3 September 2012

Transitions – Surrender to the Process

Transitions are tough – whether it is in your business or in your personal life. We all say that we want change but let’s face it, we hate to do the work. The pain of transition is essential to normal growth and development. There are so many benefits, not only from a learning perspective but it’s nice to keep yourself interesting by trying new things on occasion.

Sometimes we choose to change and at other times change is imposed upon us. Neither of these are easy  but the more control that we have over the change, the easier the change may be. In my experience, I have found that being in control of our own lives is something we all strive for. That is why when change is imposed upon us – it is so traumatic. When my vision failed and I was kicked out of the military, I had no control over any of that process. I was tossed around like a small boat in a large storm. It was a shocking reality to have to wake up and realize that the old way of doing things were over. I had no real choice but to move on. It was not an easy transition.

Not all change is so traumatic. There are the times when we have lots of time to prepare. Does this make a difference? I had nine months to prepare for the birth of my daughter. There were no surprises there. I was prepared for the arrival – but was I really prepared? Even this most welcome change that I had lots of time to prepare for had built in challenges.

There are three stages to change. An ending, a period of uncertainty and a new beginning. These same phases were present in the loss of a career and they were present with the birth of my daughter. Yes, no matter whether the change is imposed on us or we choose to change, the process is the same.

My daughter was a welcome joy in my life but there were many endings also. My time being my own, the ability to say yes to an invitation without worrying about whether I had a sitter or the end of being totally selfish about when I woke up. The period of uncertainty was the adjustment to the new life. Worrying about whether you might do it right. did other people feel guilty when they wanted a break, please let her sleep one more hour, I’m so tired. Then there is the final stage of new beginning. After letting go of the old, navigating the uncertainty and then accepting that things are now different, you’ve managed to survive. Are you different – sure thing.  In all likelihood, you’ve grown in ways you could never imagine.

Ending, uncertainty and new beginning – that’s the process. You can’t get away from the process. Most people get hung up on that first step – letting go of the old. It is an essential step in growth and the sooner you realize that you cannot go back the better. Endings can be tough – even for things we are not fond of letting go can be a challenge. Failure to let go of the past will result in your becoming stuck.  People who are stuck change very little. They are usually uninteresting and they work hard to keep things the same.

The period of uncertainty is about surrender – before we have even seen the light at the end of the tunnel, we have to let ourselves roam around in the tunnel. It’s normal. Your questions of whether you are going to be alright are a sign that you’re in a period of uncertainty. When you stop asking and find peace, you are moving closer to that essential stage of surrender to change.

But it’s not an easy stage either because it’s all about not having control, not knowing for certain. We are not very good in this place but we can train ourselves to welcome uncertainty. Then we will develop resilience.

We’re human and what we like is certainty – so we want to know whether we will be ok if we let go of tried and true. Are there any guarantees in life? Will I survive the uncertainty? Will my life be better? There are no answers to those questions. Most people do come out the other end and many will tell you that even in the most uncertain time of their lives, there were valuable lessons.

Where in the process are you? Are you managing gracefully or trying to hold onto what used to be? Ending – Uncertainty – Beginning. Do you have what it takes to change?