In his book, Managing Transitions, William Bridges (2009, 3rd Ed.), writes about honoring endings, going through a neutral zone, and eventually embracing new beginnings. I often share this author’s work with clients who are going through transitions. Bridges explains that change is situational, a new move, a reorganization, a retirement; while transitions are psychological, or how we internalize and come to terms with changes in our lives. He writes, “When change happens without people going through a transition, it is just a rearrangement of the chairs,” (p.3). Change is ubiquitous, but how we manage the transitions reflects our ability to deal with it.
I find myself navigating such a transition. I finished my Master’s of Science in Organization Development from American University this summer. It was a fantastic program, in which I was able to study the theory behind systems change, after having been a change agent for more than two decades. It was a great time for reflection, new learning, and growth for me. I had always approached change work intuitively, whether as a Peace Corps volunteer, a community organizer or an Executive Director. American’s MSOD program gave me the theoretical frameworks from the behavioral sciences to deepen my understanding of how people and systems develop and transform successfully. I also personally grew as we explored how we can be our most effective self in service to our clients.
And so, I am embracing change and aware of my own movement through Bridge’s transition phases. While I still feel like celebrating the completion of my studies, I am honoring an ending, recognizing the loss, and allowing for letting go. This has involved saying goodbye to my cohort and professors and leaving that special space of graduate studies. The neutral zone is an in between time, when the old way is gone and the new isn’t in place yet. It’s an important time to psychologically realign and rethink things. It can also be a time for new, creative ways of being in the world. I am considering where and how I would like to make an impact going forward. Finally, I am also entering the new beginnings phase (the phases often are overlapping), in which one emerges from a time of exploration with a new identity, new energy and sense of purpose and begins work.
Part of my new beginnings was taking a trip this summer with my family to the Black Hills, home of Mt. Rushmore, without all my graduate school books! We are all relishing my newly-recovered availability. And while I have been consulting since 2011, I am now excited to launch my website and continue to support clients to successfully navigate their transitions in creative and effective ways! Let me know how I can help support your organization to embrace change.