Career and Other Transitions


This is the first time I write a blog post on request. Have to admit it is a bit scary because you know somewhere there is another person with expectations.

Transition – The movement, passage, or change from one position, state, stage, subject, concept, etc., to another.

Synonyms – transformation, metamorphosis, development, progression, alteration, conversion, evolution.

(Sorry for the dictionary piece, but we have to make sure that we are discussing the same element.)

Why do we as humans find transitioning so difficult? When you talk to someone experiencing a major transition, they explain that it is uncomfortable, disorientating, confusing and simply hard.

I have thought about this and because I have committed myself to discuss things from a principled perspective (should apply under all circumstances) I have to point out a few things.

  • Humans are complex (we operate in 5 to 6 areas simultaneously – Refer The Management Imperative)
    • Financial
    • Intellectual
    • Spiritual
    • Emotional
    • Sexual / Physical
    • Cultural / Social
  • Many kinds of transition
  • Durations can vary significantly
  • Both Impact and Probability of occurrence vary

So what do all transitions have in common?

We are not always allowed to elect the transition in our lives (e.g. death of someone close) but sometimes we have the option (e.g. career). Whither we have the luxury of choice or not, the emotions that follow are only sightly different from one another and there is a recognisable process pattern. However, these may vary significantly in magnitude (compare death of marriage partner to divorce) or in which emotions are included or play major roles.

Emotional Categories

Emotional Categories

Emotional Levels - Maslow

Emotional Levels - Maslow

Emotion (Category and Level)

Because emotions are so complex we tend to silo or categorise them into manageble areas and Maslow contends that we experience emotions on different levels. The emotions that we relate to our intellectual capacity are managed quite separately from emotions that we have towards our financials. Without the presence of a transition event, we take each of these areas and stack the emotions neatly as shown in the Maslow picture. Amazing as this may sound, but moving from one emotional layer (e.g. love/belonging to self esteem) in any area introduces a transition moment.

What transition does on an emotional level is to mix the “neatly” categorised and levelled emotions into a singularity – rollercoaster as described by most. We find that we have to redefine ourselves as humans that we have to reorganize how we perceive ourselves, who we would like others to perceive us and eventually WHO WE REALLY ARE.

Process (Impact, severity, probability, duration)

Having raging and out of control emotions is not the only factor that makes transitions difficult. Every transition consists of multiple processes (both physical and emotional) which do not occur in neatly arranged patterns.

Process 1

Process 1

In some cases, where we have options, the most overwhelming emotional struggle emanates from the do or don’t (stay and go) decision point. The reason for this is brought on by the fear of the unknown and loyalty (resisting the urge to change); the reasons that compel us to go are mostly dissatisfaction or frustration brought on by an inability to function or perform. Interesting thing occurs the moment the decision has been made; the emotions shift immediately to mimic those experienced by transitions without choice – There is loss, dissolution, anger, fear, vulnerability, self-doubt, pain, anguish and significant stress all rolled into one.

Process 2

Process 2

An emotional process then has increasing stress up to a point where we deal (decide, accept, resign) with the situation, followed by a recovery period (mourn, anger, resentment). Transitions are unkind in that the processes follow more quickly than we can deal with under usual conditions. The next process initiates before we have had the opportunity to recover from the previous.

Two examples:

  • Death in the family consists of burial / memorial, family considerations, insurance, will and testament, children; all of which are contained within grief of loss and sorrow (see process 1 graph).
  • Change of job has go / no go, interviews, offers, remuneration negotiation, notice periods, bedding in at new organisation all of which are pretty similar in impact severity (see process 2 graph).

This is very very very difficult to manage, overcome and cope with for a sustained period.

Overall Effect (emotion + process)

Sound Wave

Sound Wave

If we then combine the emotional and process aspects the overall effect on our well-being as humans can be described as follows:

The vertical size of the graph is related to the severity of the overall impact on us and the horizontal depicts the duration. These sound wave graphs are similar to those generated by a piano note or a guitar string.

Does this post give you an answer of how to deal with the transition moment – I doubt it. It is aimed to try to explain to you what happens to you during a transition event. Once us humans understand something, we tend to apply better coping mechanisms to addressing problems.

Life without understanding is merely existence.

If you have something that you would like me to discuss, send me a request, I promise to do my absolute level best to address it.

Please feel free to comment, share and discuss this.

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2 thoughts on “Career and Other Transitions

  1. Hi Anton – Great article but I may be a little biased since you wrote it for me….:) Change is inevitable but it’s how you choose to make it through that change curve. I love the usage of the graphs and explanations of the phases. I’m doing well through the change curve and look forward to what comes out the other side even if not knowing what my future holds can be a little scary in these economic times. I have choices and that’s an awesome thing. The opportunity to make the decision I did and have the support I do from my family is the best thing ever. Thanks for the article. I hope my friends and family enjoy it as well.

  2. LinkedIn Group: AFFILIATED AUTHORS
    I find some transitions easier than others. It depends on how much we fear the associated changes to our lives resulting from the transition as to what resistance we put up. In other words, we make the unavoidable changes in life harder or easier for ourselves depending on our attitudes towards them.
    Posted by Natalie Laharnar

    LinkedIn Group: Innovative Leadership & Change Management Expert Innovators Network
    I think it’s mainly because we are confronting the unknown – and emotions are raised.
    We fail to understand that we confront the unknown every day.
    However, give the day a name, shape substance – as in new job or first date – and you believe that there is a new expectation – you must raise your game.
    Death and divorce are different – because you are by necessity alone in your grief. Others may sympathize – but the journey is extremely personal.
    Birth is slightly different – but there are massive accommodations to be made and change of priorities.
    Emotions take precedence frequently and throw you about. No man likes to be a slave to his emotions -but in some of these situations there is no choice.
    If we were all like Mr. Spock – there would be no difficulty.
    Posted by Linda McLean

    LinkedIn Group: Rick Smith Consulting and top jobs
    Anton, in my humble opinion, no two transitions are the same. The degree of coping with the difficulty of the event I think is in the mental strength of the individual. Getting or losing a job, the transition to taking a job just to take it so you can pay your bills and of course – the standard Friday afternoon at 4 pink slip on the desk and to have it cleaned out by five, and don’t forget to turn in your badge to the front desk on the way out. Why me?, what did I do to deserve this? Dating – is a subject matter topic all of it’s own….., Death? you cannot prepare yourself for this unless of course it is the long lost proverbial rich aunt who has left all of her worldly effects to you….and how often lost aunts do we really have? Divorce, now a days everyone has at least one Ex (it’s not the divorce you cope with it, it’s the lawyers fee that drains you – the transition of your money to his/her account). The scenarios are endless.
    Posted by Rick Smith, CWDP, GCDF

    LinkedIn Group: Motivation Nation
    Making a transition means leaving something or someone behind. This results in a void that will then be filled with something more meaningful. When people do not understand this, they hold on to what is outdated because they fear the void.
    Posted by Elsabe Smit

    LinkedIn Group: Spiritual Authors, Publishers and Agents
    The first stage in any transition is uncomfortable because it is such a drastic change from the life or “Norm” we’ve grown accustomed to. I wrote a post about navigating the 4 stages of transition on my blog. You are welcome to read it here: http://snipurl.com/12rpwj
    Enjoy! Shann
    Posted by Shann Vander Leek

    LinkedIn Group: CIO Community
    Like in chemistry, there is an effort required to change from one state to the other, and so when we tend to attain equilibrium we would like to rest in that state and not change. when there is a change we loos the equilibrium, and a lot of effort is required to get that oscillation going, but as humans unlike materials our mind plays a major role, some have attained that state where a change is not a change to them but its equilibrium, as oscillation in it self is in equilibrium. me and my small brain thinking so…
    Posted by Joe Williams

    LinkedIn Group: International Mining Jobs
    I think many people find transition difficult as they are entering the unknown, moving out of something that has become rote and comfortable and begin entering a period of change where they have to keep on the ball and think ahead.
    Some though, enjoy transition as it is a peiod of excitement. Its a new begining with prospects of an interesting future. Transition and change aleviate stagnation and boredom.
    Posted by ALEXANDER FAIRBAIRN

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