Transition versus Change

I have been focusing on two words lately – Transition and Change. They elicit different emotions. Before doing my research, I thought of transition as smooth, easy, and positive; and change as abrupt, unwelcome, and disruptive.

Then, I did some research and found the following explanation: It is helpful to think of change as the external situation – what you are trying to achieve. Transition is not external; rather, it is the internal process that people must go through to adapt to the change and the new situation. AH – so change implies something I may or may not be able to control. How I transition (i.e., adapt to the change) is something I can control – but that doesn’t mean it is easy! I must recognize my emotions and feelings, and work through them to get to acceptance.

So why am I so focused on transition and change? Well, by the time you read this article, I will be officially retired from my full-time job. Retirement is like parenthood, there is no manual to prepare you, no step-by-step instruction on how to go from working full steam to, well, not. So many people (myself included) have built their self-worth around their career. If I am not busy, I feel like I am not contributing and therefore not valuable. I have always felt I must accomplish something tangible to be worthy, worthy of my own self-respect and that of others. I can try to figure out why I feel that way, what was it in my childhood that instilled that need, but  tracing that back doesn’t really matter. The fact is, I am entering a new phase of life and I need to readjust my own internal thoughts as well as my values and figure out how to smoothly transition.

I love tradition – the familiar. When we go out to eat at our favorite Mexican restaurant, I entertain the idea of trying something new on the menu…. but I never do. I order my favorite dish. It is hard for me to think of no longer having the structure of a regular full-time job. But it is also freeing – to imagine a day that I can fill with whatever I want. To fulfill my need to continue to add value (for my own benefit and others), I will continue my role as Executive Director of Leadership Siouxland, and all the various organizations I support. In fact, as I learn to look ahead, I am excited to be able to have more time to devote to those ventures than I have. I am working through the phases of change and transition and looking forward to this new phase. In fact, I may even try a new dish the next time we go out for dinner!

Change vs. Transition

Change is situational

  • Move to a new site
  • Retirement of the owner
  • Reorganization of the roles on a team

Transition is psychological

  • Feelings of anxiety, insecurity, vulnerability
  • Coping with the loss of the familiar, entering into the unknown and accepting the future

By Peggy Smith, the Executive Director of Leadership Siouxland, a leadership development program for all of Siouxland, and recently entered the world of retirement with equal doses of trepidation and excitement.

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