It’s not the Change that gets you – It’s the Transition

Change is both a wonderful and a terrifying thing. It shakes up your world at the same time it brings innovation. Often, we need help to get through change especially if you don’t understand the process. There is a difference between change and transition.


boxes-2624231_1920Change is situational according to the book, Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change by William and Susan Bridges (2009). For instance, you can change: address, boss, job or gender. Whatever changes can be facts or behaviors. Transition, however is what happens inside as you adjust to the outer change. Some call this your new reality.

For instance, I lived in Fresno, California, for 15 years. I moved to Bakersfield about three years ago. It took a couple of days to move our things out of the old place and into the new. What follows is an adjustment to the change called the transition. In the first week, we located the grocery store, gas station and burger place. That was the easy part.

I’m still adjusting. The hardest part of the adjustment is with my identity. I don’t want to be from Bakersfield—it’s a small town. I like urban areas. I noticed it bothered me to change my location on my Facebook account. I didn’t want to let go of my identity attached with living urban and my community. It takes time to build friendships and find a community where you feel like you belong.

Three Phases of Transition

Change can happen fast, compared to transition which can take months or years. Transition is hard because it is painful and internal.

“The transition is a three-phase process that people go through as they internalize and come to terms with the details of the new situation.” William and Susan Bridges in Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change (2009).

I wish I had known about these phases of transition when I was a teenager. We moved a lot. That’s what happens when your dad is in the military and then he becomes a missionary. A transition has three phases:

  1. Loss
  2. Chaos
  3. New start

The first phase is letting go of what is familiar and known. Facing the loss is a time of grieving. We may be tempted to minimize this stage but ignoring it can sabotage the transition.

The second phase is one of chaos that can feel like a no-man’s-land. The chaos is when you’re no longer part of the old, but you are not integrated into the new. Chaos feels unstable, but it can be a time to reinvent yourself.

“The gap between the old and the new is the time when innovation is most possible…” William and Susan Bridges

Belinda2017In Bakersfield, I started dying my hair creative colors: teal, purple, red, and blue. No small-town girl here. A friend of mine from Bakersfield met a friend of mine from Fresno. Bakersfield-friend described me as the woman with blue hair and Fresno-friend said, “No. No, blue hair.” It’s easier to make changes to your life when you move. There is a freedom to change when the new people you meet don’t know the old you. They have no expectations.

The Christian church is going through a lot of change. We need time to process it and transition into the new that has not yet become clear. I’m hopeful about the change. Knowing that transition is in three phases helps me know we are in the middle of the chaos and this is normal. I look forward to being part of a healthier church in the future.

©2018 Belinda McDanel

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