First Posted July 18, 2012.
This post follows up on Life's Transition Points. It helps clarify what it means to be at a transition point in one's life or work, or even with one's business.
If any of these twelve conditions are your current experience, you are in transition. Every transition point is a point of decision. We don't always know what that decision is, even though we know we must make one.
I've learned this personally as I've twice in my professional life lost all my clients in a very short period of time. The most recent was a result of the recession. From the peak of my client work to nothing in six weeks. That is a transition point. I'll say more about what I did after I describe these twelve scenarios.
We know we are a transition point when ...
1. What use to be easy is now hard.
It may have nothing to do with us at all. Our context changes. The world changes. The economy changes. Competition gets more fierce. People's attention is distracted. It takes twice as long to get work done than it did before, which really means it is taking four times as long as it should.
A host of other reasons are possible.
Or, realistically, it could be that our skills have not kept up with the demands and expectations of the work that we do. We've become complacent, a bit lazy, too comfortable, and then it all changes in what seems like a moment.
2. We find that our performance has reached a plateau, neither getting better or worse.
We feel stuck. We are doing okay. But okay isn't okay. We want better. But we don't know what better is any more. Better isn't more. We don't really want more. We want something else. But because we aren't really doing that poorly, we are okay. Not great, just okay. And that is the problem.
3. We are clearly not doing well, as our life and work are in decline.
You can see it in people who are not doing well. The stress levels are high. They are not as social as they used to be. We don't hear from them as much. And because they are less social, because of the change they are going through, they are are out-of-sight, out-of-mind, and no longer a convenient member of our social network. They are in transition, but where are they going is not clear.
This describes more people we know that we realize. If it is us, then we need to stop, and begin to make some changes.
4. We lose our job, and are forced to rethink who we are and what we have to offer an employer.
Our personality, knowledge, skills and experience matter. Do we know what these assets are? The question is not where is my next job, but who needs what I have to offer?
5. We are unhappy in our current life and work situation. This can come from a range of issues. Some may require professional counseling. If so, we can find that help.
As our world has become more individualistic, in every way, we have lost the connections that help people in psychological need to find strength and support in community. I've worked with a number of people over the years who clearly needed professional help. Once recognized, a corner can be turned, and health regained. It, too, is a transition point.
6. We are tired of doing the same thing over and over.
There is an old saying, "Fatigue makes cowards of us all." Or worse, work for many has become a traumatic, dehumanizing experience, like a low-level version of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). For some, simply finding life/work balance may not be enough. It may mean transitioning into something very different. A new career or calling that brings renewed purpose and focus to our lives.
7. We don't know how to spend our time at work. Low motivation to create good things.
We come to work, and it takes some time to get oriented to what I'm to do. The work has changed, and I don't see how it has. It is confusing. The result is that I'm not that interested in bringing my best to work.
8. Our relationships are not healthy.
Whether the relationships are at home or work, when relationships are not healthy, we are needing to step back for a moment and ask,
What should I expect from my relationships?
Are our relationships leading somewhere, or are they holding us back.
Are they negative or toxic, elevating and inspiring?
Am I able to be at my best for others when I'm with them?
I'll write more about this in the future.
9. We are confronted with life decisions that have no easy answer or application.
Life decisions ... like your parents need you to care for them. Your adult child comes home to live with you. Your spouse develops a chronic illness that requires more of your time that in the past.
The business we own is failing and needs to close. What do I do? Where will I go?
10. We are thrust into a leadership role in which we feel unprepared.
It could be a corporate merger that elevates us to a position of leadership that we neither envisioned nor sought. Yet it is now our job. What do we do?
11. We are entering a new stage of life, as children leave the home, or a marriage ends.
These kind of changes affect our sense of identity. So much of how we understand ourselves is based on how we fit into a social context. I'm a parent. I'm a wife or husband. I'm a son or daughter. I sell <fill in the blank>. I do <fill in the blank>.
When it ends, it isn't just that our responsibilities and activities change. We change. We aren't simply the person we say we are. We are part the person we've always been, and part the person that our social and work context requires us to be.
12. We have a general uncertainty about life and work purpose.
We've never really answered the question, "What is the purpose of my life? What is my calling? What is my mission? What is to be my life's impact?" These are questions that drive us through the transition points that we encounter.
I hope you see that we are all in transition, all the time, 24/7/365. This is the true nature of change. It isn't just what happens to us, but happens through us and in us.
When we encounter these periods of change, we need to respond with a clear sense of purpose. We need to be able to say, after I get through this, I want to be at <fill in the blank>.
On a personal note
In the spring on 2009, all my clients left me. It was mostly related to the recession. I understood, and accepted it as one of the conditions of change that we all have to face.
I was at a transition point, and since then, I've faced a couple of more of these points in time where I knew I had to change to be different than I was in the past. As I write this, I'm in the midst of one of these points in my own life and work.
What did I do when I lost all my clients?
I made a couple of decisions. First, to become more social. Second, to learn new skills. And, three, to take on more responsibility.
The trap ,when we encounter a situation like this, is to think, "Focus. Get the next contract. Remove distractions."
I understand this. But it assumes the change we are going through is temporary and life will return to what we knew previously.
I realized this change was transformational. I recognized, at that point in 2009, that I needed to become different, that the past was never coming back. I needed to change. I saw that what I was doing was not sufficient to sustain my client base through hard economic times.
At that point I understood that our economy and society were changing dramatically. And I needed to change. I did two things right away to elevate my presence socially and to learn new skills.
The first, I took on the responsibility to organize the first Lessons in Leadership Winning Workshop here in Asheville. We created a complete event which began two weeks prior with email blasts to build awareness and enthusiasm. We included two networking events, one immediately prior, and another, immediately after the workshop. The workshop, itself, was the product of a team of people who worked together for almost a year to create an event that was seamless from beginning to end. It was a fantastic success.
The second endeavor that I took on came out of the blue within the context of one of the online social networks that I'm in. I had posed a question related to a situation that I new client had hired me to address. The issue related to the question of morale in the workplace. The response to my question was so remarkable that I decided it would be worth publishing as an ebook. So, with some help of one of the participants, the ebook, Managing Morale in a Time of Change was created.
As I went through this transition point, I learned new skills, gained perspective on what I could do and what I couldn't, realized what I liked to do, strengthen my reputation / brand, and made a difference that mattered. Understand, none of this I was paid to do. I did it because I need to change my course. These voluntary experiences were hugely beneficial in preparing me for the next stage of my professional life.
We all encounter Transition Points in our lives. Our lives and work are often,
at a Plateau
at a New Stage
The question is what are we going to do about it. It is as simple as change or be changed. There is not a not-change option. So, take charge of these transition points and create the best future that is possible.