I frequently find myself speaking to careerists who are in transition from one job to another or one career to another. I have also been involved in my own career transition over the last year or so. While we all might like to think that transition is a short term process, I have discovered, looking back over the past year and my whole life, that transition is not a fleeting process we fall into and out of. Rather, life is truly nothing but one long transition — a state of constant flux. We might have dreams and desires for stability, but in a world that is constantly changing, stability is only an illusion and a temporary one at that.
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When you first realize the you are always in transition, it can seem a bit frightening. It can feel like you are the mercy of the time and tides, being buffeted about without any ability to control what is happening around you. You do have some control, though, but it requires that you pay deep attention to the your life, your thoughts and your actions. Yes, if you let the world push you around, it will gladly (and easily) do so. If you, instead, take your life directly into your own hands, you can ride the waves of change and transition in ways that best benefit you.
In many ways, I think that humans have been living their lives with the wrong goals for several centuries now. The history of Man has been a constant striving for stability, for safety. While this may have served us well in the days of hungry predators stalking our camps and deadly diseases running rampant through the land, I think think it serves us less well now. While there are some people in the world that still lack the basic necessities of life, for most of us, the days of starvation, disease and early death are gone. Our basic needs are met. Given this basic stability of life and limb, we now need to look outwards towards the new, the different, the change, the transitions in our lives and embrace them
So many people bemoan the boredom of their work and life today and I think this comes from an overabundance of stability into their lives. They probably fought long and hard to make enough money, buy that large house, the fancy car, but now, having focused exclusively on stability, they don’t know what to do next. Fear of change and fear of transition has ruled their life to such a point that they are stuck in place, stalled by their own success. We all need to learn that once basic stability is established, it is time to embrace a little risk, a little fear, a little change, in order to continue growing both personally and professionally.
The hard truth is, stability is a fragile state. Just because you have it today, doesn’t mean you will have it tomorrow…or the next day. Our lives can be turned upside down overnight and if you have let your transitional skills atrophy through disuse, you will find it even harder to adapt to change in the future. We have all seen people who are nearly destroyed when their carefully ordered life falls apart. They have been comfortable for so long that, not only do they not want to uncomfortable, they have forgotten HOW to be uncomfortable, how to transition, how to recover.
Challenges will come in your life, unwanted, unbeckoned and unforeseen. You can better deal with these challenges by remembering that transition is a constant in our lives. If we see ourselves as being in a constant state of transition, we are better able to weather the storms that break upon us. We are able to roll with the waves of change rather than letting them swamp us, capsize us and drive us under.
No matter how stable, or unstable, your life is today, I think a change of attitude is in order. I know I have had to adjust my own thinking of late. We need to see transition and change as a force for good in our lives, not evil. Change isn’t something to be avoided, but rather cultivated, engaged and used as a tool to improve our lives. Rather than seeking out stability as a end goal in itself, we need look to the edges, the transitions and see what marvellous new lives we can create there. As I wrote last week, the most exciting events in our lives don’t happen in the stable middle. They happen at those crazy edges, the fringes, where different ideas and actions rub up against one another. If we truly want to improves our lives and careers, we need to be looking there.