The words change and transition are often used interchangeably. In truth, they have very separate and different meanings.
Change is a one-time occurrence: we change jobs, change clothes, change living arrangements. Change is a shift from one person, place or thing to another.
The transition is the ongoing process of dealing with a change. Transition is letting go of how things were and embracing how things might become. Transition is a shift from one state of being to another.
A change can be self imposed or imposed upon us. Buying a new home is usually a change we impose upon ourselves. Moving into the new home is the change. Learning to let go of the way things were is the transition. In moving to a new home this could be dealing with a new route to work, missing our old neighbors, learning to use new appliances. Until we are comfortable with the new and willing to let go of the old we are in transition.
The death of a loved one is a change imposed upon us. Not only did we not choose the path we are on, but also we aren’t even sure if we can see a path. We are confused, frightened and sometimes feel powerless to accept the change thrust upon us. We can’t move because we are unable to let go of the past and can’t see what might be ahead. As we learn to accept that the old is no more and that we must embrace the new, we are in transition.
Sometimes transitions are not created by change (or at least not by change we can identify), but, by an internal shift in our being: a shift that tells us something is different in the way we feel about certain people, places, or things. Transition can sometimes precede change. When we decide to look for a new job, we don’t just wake up one morning and decide to make a change. Rather, it is usually an idea that has been formulating for some time (transition). We may have been unhappy in our job for a long time, wanting more responsibility, a higher salary, a new boss or even a new career path. When we have accomplished the “idea” time we are ready to make a change.
So far it looks as if our lives are in a continuous stage of transition and they are. With that said, it is important to develop the skills to live in transition. Transition periods can be the most productive periods of our lives, if we understand that letting go is not dismissing what has happened. Transition is, instead, the period in which we accept what has happened and we search for the path to follow forward. That search can lead us to new and creative ways to live our lives.