For many of us the past 12-18 months has been a time of transition.
We recognize that the context of our businesses has changed. As a result, we have been making changes.
I visualize this change as a transition from what I was before to what I will be in the future.
When we enter a Transition Point, we recognize that something is awry. Our performance is down.
Our markets are drying up. Our work is much harder, more stressful.
It isn't enough just to know you are in transition.
It isn't enough to say "Well, we are in a recession."
It isn't enough to hope that things will get better.
It isn't enough just to realize that things are changing.
When we enter a Transition Point, just waiting for things to get better doesn't work. There are reasons why we are here. Some of the reasons are the result of our decisions and actions. Others are the changes that are happening in the external circumstances of our life and work, like an economic recession or epic technological transformation.
It doesn't matter WHY we are in a Transition Point.
It really doesn't matter that you understand it.
What does matter is WHAT you are going to DO about it.
Change does not happen in isolation. Change is not some abstract idea that others talk about. Change happens and we must respond.
Once we decide to respond to the change that is happening, we enter a Space between Transition Points. This Transition Space is a place of decision and action.
For example, it is a beautiful sunny summer day. Yet the weather report is saying that a really bad storm is coming. We don't wait to put our children's toys in the garage, close the windows of the house, and check to see if our flashlights have batteries, and our phones and computers are charged. We take action, because change is coming.
This is the Transition Space where we plan, prepare, and act in anticipation for the next Transition Point.
For many of us, the recession's severity caught us off guard. We had not anticipated the storm that was coming. We were ill-prepared because don't think of Change as normal, but rather abnormal.
This is our first mistake.
To live in the Transition Space between Transition Points is to assume that all things are on-the-table subject to change or even go away.
It happened to me last spring. I was disappointed, but not surprised, because I had been through this twice before.
We not only need to anticipate potential Transition Points, but also, more importantly, learn to adapt to those changes. If we take this attitude, then, we will see that the perspective of constant and continuous adaptation to change is now the most stabland secure position to be in.
External circumstances can change. Our internal confidence and values should not. We should see that each day is a time of change, and is the Transition Space between yesterdays Transition Point and tomorrow's.
Here, then, are some principles to can help learn to understand how to respond to change.
1. It is a time of stopping and beginning.
We stop doing some of the things that we been doing, even ones that we are good at and in which we find great comfort and affirmation.
We stop because they root us in a past performance that is no longer the best response to the change we are experiencing.
If a hurricane is coming, we don't stand under an umbrella waiting for it to pass. We take action to protect ourselves and our families from the storm.
We must develop new approaches, new skills, acquire a new attitude about who we are and what we have to offer people.
2. It is not a time of waiting, but of patience and persistence.
To wait for times to get better is to lose ground every day. But being faster doesn't necessarily translate into faster arrival at a higher performance level.
When we begin new initiatives, it takes time for them to reach maturity. It takes time for your market to recognize that you are different, and for them to change their perception of what you have to offer.
Instead of waiting for things to get better, we work with great patience and persistence to make each day a step forward. We are totally committed, and we look for ways to improve and change every day.
When we are patient and persistent, our resilience to the hardships that comes with change also grows. If we can remain realistically optimistic, not blindly hopeful, then we gain the resilience we need in a time of great transitions. In time, we'll find the success we seek.
3. It is a time of change which changes us as people.
The test of transition is whether the potential exists within us to be different, even better, and possibly, even, more successful.
To get through this time of transition, we need to tap into aspects of our potential that are dormant.
To realize our potential means we have to become the persons who have the capacity for impact that our latent potential represents.
If this means we move to a different community, change the way we dress or leave behind some business relationships, then we must do it.
Times of change are times of opportunity. These times of transition are the space where we can lay aside the encumbrances and constraints of our past and grow into our next one.
Very few people are willing to do this. The comforts of their present situation, even as things get harder, less successful, are difficult to give up, in order to seek for unknown and uncertain opportunities.
These are lessons that I've learned over the past few months.
Update: Four and A Half Years Later
The above post, apart from some editing for clarity, an added example, and corrected syntax, was four and a half years ago during the height of the "Great Recession". Regardless of the causes of that recession, the impact remains with us. People and businesses that changed, learned how to be better during hard times. There is always opportunity.
My own experience may be somewhat instructive.
A year after I wrote the above post, I took a position as an executive and fund raiser for non-profit serving ministries across the state of North Carolina. I was let go after the 20 months, and eventually the non-profit closed because of lack of funds. I quickly moved into another position as an interim pastor of a church. Two years later that work is done, and I'm preparing to move into the next Transition Space of my career.
This Transition Point for me incorporates the three principles above.
I've changed as a person.
The work that I have done for nearly twenty years is changing into a very different form.
My future work is development and re-purposing of materials that I've developed over the past 15 years for a new audience, in new forms, with a new focus of engagement with people.
Change happens every day. However, the changes that we need to make some times need time to grow within us before they can emerge as their own Transition Point in time.
My advice to each of you is be patient, persistent and resilient as you intentionally adapt to the changes that are taking place in your life and work.
We are all living in the Transition Space between the Transition Points in our lives. Practice these three principles doesn't mean you can fall back into believing that change no longer affects you. Instead, it means that they opportunities and potential that come with change will be more evident.