I’ve been working on a project that I thought would end a month or so ago. It’s been a long, bandwidth absorbing project and one where I’ve been waiting for some closure. I learnt a couple of days ago that closure is delayed by a few weeks at least. Since this means a few more weeks in transition, I thought I’d share a few thoughts on transitions –
1. Transitions are difficult because they involve uncertainty. Uncertainty goes against our instincts to feel in control of our lives. So, we often view transitions like we do dentist appointments. We want as few of them as possible. And, in the off chance we have to have one, we want it to be over as fast as possible.
2. The most challenging part about dealing with uncertainty is a reduction in bandwidth. It is hard to emphasize how much of a difference a feeling of control and stability makes to our mental make up.
3. A side note – this is why living in poverty isn’t just about dealing with a lack of cash. That lack of cash takes away valuable mental capacity on a daily basis. It is a double whammy.
Similarly, any kind of issue that threatens a person’s security – whether it is mental, financial, or emotional is a bandwidth killer.
4. Every one of us who is reading this blog post, however, is likely lucky to have escaped those extremes for the most part. Our transitions are, luckily, of a first world nature. The worst case, in our case, is not all that bad. That calls for a lot of gratitude and a responsibility to make the world better for those who don’t share that luck.
5. So, how do you deal with transitions? I break it down into three truths. First, the best way to deal with the uncertainty that affects a transition is to focus intensely on what you control and not worry about anything else.
Second, listen to myself. There are periods when “normal service” may not apply and that’s okay. For example, I love listening to audio books. But, there are weeks in the thick of a transition when I don’t feel like listening to anything but music. And, that’s okay. If I listen carefully, I know what I need.
Third, even this will pass. And, when it does, I will have learnt a ton.
6. The biggest learning opportunity during a period of transition revolves around the idea – what got you here won’t get you there. I’ve found transitions to be a great opportunity to re-evaluate my projects and processes. They are a great time to shelve things that aren’t working any more and find new ones. This process requires some commitment to being intentional as it feels counter-intuitive to change things at a period when you feel too much is changing.
But, there rarely is a better time.
7. Transitions are tests. They only really end when we’ve learnt to embrace them and live life as if they don’t exist. For the longest time through this transition, I wasn’t ready for that. I was seeking closure.
But, just yesterday, I realized that there’s no point waiting for closure. I have the opportunity to reflect, re-evaluate and learn. Transition or not, there’s a lot that I need to get on with. So, as of today, I intend to do just that. And, experience tells me that the more indifferent I feel about closure, the sooner it will arrive.
In case you are wondering, you can’t cheat your way into feeling indifferent. The universe is smart. :-)
8. Finally, we are never really done with transitions and neither should we ever want to be. There are periods of respite following big transitions. But, only for a short while. Transitions are the zones that test us, push us to grow and become better human beings.
We need more of these, not less. And, it is worthwhile remembering that it is better to use opportunities to reinvent ourselves rather than having circumstance force it on us.
9. Whenever I think of transitions, I think of the lyrics of a song I’ve shared here a few times by the same name. I’ve shared it below. Enjoy.
Sometimes I feel that my life is a series of trapeze swings.
I’m either hanging on to a trapeze bar swinging along or,
for a few moments in my life, I’m hurtling across space in between trapeze bars.Most of the time, I spend my life hanging on for dear life to my trapeze-bar-of-the-moment.
It carries me along a certain steady rate of swing
And I have the feeling that I’m in control of my life.
I know most of the right questions and even some of the right answers.
But once in a while, as I’m merrily (or not so merrily) swinging along,
I look ahead of me into the distance, and what do I see?
I see another trapeze bar swinging toward me.
and I know, in that place that knows, that this new trapeze bar has my name on it.
It is my next step,
my aliveness going to get me.
In my heart-of-hearts I know that for me to grow,
I must release my grip on the present, well known bar to move to the new one.Each time it happens to me, I hope (no, I pray) that I won’t have to grab the new one.
But in my knowing place I know that I must totally release my grasp on my old bar,
and for some moment in time hurtle across space before I can grab onto the new bar.
Each time I am filled with terror.
It doesn’t matter that in all my previous hurtles across the void of unknowing,
I have always made it.
Each time I am afraid I will miss,
that I will be crushed on the unseen rocks in the bottomless chasm between the bars.
But I do it anyway.
Perhaps this is the essence of what the mystics call the faith experience.
No guarantees, no net, no insurance policy,
but you do it anyway because somehow, to keep hanging onto that old bar is no longer on the list of alternatives.
And so for an eternity that can last a microsecond or a thousand lifetimes,
I soar across the dark void of “the past is gone, the future is not yet here.”
It’s called transition.
I have come to believe that it is the only place that real change occurs.
I mean real change, not the pseudo-change that only lasts until the next time my old buttons get punched.
I have noticed that, in our culture, this transition zone is looked upon as a “no-thing”,
a no-place between places.
Sure the old trapeze-bar was real, and that new one coming towards me,
I hope that’s real too.
But the void in between?
That’s just a scary, confusing, disorienting “nowhere” that must be gotten through as fast as unconsciously as possible.
What a waste!
I have a sneaking suspicion that the transition zone is the only real thing,
and the bars are illusions we dream up to avoid, where the real change,
the real growth occurs for us.
Whether or not my hunch is true,
it remains that the transition zones in our lives are incredibly rich places.
They should be honored, even savored.
Yes, with all the pain and fear and feelings of being out-of-control that can (but not necessarily) accompany transitions,
they are still the most alive, most growth-filled, passionate, expansive moments in our lives.And so, transformation of fear may have nothing to do with making fear go away,
but rather with giving ourselves permission to “hang- out” in the transition between trapeze bars.
Transforming our need to grab that new bar, any bar, is allowing ourselves to dwell in the only place where change really happens.
It can be terrifying.
It can also be enlightening, in the true sense of the word.
Hurtling across the void, we just may learn how to fly.