Successfully Navigating Changes and Transitions
This was the topic we presented at a breakout session at the Southeastern Directors of Volunteer Services in Healthcare Organizations (SDVSHO) which included attendees from thirteen states, both paid staff and volunteers. They started with a quote from Gail Sheehy, author of both Passages and New Passage: “Changes in life are not only possible and predictable, but to deny them is to be an accomplice to one’s own unnecessary vegetation.”
People often consider the terms “change” and “transition” as the same, but they are not. Change happens quickly and is external; it happens to you, whether you seek it or not. Transition, on the other hand, is internal and is the process you go through in adapting to the change. It takes time and involves a mental adjustment. Sometimes we experience a change (such as the death of a spouse) but never make the transition to what William Bridges calls a “new beginning.” You probably know people who have become “stuck” after a major change.
The first step is to acknowledge the “ending” of what used to be and the attendant losses. You may feel anger, denial, wonder how you could have found yourself in this position, or stressed.
Next, you must go through what Bridges calls a “neutral zone,” though it is anything but neutral! This may be happen relatively quickly and painlessly, or be a time of turmoil, confusion, anxiety, disorientation. It can be very uncomfortable as your old way is gone, but you’re not yet where you will be, either. Tenuous, to be sure. The danger here is the potential for making bad decisions, jumping too quickly into a “new beginning” before you’re ready. This is not a very productive stage, but it’s important to take care of yourself, practice positive self-talk, and begin to “let go” of the past.
Eventually, if you do the hard work in the “neutral” zone, you will arrive at your “new beginning.” You will refocus your life, regain energy, see new possibilities, and begin taking risks. It can be exciting and energizing, but there’s no magic in making the transition to arrive here.
Is there a change in your life? Did it happen to you, or did you initiate it? Where are you on the spectrum from “endings” to “neutral” to “new beginnings”?
What can you do to help yourself make the transition? With the healthcare group, we covered ten strategies for successfully navigating changes and transitions which are described in Second Blooming for Women on pages 48 – 51, adapting them to the healthcare situation. What have you found useful in making transitions in response to changes in your life? Betsy and Kathleen would love to hear from you.