thriving in transition

stepping stones

Photo credit: ffela / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

transition. change. newness. different. upheaval. shift. passage

Last week I joined some teammates to offer a dinner and discussion for those who have come to work in our office from other countries. We had all experienced moving to a new place and there was much empathy expressed. We talked about the emotions, information, difficulties, and helpers.

While transitions can be painful, they are a source of creativity, growth and transformation.
~ Linda Naiman

No transition is easy – whether it is a new country or a new job, new city, or new stage of life. Here are a few things I have learned that help us to thrive, even during a difficult time of change:

  • Develop optimism – Be realistic, but also optimistic. Optimistic people tend to see troubles as temporary, controllable, and specific to the situation, whereas pessimists believe troubles are permanent, uncontrollable, and will undermine EVERYTHING they do. Healthy perspective is powerful. How are you viewing the transition?
  • Find meaning and purpose even in hard times – Staying connected to the important people in your life or doing something to help others lessens the focus on personal pain and the temptation for self-pity. What could you do for somebody else?
  • Take control – Focus on what you CAN do – small steps, little things, your personal care: sleep, exercise, nutrition; quality time reading or praying. What is something positive you can do today?
  • Be creative – Creative expression has the power to heal emotions, lower stress, and nurture the soul. When we get completely absorbed in a creative process, we relax and refresh our energy for the transition process. What creative outlet could you enjoy in your new place?
  • Improvise – Resilient people know how to solve problems using a variety of available materials. Do you remember the movie, Apollo 13? Mission control helped the crew use spare spacecraft parts to protect their limited air and return to earth safely. What could you improvise today to meet a need or fill a gap caused by your change?

Is there anything you would add to this list? What has helped you make it through change and transitions?

looking in the wrong place

I want to do something worthwhile, valuable, important. I want to leave a legacy. In an earlier post, I wrote about my discouragement and concern that I hadn’t left the culture change legacy that I wanted in the organization. Over time, the organization took on a different look, a different personality, and I felt like a failure…
Where was the legacy?

The other day, I was processing this struggle with my husband. The more we talked, the more I came to realize that I was looking for the legacy in the wrong place. I wanted an environment, procedures, and structures to display our influence after we were gone.

I think now that the organization simply provided the “front” for the work we wanted to do; it would not be my source of legacy. I believe I find my legacy in the people I worked for and worked with, in the changed lives – nurtured, grown, changed, empowered, hope-filled… in the environment we built to work from.

Perhaps the “temporary” place we created was never intended to last forever – maybe we built it as much for us as for others. It served an important purpose for a time. It provided a context for us to work out our calling… while we were there.

I am not really very concerned about turning organizations around. I do want to bring a positive influence, and I do hope to lay a path that makes it easier for others to follow. I think that I am more passionate about turning lives around. And that, thankfully, I did get to do from my leadership position.

Some of those changed lives will lead to generations of change. Many will use their influence to create and multiply environments where others can grow. Their changed lives mean changed families and changed businesses, and contribute to changed cities… and eventually a changed world! I feel more encouraged with my search… maybe my legacy is not so quickly and easily visible, but it is definitely a legacy that was worth the effort.

Where do you want to leave a legacy? Are you looking in the right place?

feeling lost

I got lost three times on the way home from the airport. On the way there for the first time, I wrote down the three highway #’s and took duplicate toll money from my wallet, so that I would be ready for the trip home. The difference was that on the way there, next to each highway # sign, there were others that directed me: » » » AIRPORT. In contrast, on the way home there were no signs that said: » » » Terry’s Apartment. They only mentioned exit East/West or North/South… and although I had the highway #’s, I had no idea which direction would take me home.

Have you ever felt lost? A new city? New job? New life-stage?

Getting lost is just part of being only two days in a new city. The newness of a move also includes no food in the fridge, chaos of boxes everywhere, meeting new people and finding new places, exhaustion and uncertainties. I am really grateful for the few special, sentimental items we brought with us – pictures, blankets, pottery – that make this new apartment feel like “home”. They help bridge my old life to my new life; they add security and continuity to my transition.

What helps you handle change? Do you continue traditions, pack special mementos, visit familiar restaurants? 

I know intellectually that it can take a year to feel at “home” in a new place. Emotionally I want it to feel like home now! I am trying to implement a few healthy practices to help with the change…

Laugh: I’m learning to laugh at myself, at the new adventures gone wrong, at all I don’t know… and laugh with others, making new friends and good memories. Some tears are inevitable, but I can find reasons to laugh too.

Let Go: I’m trying not to compare the old with the new. I figure it’s OK for me to miss special people and places, but I need to give this new place a chance. It will feel different for me – not as good in some ways, but maybe better in others. I want to keep my eyes – and my heart – open for the “new and improved”. 🙂

Learn: I have so much to discover – new best practices, “insider” tips, local haunts… If I take the initiative, observe, and ask a lot of questions, I bet I’ll find a lot of great treats and treasures in this new life.

How do you look forward to the “new” in your life?

changes, changes everywhere…

We are only four weeks away from our big move. There are boxes everywhere and less furniture in every room. We have resorted to taking digital pictures of most memorabilia; old toys are going to new homes, and the mountains of paper that stuffed file drawers are shredded and out in green bags for recycling. There is only a bare minimum of dishes in the kitchen and only a few options of clothing in the closet.

It is surprisingly refreshing to simplify and limit choices. I guess that is a good thing because although the choices are few, the changes are many…

geography change

We are still considered by some as strangers in a foreign land, but Mexico has been our home for almost 20 years. We have never fully adjusted to the driving antics, and we have developed no affection for the speed bumps on every block. We struggle with upper class entitlement mentality and heart-wrenching lower class poverty. We will never accept the corruption, or the drug wars, or the human trafficking. BUT… we love Mexico, and we will miss so much of life here. We will miss the vibrant colors, the incredible tacos “al pastor”, and the piñatas for every party. We will miss the dogs on the roofs, the smoking volcano, the boys who wash our windows while we wait for the light, and fresh mangos.

job change

This is actually a change that has me a bit nervous. We (my husband and I) have been “in charge” for a while now – team leaders, directors, boss. We basically determine our schedule, our priorities, and where we will work. I like that. In our next job, we will work for someone else, there will be office-presence and dress-code expectations, and  I believe that will be a good test of character for me – maybe that’s why I am nervous! I hope that I can live out security in who God has made me… and not covet a job title.

life-stage change

We have spent most of our married years preparing for this day – releasing our wonderful children to the world – and we are very excited to work and travel freely together… but it will be different. I “think” we will like it, but just like geography, each life stage has its pro’s and con’s. We have lived with chaos and action and people around our huge house ’til all hours. What will we do with the quiet?

relationships change

We . will . miss . special . people .  We have made friends here who are like family. Those folks have stayed in our home, owned keys to our house, and proudly taken advantage of “refrigerator privileges”. They have danced on the back patio, helped us celebrate holidays, corrected our Spanish, and loved us through hard times. They have shared a part of their heart with us, and we have given them a piece of ours in return. They know us well, but some we will never see again…

It has been good for me to realize that every life phase, location and style has its blessings and its challenges. Each new place can become “home”. Each new stage can become the norm… and friendships can last across time and miles, even as we make new ones. Change is part of life – not always easy – but better to embrace it than to fight it.

What changes are you facing?  What do you do to embrace change?

how to transition well?

Change happens. We (my husband and I) just finalized a National Team transition. It has been a long process, and we have learned a few things along the way…

Plan the transition.  (I realize this isn’t always possible, especially if the transition is due to a crisis, but when you can…) A good transition is well thought through. We prayed and asked others to pray with us. We organized the process with an educated guess as to how long the steps would take, and stuck to the plan. We announced the coming transition with anticipation. We involved others in the process. All of this made it easier for us to move peacefully towards the future; ensured that the new leader entered his position with less stress, and helped to avoid confusion for others during the transition.

Consider the loss.  Every change – even those for the good – creates loss. Transitions shake stability, change relationships, and adjust structures and job descriptions. Others in the organization wonder how the change will affect them – and don’t like the answer. A good leader will validate this reality, take time to grieve their own losses, and coach his/her people through the process. We communicated early and regularly with everyone we thought of who could be affected by the changes. We met with mentors to process our own thoughts and emotions. We had meetings with those who work with us to ask how they were doing with the changes and what were their concerns. This personal side of the transition is often overlooked, but it is a crucial element of a successful transition.

Pass the baton.  It is important to pass information and relationships to the new leader. In the past, we have entered “blind” into new positions – no information, no alliances, and no training. We were left scrambling to understand, to “catch on”, to figure it out ourselves. We wanted something different this time, so we worked hard to be organized and invested time so that we could train well, pass files, answer questions, and connect new relationships. We clearly defined the timeline for change of authority and responsibility. We invited the new leaders to our home to process their personal concerns and questions. At the office, we talked through the general vision, the people, the finances, and the day-to-day details. We presented the new leaders to our partners. Our plan allows us to personally “coach” during the next months, but the new leaders have successfully begun to lead with clarity and confidence.

Let Go! We experienced pressure to stay longer in the position and pressure to extend our transition timeline because others hadn’t prepared well. Sometimes we were the ones “holding on” when we saw things happening that we didn’t like, and we wanted to maintain control and influence. God told me clearly… “Don’t do it!  This is not all about you.” Others will only grow and take leadership if I move out-of-the-way! We just finished our national conference, and for the first time in many years, we had no responsibilities for the event. You know what? It was a great conference! It is humbling to admit that we are not needed, but it is also an exciting indication of a hopeful future.

End well. Make sure the ending is not an escape from unresolved conflict. Say good-bye well. Express appreciation to those who partnered with you. Take time to evaluate. We worked with some wonderful people. We were part of some great accomplishments. We also experienced a lot of painful criticism and conflict, and we had to leave many of our dreams and plans unfinished. It has been good to process though all of this – forgive others and ourselves – and be able to trust God with the future!

I know I have a lot more to learn about transitions. I would love to hear from you and learn from your experiences. What do you think are the elements of a good transition?

a time for every season

photos from morguefile.com

We all go through change. We grow up; we get older. We have babies; our children leave home. We meet new people; we lose loved ones. We upgrade; we scale down.

Some changes are our choice; some changes are forced on us. Some changes are excitedly anticipated; some are greatly feared. Just as the seasons continually change every year, so are “seasonal” changes inevitable in our lives.

With every new season, something ends in order for something new to start. I am going through a change now – a transition in my job. It is actually a planned change, and mostly I am looking forward to it. I started reading Henry Cloud’s book, Necessary Endings, in order to prepare for the change, but now I wish I had read it a long time ago.

Henry Cloud writes that necessary endings in our lives are like pruning for plants – a requirement for living and thriving. Pruning can cut away dead wood that is only taking up space, sick or damaged wood that is draining energy from the plant, and even healthy wood that is just too much for the plant to sustain. I know pruning is positive and important for plants… this book is helping me to see that necessary endings hold the same benefit for me.

I am learning that it is “ok” – even good – to help a non-performer “move on” to a different job; it is helpful to re-distribute resources to the vibrant and growing areas of the ministry; it is healthy for me to leave certain responsibilities of my job to others, so that I can focus and flourish in new endeavors.

Necessary Endings has convinced me of the normalcy, the expediency, and the purpose of change.

What about you? How do you feel about change? Do you struggle to make necessary endings in your life?