Change Transitions

I recently read an article by Barbara J. Linney called “Surviving in a world of change.” Ms. Linney effectively illustrates that when unwanted change is thrust upon people, we experience a range of emotions.  The emotions go  from denial to anger, anger to sadness, and then evolve to feelings of emptiness and loss. 1 

The article made me think about how people manage significant changes in their lives and deal with the emotional earthquakes, aftershocks, and impact, that frequently results from major changes.

Simply put, change is messy. Change disrupts our routines, what is safe, familiar, and comfortable. Some changes are irrevocable. Change causes permanent endings.  It  creates a sense of longing for what we knew before the change took place.

In another article I read on this topic called “Managing Change Transitions”, the  author Sara White, defines change as an external event that is situational such as a getting a divorce or accepting a new job. 2  

Transition on the other hand, is the internal, psychological process that people go through as they come to terms with the change.  Change Transition is defined as the reorientation process people go through.  It is the process we navigate to move from an ending to a new beginning.

At the start of the process, old ties, connections, and routines are broken. 3  People go through a process of reassessment and experimentation.  The goal is to reorient and re-conceptualize a person’s role in the new  and altered conditions or environment.  Ms. White describes the process as casting off a shell. 4

The element of Change Transition that I struggle with the most is the ‘no man’s land’ or neutral zone that comes from trying to navigate between the old landscape and the new. 

When I think about that in-between space, I am reminded of road trips where the GPS seems to malfunction and sends travelers in circles or miles off the main roadway. A reorientation and recalculation have to happen.

Questions we face in the experimentation phase include: “Where do I fit now?”

Finding the “fit” might mean mingling with a new group of people, trying out a different form of physical activity or sport, or recruiting a mentor to help explore different opportunities. I have recruited many mentors over time. Each mentor I recruit is a person I respect who has a particular expertise. My mentors help me to identify:

a) what my goals are,

b) what I need to accomplish my goals,

c) what resources I need to find, and they challenge me to think differently and to use available resources differently.  

As difficult and emotional as the phases of Change Transition are, the outcome of the process is growth, new beginnings, and new opportunities. Tell me, what Change Transitions have you found the most difficult? What strategies did you use to support yourself or a loved one  through the transition?

1. Linney, Barbara J. “Surviving in a world of change.” Physician Executive, Feb. 1994, p. 39+.

2. White, Sara J. “Managing change transitions.” American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy, vol. 65, no. 24, 2008, p. 2334+.

3.  White, Sara J. “Managing change transitions.” American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy, vol. 65, no. 24, 2008, p. 2334+.

4. White, Sara J. “Managing change transitions.” American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy, vol. 65, no. 24, 2008, p. 2334+.

2 thoughts on “Change Transitions”

  1. This blog made me realize that I’m finally emerging from my own personal “no man’s land”. Thank you Kerry for sharing your wise knowledge.

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