When I was four-years-old, my mother put me in nursery school for the first time. Since I was starting Kindergarten that fall, she thought it would be a wise idea to get my feet wet with the notion of moving my play space beyond my house. On one level, I was excited but on another much deeper, I didn’t feel the same way.
After an excruciating drop-off process in which I tried to negotiate my way out of daycare, I found myself in a foreign territory, surrounded by newness… and I didn’t like it at all. So, I staged my escape. I channeled my inner Wolverine superhero tendencies—darting past the attendants, pushing the door open to the lobby area and jetting out of the place. I ran all the way home, feeling incredibly pleased with my escape. This was simply not a transition for which I was ready.
Very early in life we are introduced to the concept of transition. For many like me, it’s that first time we are forced to let go of our parents’ comforting hand and join a daycare or nursery school. For others, it may be the first time we sleep at our Aunt’s house. We are conditioned, at a young age, to understand that change is a very normal, very real part of our life. As we get older, we learn that life will continue to present moments for transition regularly and it becomes up to us whether we view those moments as great opportunity or danger and risk.
A Zone For Change
One of my favorite frameworks comes from German educator and adventurer Tom Senninger who created the Learning Zone Model, which was developed to help us better understand and embrace learning moments. His model suggests that the way we embrace change and learn can be defined by three concentric circles:
- The inner most circle represents the comfort zone, the safest area for reflection and thought. Here, things feel comfortable, certain and familiar. We are not asked to take risks so things can feel good, but we also can’t spend all our time here.
- Just outside this circle sits the learning zone, or the stretch zone. It is here where we subscribe to exploration and growth, satisfy our curiosity and challenge our assumptions.
- The outer most circle is what Senninger refers to as the danger or panic zone, but I like to call it the adventure zone. Many people shut down here because we are often forced into this zone when change is pushed upon us. However, if we instead choose to enact change, we can reskin this space to become our adventure zone and push ourselves to new opportunity.
In my case, daycare—although a small example—represents a transition forced upon us, one that conjures up the fight-or-flight response. As we get older, this type of transition may manifest itself in different experiences: layoffs, global economic shifts, divorce, change in manager, acquisitions, sickness… the list goes on. But when we can actively seek out transition and enact it, we can begin to view change through a positive lens and become eager for what’s on the other side.
Those who know me know that I actively seek out and welcome change. To me, transitions provide for our most profound growth, learning and fulfilling experiences. That passion for change is the reason I have started 20 businesses, set lofty goals like summitting Mt. Kilimanjaro and become a published author despite my debilitating struggles with dyslexia. I don’t wait to react to moments of transition; instead, I enact them.
But what about you? How willing are you to embrace the unknown, to change course or to accept the risk that often comes with reward? Do you enact moments of transition?
If you are facing a transition now—or looking to enact one soon—consider these tips to approaching the moment with heighted confidence:
- Embrace a Growth Mindset
Our willingness to embrace change is largely based on the way our mind is wired, suggests Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck, the author of the book “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.” In her research, Dweck found that our minds are described as either: fixed or growth. Those with a fixed mindset believe their intelligence, talents and character are basic things that they cannot alter. As a result, these individuals are reluctant to embrace change, often viewing change as a threat to what they hold to be true. Conversely, those with a growth mindset believe they can always substantially alter their intelligence and talents. These individuals actively seek out change as they derive fuel from learning and trying something new.
To master moments of transition, you have to start to tap into your growth mindset more than your fixed. This means believing that you can always fundamentally achieve, learn and try more. This mindset allows you to reach an amplified level of success.
- Pay Attention to the Unguarded Moment
With a transition looming, we can often feel like there is a lot of “noise.” Doubts, concerns and challenges occupy our thoughts; some are real, and some are fabrications caused by our fears, anxieties, experience and personal history. When we are in moments of transition, it is essential that we create space for the unguarded moment—a purely authentic, honest moment with a heightened degree of clarity. This moment of clarity gives you the conviction to rise up and enact change, rather than settling into complacency.
I tend to experience my unguarded moments when I least expect them—coming out of a dream, hiking up a mountain, heading into my next meeting or simply finding a quiet moment in my study. But when they come, I immediately write about the moment so that I can revisit it later. When your unguarded moments happen, pay attention to the clues it lends about what’s next. The unguarded moment can serve as compass point in your future transition.
- Leverage Your Strengths
Societal norms cause us to focus more on our weaknesses than our strengths. We are consumed with what needs fixing, instead of celebrating what we do well. This is especially true when change is present and uncertainty looms.
When approaching your next transition, instead, try embracing positive-strength philosophy and intentionally playing to your strengths. The Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment is a powerful tool for helping you understand your inherent strengths. Knowing your strengths allows you to understand how to navigate change more successfully. You can build an effective action plan, identify a top strength that could be used in your transition and gain clarity on what you can achieve, among other things.
The Adventure Awaits
In life, if we are lucky, wonderful adventure presents itself to us—sometimes in the form of a new job, a lofty goal or a remarkable opportunity for change. But we must be ready to take on the adventure with excitement rather than dread. We have to recognize the gift that moment of transition brings.
Our greatest adventures are always awaiting us. We simply must choose to enact them.
So…. How will you enact change? I’d love to hear from you! Drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.