There’s been a lot of transitioning going on in my life the last 6 months, and so naturally it’s been on my mind. And when I say “on my mind”, that can be interpreted as I’ve been playing with it, studying it, and batting it around like a cat with a mouse until there’s not much left. Like most cats, I’m extremely curious, and this tends to take me on more than a few thought journeys as I try to puzzle out the whys and wherefores of whatever has caught my interest. Enter transitions.
If I’m being honest, I’ve never really considered them until recently. All I really know about them is that they’re hard. Whether it’s the attainment of a long strived for goal or something you don’t see coming that flies out of left field and knocks you on your butt, change and the inevitable transition that goes with it is just rough. Heaven knows there’s a lot out there on change – how to create it, manage it, survive it, lead it or sustain it – but it’s all focused on getting something to go from where it is to someplace new, whether it wants to or not. Most don’t consider what’s supporting the effort between what was the old normal and what’s the new. However, I stumbled upon the book Managing Transitions by William and Susan Bridges (2009). It’s a great read and I highly recommend it for those of you who really want to dig deep on this topic. One thought that really captured my attention was their idea that transition is psychological and one of the pieces of this process is a neutral zone or “emotional wilderness” when you have an opportunity to create the thing you are trying to become, get to, etc; it’s where the magic of innovation happens. They urge you not to rush through it but embrace it (chapter 1).
On first hearing I thought, “Embrace the messy, feel like a newbie idiot with my shoes on the wrong feet, haven’t got a clue what to do next feeling? Are they nuts?” That sounds very Zen and I don’t know if I have it in me to be that amazing. Enter the cat. But what if they’re right? What would that mean? Why does embracing this feel more than a little scary?
After spending a lot of time batting that idea around (ok – it fueled more than one morning run), I came up with this analogy. Remember the Three Billy Goats? What if we’re the goats and the transition is the bridge we’re using to get to the other side – the new normal. Applying the Bridges’ idea to this analogy, we, as the goats, should take our time going across the bridge and savor the experience, taking time to try new things, embrace innovative perspectives, and take in the whole re-imagining process. But wait a minute – wasn’t there a troll somewhere, maybe under that bridge, just waiting to jump out and eat us?! Ah. Enter the real reason we fear change and transitions: we don’t have total control over the process. If we’re going to embrace the transition then that means we have to accept that we might be the thing that gets reimagined by the time we get to the other side. We have to be brave enough to face the troll – however it appears to us – and have faith that we will make it to other side, one way or another. Daring to think of yourself as something new and different – gulp – is more than a little scary.
So where does this leave me, and maybe you? I’m kinda in the middle of the bridge and I’ve faced a couple of trolls so far but if I’m being honest, it’s a little exhilarating to re-imagine and “breathe into it”. I don’t know how long the bridge is, but I think I’m going to try enjoying the view – and the trolls – a little more moving forward. Who knows – I might just be different by the time I get to the new normal.
See ya on the bridge!