I found the coolest word ever, fresh from a recent catalog I got in the mail from the company that I order Myers Briggs Assessments from. The word is sequinox, and it means the inexorable sequence of transformation from one season to another, or the art and science of transition management. When I went to see if I could find this compelling word in the dictionary, out fell a perfect maple leaf that I had admired and pressed for safekeeping some autumn long-ago. I sat looking at the leaf, with its not-as-brilliant hue, and realized it was just a fragile reminder of what it once was.
Transition management is challenging, because it can be difficult to let go, and just as I didn’t want to part with that beautiful amber colored leaf all those years ago, there are many examples in my life when I have hung onto the remnants of a season that had already passed. Transformation happens whether we want it to or not. Fall turns to winter, and winter to spring, and each of us grows from child, to adolescent, to adult, and then to elder. The way we navigate those transitions will determine if we transform intentionally or haphazardly.
To successfully transition to the next phase of our lives and create what we want for ourselves - and others - one must have a deep personal awareness of how things were, how things are now, and how things can be in the future.
William Bridges, change management and transitions guru, defines the three phases of transition as Ending or Letting go, the Neutral Zone, and the New Beginning. Bridges also says, in his book Managing Transitions, “it isn’t the changes that will do you in, it’s the transitions.” This is because change is situational but transitions are emotional.
We are hard-wired to be and do. So even when we want to let go of the past, it can be emotionally difficult to say goodbye, uncomfortable to operate while we are rewiring ourselves, and finally, when we settle into the new normal, our respite is short-lived - as another change is often right around the corner. The reality is that we are living these three phases simultaneously as we grieve for what was lost, seek to understand what is, and hope for a better tomorrow. Understanding these fundamentals about change and transition supports our personal transformation if we examine ourselves and build awareness that can be used with intention.
I created a model that I use to develop leader coaches called the Cycle of Transformation, and I have found it to add profound meaning in many aspects of life. Intentional transformation happens by sparking insight and then moving insight into action - again, and again, and again. Deep insight gives us an opportunity to be in conscious choice before moving into action. When that action is freely chosen and linked to our own awareness, the act of doing puts wisdom in the cells of our body and allows us to reflect on our choices beyond a theoretical idea. We can then decide, from an even greater awareness of self, to cross over the threshold into being clearer, bigger, and bolder in our lives. This cycle repeats itself as we choose again and again, using insight rather than old patterns of behavior that no longer work.
Today I returned from my first college visit with Bjarne, our junior in high school who turns 17 tomorrow. I am acutely aware that I have stepped into the autumn of my relationship with him as a dependent child. We stand on the cusp of a different way of being with each other. I feel him pulling away from us, as he grows into an independent young adult.
As we begin this transition, these seeds of change, I often feel the tug of not wanting to say goodbye to him being physically present every day, the uncertainty of how he will manage to remember his appointments or laundry, and wondering at the possibility of living without children in the house after thirty years of daily parenting.
I’m letting go in little ways and contemplating, is it too much or too little? I’m choosing, and acting, and reflecting, and considering again and again. Just as the maple tree shed its leaf long ago, Bjarne is gradually preparing to separate from our day to day involvement in his life. He is preparing to float out into the world searching for his place among a larger community. I will grieve, and for a time I expect I will feel a bit lost and confused about what to do without him under foot, but I also know what waits for me are the possibilities in the new world that I will intentionally create for myself.
Each of us chooses moment by moment if we are going to let life happen to us, or participate fully in the changing seasons. Where Bjarne is concerned, I have a while still before I’m left with remnants of the past to remind me of our life under one roof, and yet I see that I have stepped across the threshold that marks the beginning of the end of this phase of my life.
During this time of transition, I want to feel every moment of his tug for independence as a signal of his growing power rather than operating from the fear of losing him. I plan to be fully present with him now, while recognizing the nature of change as we prepare for the future and begin the process of redefining our roles with each other. I choose to be consciously participating in the transitions in my life. When I manage these transitions with deep awareness, and choose my destiny with intention and integrity, then each step creates the possibility for something beautiful to be waiting for me on the other side of tomorrow.
If you like this blog, I think you will like my book The Cycle of Transformation. Available now!
Deb Siverson is a seasoned executive coach, certified as a PCC through the International Coach Federation. If you want to schedule time to discuss how you or your organization can increase engagement by having a different conversation at work, contact us now.