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Tips for transitioning well as physicians in both career and personal life.

(Updated 12/23, original post 6/21)

This week, we continue our look at changes and transitions we face throughout our careers and personal lives. Last week we looked at proactive changes you want to make. This week we look at transition to all changes, including those you didn't necessarily ask for or want.  

Transition can be defined as the psychological adaptation to change.

What changes are you undergoing (whether by choice or not)? How are you adapting? 

There are so many good models of transition out there. One model demonstrates how the transition during change involves going from an Organized System (the way you know things are done) to the Gap (the disorganized, messy middle) to the Re-organized New System.  The transition takes time, usually 3 months to 3 years. It's a process. But often, just knowing that there is a known messy middle of transition and that it WILL end often calms some anxiety and stress around it.  "Oh, I'm just going through a transition."

One of my coaching mentors said, "Transitions start with an ending and end with a beginning." Just reflecting on that statement, to me, is calming and hopeful.

I really like applying William Bridge's research to a Bridge analogy of transition. 

You are going from ______ to _______.  It’s helpful to get clear on what goes in those two blanks.

Like a bridge, you're leaving that solid bedrock that is known and traversing over into something that isn't entirely known. It's just an idea of what it will be. 

In the first stage, a sense of loss and grief (even in happy transitions) are expected.  Don't ignore these or brush those aside too quickly. Ask yourself -- what is ending? But also, what is NOT ending? What are you letting go of and what do you get to keep? In this first stage, as you step off the bedrock onto the bridge, it's helpful to honor the past, validate grief, and celebrate or commemorate the positive contributions or experiences.

In the second stage, when you are out in the middle of the bridge, where the wind picks up and the bridge flexes and gives, it can feel simultaneously scary, exhilarating, discomforting, and hopeful. You can almost see the other solid ground across the way, but you are just as far from the familiar now.  This is that messy middle limbo where you usually experience chaos and uncertainty.  It takes a bit more mental and emotional energy. Self-doubt is completely normal here. Reframe any complications as opportunities to grow - similar to how we discussed feedback in the past.  Don’t rush to the other side of the bridge. Enjoy the parts you can. This is where your growth and set-up for a successful transition lie.  At the same time, you don’t want to get stuck here. Ask yourself what small next step you can take to make forward progress. 

In stage three, you make it to the other side. It's your new beginning. You have new hats to wear. The relationships may look different. Put on your beginner's mindset to navigate the early portion of this stage. Embrace your new role, environment, and unique purpose. Visualize the ideal way you'd like this new time/new you to look as you grow into it. Create and grow into you new identity. What do you need? How can you be proactive in setting it up in a way that is congruent with the new you? Know that it's going to feel clunky and awkward (see Brené Brown's FFT's). Experts say that can take anywhere from 3 months to 3 years to feel fully settled in. Pace yourself. Enjoy the process.


Next week, we will revisit the model and discuss deeper transformations.

Have a joy-filled week!  - Tonya

For those of you in an academic family medicine setting, consider enrolling your residents and/or faculty into my flagship hybrid coaching program.  Learn more here


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