What to Expect in the Process of Transition

The new year has always begun for me in August.  Starting at age 5, my “years” have always followed the academic calendar.  This was the case throughout my childhood and college years of course.  And it continued on as I worked in a school-based program for teenagers in the 10 years after college.

Following the start of any new year – whether it be a school year, a fiscal year, a service contract, a deployment term – we face a transitioning process.  We face this process whenever we change jobs, or move into a new home, or experience a birth or wedding or divorce or death in the family.

There is a common journey that most people travel when we experience transition, and it looks something like this:
transition-chart-5of5
transition-chart-3of5When we first experience change, we often enter a “Honeymoon” phase where all the differences feel new and exciting.

Over time, however, we can begin to feel our satisfaction level diminish as the differences we are experiencing start to become alarming to us.  This is natural, and something we can be on the look out for in ourselves or in our loved ones or co-workers.  By knowing this is normal, we can help them and ourselves to journey through this phase of transition.

transition-chart-4of5After a while, it is not uncommon for our satisfaction level to actually bottom-out.  The differences that were once new and exciting then became alarming – and now they just feel wrong!  We don’t like the changes anymore, and we can feel angry.  Again, this is normal human behavior.  We don’t want to stay in this phase of course, but it is natural to experience this phase in the course of transitioning.

The danger is that without some help and support, it is possible to get stuck in this angry stage.  The goal, then, is to journey through this stage – to properly grieve the decrease in satisfaction, to mourn the changes we have experienced, and then to take healthy steps to come into a place of greater peace through acceptance of the changes we are experiencing.

transition-chart-5of5And that is the final stage of the Transition Process: to journey through avoidance and anger, and to move beyond them into a place of accepting the changes that we have experienced – to find our satisfaction in the “new normal” that now characterizes our lives.

On average, this entire process of transition can take a person between 6-12 months to complete.  At the time of this writing, I am now in the third month of a new field service deployment with Mercy Ships.  On our ship, we are all in a process of transition.  This not only affects our newly-arriving Crew, but also our returning Crew as well.  We are all in a new country, working with new teammates, serving a new culture, adjusting to new leaders, policies, systems, and communication methods…

Here in the third month of our new service year, many of us are currently moving into or through the “Avoidance Stage”, where all the changes we have been experiencing for the past three months are feeling different and alarming.  This is nothing to be scared of or intimidated by.  And it doesn’t have to catch us by surprise.  This is a natural human response to change, and it can be the normal experience that people have around the third month following a major life transition.

Maybe you can relate from your own experiences with the transitioning process…

Maybe around the third month, you started to see your own satisfaction level decreasing.  You may have  noticed some of your loved ones or co-workers experiencing avoidance or even anger in their own journeys through transition.

Let me encourage you to keep moving.  Keep progressing along in the journey of transition.  Don’t allow yourself to get stuck in a stage of avoidance or anger.  Ask for help.  Get some support from a friend or mentor or pastor.  Spend consistent time alone with God, talking with Him about what you are experiencing, and listening to what He has to say to you in this unique season.  And allow yourself to continue moving toward a place of acceptance, where you can find a healthy attitude toward life amid all the changes around you.

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