Why transitions matter more than changes

TunnelWe are living through a time of change. And with every change comes a psychological or emotional ‘transition’.

Some of these transitions are small, others large, but all can have an impact on your ability to reach your goals.

Changes happen in the outer world. They are about starting or finishing a role, a job, a project, a reporting line, a relationship. Transitions happen in our inner world: they are about who we are, our identities.

For example, following a merger, John and his team found themselves with a new reporting line on the organisation chart. The changes they were being asked to make were relatively straightforward: they could easily adapt to the new technology they were being asked to use and deliver new performance metrics. But what was far more important to them was the impact on their identities: Would they still be as critical to the strategy of the firm? Would they still be as close to core decision-makers? Would this alter their status in the industry? These questions of transition were much more important to them, but nobody really talked about them.

Changes are visible. Transitions are invisible.

Changes involve places, things, events, transactions, and hierarchies. Transitions are about meanings, relationships, and stories.

Changes can happen quickly. Transitions can take a long time for people to work through.

Changes are predictable. Transitions are not.

This is why change guru William Bridges says:

“It isn’t the changes that do you in, it’s the transitions.”

Are you or the people who matter most to you going through any outer changes at the moment? Is anybody managing the inner psychological and emotional transitions that must also be taking place? Would it be useful to change that?

Comparing changes and transitions


Adapted from Inner Leadership: tools for building inspiration in times of change.

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Photo By Stig Nygaard via StockPholio.net

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