead. If you’d like a free consultation to talk about how professional coaching services, leadership development training, or strategy planning sessions can help you or your organization, please contact us for a no-obligation, free consultation by clicking this link: Innovative Connections or calling us at 970-279-3330.

Our mission is to give voice and action to an emerging future. As a partner in your success, we would love to help you find your voice, see your vision, and imagine what the right action could be for you, your team, and your organization.