The Crucible of Transition

Not in his goals but in his transitions man is great.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

I had a wonderful chat with a friend and associate of mine yesterday. We were discussing his evolving set of professional goals, yet the focus of our conversation narrowed to the matter of handling the transitions he was facing with grace, balance and integrity.

No doubt you’ve had experiences with transitions. Some were easy, while some were not so easy. To be sure, every creative process passes through a crucible of transition, where “what was” gives way to “what is to be.” This crucible varies in its duration and difficulty, and the ability to navigate this no-man’s land is what separates the boys from the men, the simply pert from the expert.

To be effective in handling transitions you must understand the value of a properly set foundation. A foundation can be either faulty or sound, there is no in between. Every sound relationship has a foundation of love and trust, every sustainable enterprise has a foundation of best practices and agreement and every respectable leader possesses a foundation of integrity and a mind conscious of right. A foundation is essential as a starting point for safe passage through any transition.

In the case of my friend, his business is expanding on many fronts. A good problem to have! He faces daily transitions, some easy, some more challenging, and in a larger sense, his entire life is in transition as he moves from one phase of his professional career to the next. There are numerous keys to creatively handling any transition in life, some of which are:

  • Leveraging the strengths present in your current foundation. Every one of your previous successes forms a part of your foundation. What you’ve learned, see, and done was not a one-shot deal, in fact, if you are observant you will find that every one of your assets will come in handy at some point as you grow and develop.
  • Beware of impetuousness. Rash decisions can create a dangerous disconnect between your foundation and the limb you’re exploring. Moving prematurely or overextending yourself can happen quickly, especially when you are caught up in the grandeur of your emerging vision.
  • Seek the counsel of those you trust where appropriate. No one of us has all the experience in the world. Perspective is valuable in transitions as the factors often have not yet revealed themselves and hearing another’s opinion on the matter can be valuable. That said, you must chart your course at the end of the day. The decisions you make are ultimately yours.
  • Be reasonable about your demands. Don’t push yourself or those around you too far. As with exercise, it is best to push it to the present limit and then ask for a little bit more. This is the basis of growth and forward movement. The discomfort – the growing pains – will only be temporary and the oscillation between comfort and discomfort, rest and effort will allow for steady expansion.
  • Refrain from the tendency to question the goal or doubt yourself half way through the transition. Be mindful of the peaks and valleys of pressure in any transition. There will likely be a mix of predictable and unexpected breaches in the transitions and the sooner you can make adjustments to avoid a full-blown rupture the better. The sooner you make the adjustments, the more subtle they can be. This is the key to handling transitions with grace.

There are many more points, but I hope these provide food for thought as you move through your next transition!

11 thoughts on “The Crucible of Transition

  1. Colin

    These are some great truths. The transition point can be a balancing act sometimes, and we can’t be afraid of change or a little discomfort. If we manage transitions appropriately, they will become our next foundation, and we can then move forward from a place of strength. Thanks!


  2. Brad

    at the climbing gym last night with my oldest son, thinking about similar principles – interesting the similarities between moving gracefully in professional life and skills “on the rock” – we were watching some very skilled climbers make particularly tough climbs look like a walk in the park – something i’ve also witnessed in the business world and thought, “how do they do that??”
    – thanks for this outline, certainly worth more thought


  3. McMj

    What good advice and the the way you wrote it out, so helpful.
    Thanks. This is a situation everyone faces, daily, how to handle change gracefully. I think it is the place where most self sabotaging starts.


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