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A World in Transition

Updated: May 21, 2020

We are always in transition, but in our culture it has become a lost art.

An essential component of transition is an open mind. This means suspension of expectation, of needing a particular outcome and, most of all, of judgement. Not something we are good at. Instead we approach life with a constricted or closed mind having been taught to resist rather than allow, and to do rather than to be.

In truth, we spend most of our lives in transition but we fail to recognize or acknowledge it as such. We transition to new jobs, new friends, new schools, new days, new phases of our lives. Transition means that new things are happening - and that is wonderful. Or at least it should be.

To our detriment, we have become rather intolerant and uncomfortable with new, preferring the old or the same. New frightens us. Never more so than now. With everything we have known up in the air, we worry about our ability and that of our children, friends and family to address the new world. What will life look like? Will schools reopen? Will we get sick? Will my business survive? Will my kids miss out on important milestones? Will we be ok? Will we?

‘New’ also known as the ‘unknown’ engenders so much fear that most of us would rather not chance it. Pre-quaratnine, we may not have been satisfied with where we were, but in our assessment resisting change was often preferable to embracing it. We would stay in jobs we did not like, marriages that had become unhappy, and life routines that saw very little day to day variation. Thanks to COVID-19 we can no longer resist change, it is here.

COVID is giving us a unique opportunity to recognize that we are all in transition, together. Transition need not be a fearful time, even within a pandemic. And while navigating transition is a lost art - we can revive it and do it with grace.

The tell tale sign that we are in transition is discomfort. Discomfort means we are ready to grow, ready to break out of our shell. This virus is making us hugely uncomfortable and in doing so is beckoning us all forward. Some of us were looking for an excuse to break with the past, others were not aware we were in a shell, and still others were aware that the shell no longer fit but couldn't relinquish the outgrown outerwear.

No matter which category we fall into, we are all scrambling to find a new shell and fast so we can feel comfortable and safe again. And we are not beyond contorting ourselves to make something fit.

But growth is in the transition not in the outcome. The longer we can stay in transition, the more we grow. Why? Because transition breaks the ties to the past and allows us to be truly present, to take in new information and update our perspective. Our compulsion to minimize our discomfort, and keep transition time to a minimum literally stunts our growth. It is not uncommon to find people who are seemingly in new situations all the time with virtually no growth. We all know people like this. Not doing that or cutting this transition short would be the biggest tragedy to come out of this pandemic. At the end of the day, this is not about opening up our state, but about opening up our state of mind.

Pre-Corona, watching high-schoolers transition to college, I saw so many students eagerly set off to their new 'life' only to begin harshly judging themselves and their experience by their second day on campus. They were not prepared for transition. Somehow they had absorbed the belief that they should be immediately fine with all things new. And they are not the only ones. I am seeing this same trend in adults in response to COVID-19.

To deal with change we are taught that the more we plan, anticipate and prep for what lies ahead the more comfortable we will be. While this strategy can bring a temporary sense of comfort, when things do not go as planned we begin to spiral. We look at others, believing everyone else if fine while we fall short. We assume something must be wrong with us. We start to regret our choices, fear we will never be happy, and we yearn for what was. We become buried in self doubt, insecurity runs rampant. In a blink we have entered the self-fueling abyss of obsessive negative thinking.

As parents we are not teaching our children how to navigate a pandemic, we are modeling how to be in transition, to see the unlimited potential within it and embrace it as a vital life skill. It is only in the mastering of transition that one learns hows to be comfortable anywhere and everywhere, no matter what.

Unfortunately, we can't teach what we don't know, so instead of hanging our comfort on some future outcome, all would be better served if we engaged in some transition training. It is time to elevate transition to an art form worthy of practice, rather than a midpoint from here to there. This will provide the missing template for all things ‘new’ while maximizing opportunity for personal growth and success. Without mastery we remain at the mercy of ‘new’ and yes, it will be scary, as would going into battle without 'basic' under your belt.

The first rule in basic transitioning, yes, even during a pandemic, is suspending all judgement. This means no assessment, no analysis, no comparing, no doubts, no regret and no futurizing. Nothing is good or bad. There is no where else to be. Qualitative questions that we automatically ask ourselves like, “Am I happy? Do I like this? What should I be doing? Am I making the right choices? Is this worse or better than before? Are my kids going to be ok?' are off the table for the duration of the transition period. If it helps with your motivation, think of these questions as growth retardants.

The second rule is throwing out the past. In order for transition to produce growth, we have to suspend using the past as a benchmark to be exceeded or as a reference for our new experience. 'New' has to be completely separate from 'old' or we are not growing anywhere. We will be forever looking back idealizing what was familiar and comfortable (even though it wasn't), wishing we were anywhere but where we are.

Familiar and comfortable, though seductive, are not expansive. We do not grow from comfort, we grow from making the choice for something new and allowing for a period of pure unobstructed transition. COVID is giving us this opportunity, it is up to us not to squander it. The longer we suspend judgment, relinquish the past and stay in transition, the more open we will be to our experience during this time and the more exponential our growth will be both individually and collectively. And spoiler alert, if we do this right, we will never want to leave the open, judgement free zone that is transition.

Let me know how your transition is going so far. I love to hear from you!

xoxo Jill