My friend Carrie Gubsch asked me to write a post about transitions today because her husband Tyler and her are about to embark on a number of them. I decided to oblige, so in thinking about the last few transitions I have gone through, I have come up with a few points which have either helped me or would have been helpful to know in retrospect. This is not a definitive or exhaustive list by any means, but it is hopefully a good starting place for conversation and thought.
First let me say the obvious, transitions aren’t easy! But they aren’t impossible either. Perhaps these interrelated ideas based in observation and experience might be helpful?
1) Be clear about the WHY you are doing what you are doing
I have said this about leadership, ministry, and I also say this about life and transition. If you are clear why you are transitioning, the transition will be much smoother and more fulfilling. By this mean, what is the story and reason(s)? This is particularly important for partners or spouses to be clear about for each other. If this is the case, answering the questions and talking about the transition with others won’t be something taxing but actually something rewarding and energizing. If you have an extended family who loves you dearly but may not quite get what you are up to or why you are moving so far away from home, for example, being able to share the story can be helpful.
2) Communicate openly and honestly with those close to you
Along these lines, communication is obviously key. It takes open communication to be able to share why a transition is happening or going to happen. The more open one is in communicating this, the more healthy the transition will be. In a best case scenario, a transition is a mutual family decision (and hopefully it always is). In case of job loss and job opportunity though, the reason for a transition may not always be so positive.
3) Don’t hide your emotions and let them eat you
In transition it is best to not hide one’s emotions. This has been the area where I have learned the most perhaps in retrospect. If you let your emotions and feelings get bottled up inside, they can fester and begin to eat at you. These might be small and petty things- regrets, fears, etc. By themselves, they aren’t big things. But if you suppress them, they have a funny way of building up. Transitions are big life points where these can either come up to the surface unhealthily, or be suppressed unhealthily. Even though it may not be easy to always talk about how you are feeling with those closest to you, its important to do so. I would imagine this is especially true for families.
4) Ask questions
In the midst of transitions and change, questions are your friend! Questions are always your friend really, but being in transition and change affords you ample opportunity to ask questions. From where you are transitioning out of, you can ask and ponder questions of evaluation. For example: what have I learned from this experience(s)? What have we done together? What might we have done differently? In where you might be transitioning into (if you know of this), questions to ask might be: What has been the history of this place/community/organization? What are some of the hopes and dreams for this opportunity both for myself and for others? How might my passions/strengths/gifts/vocations/callings meet a need or opportunity in this new chapter?
To leaders going into a new setting, take advantage of your first 6-months or year to just ask questions. Take notes- mentally and physically. Make connections. People are happy to share their stories, so listen to them. This is the prime time to ask, and don’t feel that there is a stupid question. People will forgive you if you ask something that might seem strange because you are new to the context or experience. This is the biggest piece of advice I have heard from other leaders about starting new opportunities. Many leaders who I have talked to over the years wish that they had taken more time and advantage of the potential to ask “rookie” or “novice” questions. This is a gold mine opportunity which will serve you well years into the future.
5) Leave the door open for possibilities
Transitions are tough. They are taxing, especially on relationships and emotions. They are much more bearable though when there is room for hope, imagination, dreaming and possibility. So whatever the case may be which may have led you into being in a transition, look back on your previous chapters for learning and with gratitude, but also find a space if at all possible, to have just as much gratitude for what the next chapter may have in store. It may not be easy, but know that you aren’t the only one who is going through the transition. Share in the experience with your family and friends, because they are transitioning too. Dream together and communicate too.
These are five things which have been helpful for me to keep in mind in the midst of my own transitions. What has been helpful for you to keep in mind in the midst of transitions? What advice about transitions would you share?
Image Credit: Transitions