A friend of mine messaged me late one night that she was giving up her career as a college teacher to accompany her husband abroad, and that they might not return to India, not in near future anyway. I was both happy and sad for her. She had always wanted a settled life and a teaching job, but she also loves her husband dearly. That’s how usually life transitions are… a mix of joys and sorrows; though some of them are exclusively joyous, or sorrowful, as well.
Change is the only permanent thing in life. And we are all works-in-progress. Yet, it is human to resent uninvited changes. It is human to feel an inability to cope up with them, and, to feel overwhelmed. No transition is same for two individuals; a transfer order might bring smiles to one, tears to another.
Just like even stress has two facets – stress felt during a desired event/situation like a promotion or marriage is eustress, whereas that during an undesirable transition, like loss of a loved one or unemployment is termed distress. It’s also all very subjective.
However, knowledge of some general facts, stages involved and management strategies can go a long way in assisting the survival of change.
William Bridges was a famous American organizational consultant. He propounded a transition model. Application of this model can smoothen out the transition process as one can stay prepared for the next stage. For this, it’s imperative to understand that though we use the words ‘change’ and ‘transition’ interchangeably, there is a subtle difference between the two. While change is an external process and inevitable by nature, transition is an internal process, or, mind’s activity, which cannot be guaranteed. Embracing change can facilitate transition.
In the first stage of transition, there is ending, losing and letting go. Initially, when presented with change, there is bound to be resistance as we are thrown out of our comfort zone. There can be anger and denial, especially if change is unwanted. The trick is to acknowledge these feelings, and staying calm with the thoughts of unsettlement. Acceptance and communication are the keywords for successful navigation through this.
In the second stage of neutral zone, one experiences uncertainty and discomfort as s/he tries to adjust and accommodate to the change. Workload might shoot up as new skills have to be acquired. And during this learning process, the person might get doubts about the utility of that change. Anxiety due to lack of faith in one’s ability is another dimension of this stage. It can be conquered via patience, persistence and perseverance. Breaking tasks into smaller units also comes in handy.
Like a sunny day after continuous rains, comes the new beginning. As is suggested by the name itself, there is energy, vitality, hopefulness, and productivity here. One has accepted the change, is convinced of its benefits and actively working towards making it a success. A word of caution – everyone moves at his/her own pace, thus making it to last stage at different times – even for the same change. It’s good to begin with an understanding of these stages, but, one would still need time to assimilate the change at a deeper level. Rushing things will produce only superficial short-lived transitions.
Indeed, life is both roses and thorns, successes and failures, dreams and nightmares; and, it’s a journey. This journey, whether we look at it closely or from a distance, is, quite ‘happening’ and never-constant. There will be plain roads, and there will be rough terrain. The scenery might become replenishing, or, energy-depleting. There could be hills, and there could be valleys… it’s about making an effort to enjoy the ride anyway. In fact, that’s how I have come to see my painting journey, too.
Encouraged by my mother and enthused by teachers and friends, I started dabbling in art when I was 3. I remember winning drawing competitions throughout childhood. I am also blessed with a family background that could both identify and create opportunities for me. Getting exposure to oil painting was a milestone in itself, as the nature of oil-painting is such that I could give wings to my dreams. 11th class onwards, I started holding both solo and group painting exhibitions. Throughout this time, any change that came about in context of my painting journey, in my definition, was for the better. But as time progressed, and call to choose my line of career came, my passion for Psychology wielded power. With growing education and practical training demands, I couldn’t create as much time for art. However, I would do it on and off. I had to let go of one, for another. Kuchch paney ke liye kuchch khona parta hai.
With marriage, full-time job, and arrival of a baby boy, huge changes by themselves, painting took a backseat. But I survived because I went with the flow. Fortunately, those around me kept motivating to restart painting. Now, when my son is a bit grown up, and I have started finding time on my hands, I am giving my second innings in painting, a chance. It might be with baby steps. But that’s how I think I’ll be able to conquer the changes and utilize the eustress. So, I am starting with pencil sketching, slowly, yet steadily.
“I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination”, said Jimmy Dean, a well-known American singer.
All said and done, change has to be faced using a 3D approach:
Dive into the Resistance:
First of all, the resistance that pops up when a change is introduced needs to be explored. Since we want to be adaptable and flexible individuals, why do we become resistant? It’s because of our fears regarding our capabilities and new position. It can also be because of our basic disapproval of that particular change. In any case, learning, evolving, and becoming a part of the change will prove to be a boon.
Develop a positive outlook:
We might not agree with the change, but trying to find a silver lining, i.e. spotting opportunities for oneself will ease the journey. As said by someone anonymously, “When shifts and transitions shake you to the core, see that as a sign of greatness that’s about to occur.”
The first two D’s will automatically align a person with action. Still if needed, we must propel ourselves consciously further for action. Being actively involved with the change will make us feel belonged, and build confidence.
In nutshell, change is undoubtedly scary. But, keeping a balanced and positive outlook, backed by an action-plan, can help us maneuver, and make the road-bumps less jerky.