The Difference Between Change and Transition

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With COVID-19, we are navigating a shared change and very individual transitions.

Yes, there is a difference between the two.

They may feel the same, but they are very different. Change is external and transition is the internal process we experience in response to change. There are two books, both written by William Bridges, that I use when I work with clients in career and life transition. And this pandemic is certainly a career and life transition that none of us have experienced before.

Change is something that happens to people, even if they don’t agree with it. Transition, on the other hand, is internal: it’s what happens in people’s minds as they go through changeChange can happen very quickly, while transition usually occurs more slowly.” ~William Bridges

COVID-19 has changed us all. And, we are all transitioning in our very personal ways.

Using Bridges’ model, there are three stages of transition. Endings, The Neutral Zone, and New Beginnings.

  • ENDINGS: Loss, letting go, saying goodbye. If you are here, we talk about the importance of honoring what is ending. I’ve had clients plant trees, bury tokens, and unsubscribe to industry news to mark the ending of a chapter. Marking the end is necessary before a new beginning can start. 
  • THE NEUTRAL ZONE: Characterized by chaos, instability, disorientation. Sound familiar? And, also present in massive quantities in this zone are creativity, innovation, and possibility. If you are here, this state is temporary. The most important thing we can do is be compassionate with ourselves, find resources, support systems, and use mindful strategies to be open to the innovation and creativity that shares this space.
  • NEW BEGINNINGS: This is a phase of reorientation, acceptance, and identification with a new way of being. It may be that you accept the new that has replaced the old or that you see a sense of who you are becoming on the other side. If you are here, there may be relief that you’ve navigated through the uncertainty, there also may be new anxiety, excitement, and awareness that change may come again.

The change that the pandemic has forced upon us is shared. The transition we experience individually is very personal. Everyone moves through these stages at their own pace. I believe the more resources we have, the better.

These books are my go-tos. Bridges’ down-to-earth, practical concepts can help us navigate this shared yet very individual experience.

Barbara reveals people to themselves. - TG



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