Friday Pearl

Making Transitions Work

Monday, March 17, 2014

The thoughtful column below was written by Marsha Link, PhD, for the Fall 2013 Ophthalmic Women Leaders (OWL) magazine. Marsha is now the OWL president, a very popular executive business coach and principal with Link Consulting.  


Making Transitions Work While Enjoying the Journey

"As the seasons change, we become aware of the power of Mother Nature and recognize that these transitions are a necessary and predictable part of the universe. Though seasonal changes are expected, few of us get through life without experiencing transitions that are unpredictable and are brought about by external factors over which we have little or no control. However, as we all know, transitions – and the changes that are produced by them – are here to stay. That being the case, what can we do not only to make transitions work for us, but also make the journey enjoyable and growth- producing? Transitions are hard.

"As an executive coach, I work with many clients who are 'in transition,' whether it is moving between jobs by choice or not, facing changes in one’s personal life, or reaching for self-defined stretch goals.

"No matter what the transition, there are stages that one experiences, much like those that Elisabeth Kubler-Ross described decades ago in her seminal work on dealing with the stages of grief. These stages – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance – are still relevant today. They are transferable to varying degrees and in different ways when we experience personal change and emotional upsets. Her grief cycle is really a form of a change cycle. (As a side note, though Kubler-Ross died in 2004, she was inducted into the American National Women’s Hall of Fame in 2007.)

"Most of us can recognize the thoughts and feelings associated with these stages. It is important that we move through these stages and avoid becoming stuck, since the ultimate goal is to reach the point of acceptance where the transition is no longer hard, but enjoyable.

"I am reminded of Chief Executive Officer Ellen Troyer’s quote Sept. 15, 2013, in Biosyntrx’s Sunday morning e-gram: 'Transitions can be lovely, and it’s tempting to linger, but they are meant to advance us from one life stage to the next.'

"Indeed, how we navigate through life’s transitions will determine how we make them work for us and not against us. So, as we tackle transitions, what can we do to get the most from them while enjoying the journey?

"As with many things in life that are hard, it is not so much the experience of them, but rather our responses that make the difference in the outcomes."

Personal Agency and Self-efficacy

"Fundamental to understanding how we can successfully tackle transitions is the concept of personal agency. Essentially, personal agency is the extent to which a person believes that he or she can control events that affect him or her. A key dimension in developing personal agency is a term that Albert Bandura, famed social-cognitive psychologist, coined. It is called self-efficacy.

"Self-efficacy is a person’s belief about his or her capability to exercise some measure of control over his or her own functioning and environmental events. “Unless people believe they can produce desired results and forestall detrimental ones by their actions, they have little incentive to act or to persevere in the face of difficulties. Whatever other factors may operate as guides and motivations, they are rooted in the core belief that one has the power to produce effects by one’s actions.” (Bandura)

"The message of personal agency and self-efficacy was front and center at a meeting of the Southern California OWL chapter when a panel discussed navigating big transitions. Heather Ready, director of commercialization/Canada and Latin America, AcuFocus, offered these nuggets during the panel discussion:

  • Change is ever-present. Changes often occur mid-stream. Chart your course, anticipate the roadblocks, and be ready for the shift.
  • Know yourself. Determine what you can and cannot do to drive the change.
  • Embrace change. Take charge from the inside out versus outside in.
  • Ask: How can I grow? What can I learn from it?
  • Celebrate accomplishments along the way! Give yourself, and others, intermittent reinforcement.

"Last year, I experienced a big transition in my personal life. We moved from a family home of 23 years, where we raised our children and created a multitude of memories with friends and colleagues over the years. It was a difficult transition, and I learned a lot about myself. Creation of a personal mantra helped me through this transition. 'Focus on the future with courage and hope,' I would tell myself.

"For those of you who are experiencing transitions in your lives, design your own mantra as a way to help navigate your transitions. If you or someone you know is in the midst of tackling transitions, reach out, offer your support, and encourage them to network with other OWL members. It is during transitions that we need each other the most. Let’s help each other as we operationalize OWL’s core values of leadership, advancement, and community."  

Ellen Troyer, Biosyntrx CEO / Chief Research Officer / OWL board member.