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What is Transition?

December 18, 2012

By Jacinta Hin

Throughout life we are always moving from one phase or state to another. The difference is called change, the road in between transition. Transition is the subtle, transformational process that precedes change and underlies the flow of our existence.  A transition is a connection point, a period during which we are changing and preparing for something new. It is the space between what is or what was, and what is going to be.

Transitional periods play an important role in our ever-evolving lives. They support us in our growth and development, as they allow us to review who and where we are, and to make new choices. If we do not take a step back now and then and engage with these moments of reflection and reorientation, we would not be able to change. We would stay behind in a life that once worked but no longer does, at least not in the way it used to. We would also fall behind because the world around us would be changing. After all, change is the default nature of life. At some point we have to give in and surrender to its demands.

In a utopic world we would be masters of change and transformation, recognizing the signs that a transitional period is about to begin and simply be ready because it would be the natural thing to do. We would also have the tools and support needed for a successful transit.

But in reality we are seldom ready to step into our transitions with open arms. We tend to stumble into them reluctantly, slow in our ability to understand that something has started to shift and needs us to go along with whatever it is that is moving.

Support is often lacking. Most contemporary societies do not have proper rituals and practices in place, and our immediate environment – family, friends, work – often does not know how to respond to our need for change. And even if support and sympathy is offered, we are still on our own. Transitions are solo journeys meant to be taken alone.

We are rarely fully available for our transitions. The past is still demanding our presence, while the future is already insisting on its own presence. Ideally we would be somewhere in between the two, but we tend to flip-flop between both camps. This overlap between past, present and future makes transitions even more challenging.

We do not always know what out transitions want from us. They tend to come unannounced without clearly defined objectives and goals. Not knowing what’s in store can be frightening and keep us in limbo, so making us hold onto a reality that has already started to slip away.

Even if we are fully on board, we likely find ourselves in tumultuous waters, as transitions tend to be chaotic, confusing and deeply challenging. They throw us out of our comfort zone and into the unknown, demanding us to face our demons and explore who we really are. It is understandable that we might not always be cheering along the ride.

The biggest obstacle to transition and change is perhaps when life seems to be working just fine. There is no crisis at hand, nothing that is threatening our status quo or asking for serious contemplation. We do not feel stuck or in need of self-reflecting or reviewing new options. Our focus is on managing and maintaining daily life, not on exploring its potential.

But then that same life interferes, as if protesting its own comfort, and something in our system breaks down and stops working. We are set on the path of change, in the temporary chambers of transitions.

That is how I have come to see transition. Life interfering, waking us up, reminding us that we are on a journey and there are things about ourselves waiting to be discovered, claimed and released.

Sometimes preluded by an external event triggering some sort of inner awakening. Other times it is an inner call for change that shakes us into transition: a voice residing somewhere deep inside of us that might be whispering initially but could turn up the volume if we remain deaf to what it has to say.

But if we allow ourselves to listen to the messages embedded in external happenings or conveyed by our inner voice, even if they make no sense or feel as a threat to our way of being, we allow life to happen.

And here, I believe, lies the power of transition: a place where we open up to what life has to offer and to what we have to offer to life.


About the author: Jacinta Hin was born in the Netherlands and has been living in Tokyo, Japan, since 1989. Her professional background is in human resources, career management and coaching. She is passionate about helping people, herself included, discover new perspectives of possibility, move to embracing and working with their transitions, and designing and realizing changes aligned with who they truly are and what they truly want from their lives.
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