HOW TO NAVIGATE TRANSITIONS
One rainy afternoon in Arlington, Virginia just before returning home to Tennessee after a year-long military assignment to the Pentagon, I was leaving my hotel for the last time when something prompted me to stop. What am I doing? I thought. I have a plane to catch. While the moment may seem irrelevant, this was the perfect occasion to bring my thoughts for closure and to transition from what used to be to what is now. From that hotel room on the 35th floor, at the desk with the window overlooking the Potomac River, I saw my dad for the last time before he passed away. While it was virtual through FaceTime, I remember how proud he was that I was assigned to the Pentagon. I was about to start my first day as a staff officer for a general officer and I was nervous. But I played it cool and I said, “Dad, it’s just a weird-shaped building with a lot of self-important people. It’s not a big deal.” That moment seemed an eternity away as I stepped back into the hotel room and sat at the desk and said my final good-bye. I had to let go before I could begin again.
This week, while sitting in another hotel room, on yet another military assignment, I’m reading a book about transitions and how so many people get stuck in the neutral zone after change has occurred. It can be change in any shape or form: loss of a loved one, saying good bye to a friendship, leaving a relationship, a job, adjusting to an empty nest, etc. Leaving anything behind is difficult. It’s even worse when the choice was not yours. The key is to end what was so that you can begin anew.
Here are the three phases from the book Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change:
“Letting go of the old ways and the old identity. This first phase is an ending and a time to deal with loss” (Bridges 2016).
“Going through an in-between when the old is gone but the new isn’t fully operational. This is the neutral zone. It’s when psychological re-alignments and re-patterning occurs” (Bridges 2016).
“Coming out of the transition and making a new beginning. This is when people develop a new identity, experience the new energy, and discover a new sense of purpose that makes change begin to work” (Bridges 2016).
“Before you can begin something new, you have to end what used to be. Before you can learn a new way of doing things, you have to unlearn the old way. Before you can become a different kind of person, you must let go of your old identity. Beginnings depend on endings. The problem is, people don’t like endings.” —William Bridges, PhD
Work Cited: Bridges, William and Susan Bridges. 2016. Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change. 4th Edition. Boston, MA: Da Capo Lifelong Books.