Are you in transition?
Two weeks ago I began a three-part series on the subject of transition. I introduced the topic by making reference to Terrafugia’s “transition” flying car. The “transition” has a mixture of car and airplane elements. Is this vehicle a transition between a modern car and a modern airplane? No, it is the transition point between in the car of yesteryear and the flying car that has yet to exist. No one knows what that flying car of the future will look like or what its characteristics will be. But to paraphrase Justice Stewart, we will know it when we see it. In this three part series, I will explore the concept of transition, identify its elements, and discuss strategies for making the most of each stage of transition. This week, I’ll deal primarily with the second stage of transition.
What is a transition?
According to Merriam-webster.com, a transition is:
“a : passage from one state, stage, subject, or place to another : change
b : a movement, development, or evolution from one form, stage, or style to another”
To be clear, the transition is not the former state, nor is it the latter state, but it is the place in the middle, between the two states. At times, there is a line between the two states, but most often, there is no such line.
Etymonline.com’s entry for transition states that the word comes from a 15th century Latin word meaning “going across or over.” An appropriate image might be that of a bridge. The transition period is after the traveler leaves one side of the river or stream, but before she arrives on the other side of it. The transition is the period during which the traveler is firmly on the bridge.
A modern example of transition in the news surrounds Lady Gaga and her recent performances at the Oscars and the Grammys. Lady Gaga, Bobby Owsinski writes, successfully transitioned from being a mere pop star to a respected chanteuse with these two performances.
Examples of transition abound however, throughout the news. The top trending Google search online at this moment refers to Zendaya Coleman, an 18-year-old, former Disney actress, and musician who wore her hair in Dreadlocks to the Oscars recently. Giuliana Rancic, of the fashion police, made disparaging remarks about Ms. Coleman’s hair, calling it too big for her, and saying that she imagined that it smelled like patchouli and perhaps marijuana. Ms. Coleman’s response, and the response of the public has revealed the unpopularity of her comments. This public squabble is a story about transition because the comments refer to prevalent, albeit abusive, stereotypes, and may have been uttered without redress at an earlier point in history. Miss Rancic however, finds herself in the middle of a transition of public opinion.
Transition stories are popular in movies.Audiences love transition stories like “The American Sniper” from the outside. No one, however, likes to be the subject of such poignant transitions. Transitions are particularly uncomfortable to deal with when they coupled with the uncertainty that can come when we don’t know what to expect. It helps to be able to identify the elements of a transition so that one can recognize one’s transition state.
Elements of a Transition
There can be no transition without change. From the definition stated above, a transition requires a former state, a latter state, and motion from one to the other. Even if humans could refuse to do anything, time impels each mortal being from life to death. In Fantastic Voyage II: Destination Brain (1987), Isaac Asimov wrote: “Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It’s the transition that’s troublesome.” Each of us must engage in transition.
The latter state
Of the three elements of transition, the latter state is definitely the most elusive. Whatever we anticipate will be different from what we experience. Often, for example, we set goals that we want to achieve like getting a specific job or losing a specific amount of weight and when we arrive at those goals, we find that there are consequences that we did not anticipate. For example, one may find that the new job requires a more diverse skill set or one may realize that maintaining a lower weight requires one to plan ones day differently.
At this stage, very few of the skills needed to succeed are habit. It requires a lot of learning and mental engagement. The upside is that overcoming even basic obstacles can be exhilarating! While at the former stage it is possible to be bored, when we are at this stage we are the most excited, and at times, overwhelmed.
It is difficult to predict what this stage will be like with certainty, but it is possible to anticipate it if we have set clear goals. Transition is cyclical, so it is possible to move from this stage right into stage III, so it is important to be able to identify this stage when it arrives so that we can celebrate it appropriately.
Photographer Mario Testino once told his mother “when you see my name in ‘Vogue’, I will have arrived.” Being in vogue magazine was not the highlight of his career, but it was an observable event to signal that he had achieved his goal.
This stage is the stage where many people hire a coach. A coach can help one to acquire new skill sets and to navigate the unfamiliar waters of this new stage. If the coach is present for a longer period, the coach can help to point out to the client when this stage arrives. During this stage, adaptability is an effective personal tool. At this stage, it is important that one freely ask questions to properly orient oneself to new expectations to preempt distress during this stage of transition.
Check back next week Wednesday for the third state: crossing over.