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Start at the Finish Line

Start at the Finish Line

The Phases of Transition

Count the number of times you’ve moved. Add the number of times your family size has changed — siblings that were born after you, the time you got married, had your own children, etc.  Keep calculating by adding the times you’ve changed schools.  Include in your total every job you’ve ever had.  Have you lost count yet?  My family size changed the day I was born.  That’s the first transition I was a part of.  Three years later my dad took a new job that moved us hundreds of miles away.  In my short 50 years (notice the use of the word “short”), I’ve experienced 40 transitions like the ones you are trying to count.  But that’s okay because I went through the transition training in Jr high, right?  NOT!  If life is made up of transitions which are full of uncertainty (and we all enjoy uncertainty), why wouldn’t there be some kind of equipping for transitions?  

In the ancient cultures, there were rituals that marked the season changes and the passage of time throughout life.  Each of these rituals helped children understand the process of transition.  Few cultures have managed to hang onto ceremonies or rituals that provide equipping for transition. Current day rituals or ceremonies you might be familiar with are the Jewish bar mitzvah and the Latino Quinceanera.

The Quinceanera, a huge party for girls turning 15 that rivals the extravagance of a wedding, marks the transition from childhood to adulthood.  Early in the evening the teenage girl hands her doll to a younger sibling to show that she is putting away childhood.  At some point in the evening, her father ceremonially replaces her flat sandals with heels to signify her transition to adulthood.   At the close of the evening, she carries a scepter symbolizing she has authority over her own life.  The entire maturation process is compressed into one memorable event that dramatizes the transformation of a young person from dependency to independence.

Start with the End

This ceremony illustrates the three stages of transition. The phases of transition are commonplace — beginning, middle, ending.  However, it’s the order of these steps that throw us off.  A transition starts with the ending.  All transitions must begin with a conclusion. At a Quinceanera this is illustrated when the teenager hands her doll off to someone younger. She is letting go of something that played an important role in her former season. Grand finales seem better suited for the end but in transition it’s required that you start with a letting go of the old.

Stop during the Intermission

The middle, the in-between or the intermission allows you to stop the action and take a breath.  Our society continuously calls for us to speed up, move faster, run to the finish line.  Seldom do you find anyone calling for a pause. This happens in the middle of the Quinceanera when the father exchanges his daughters shoes.  Everything stops, the dancing, the music, the party atmosphere and everyone gets quiet in order to reflect.  Transitions, by their very design, are engineered for the purpose of slowing things down.  

End with the Beginning

After the letting go, the slowing down, you can now arrive at the beginning.  When the 15 year old girl is handed her scepter, she has now arrived at the opening act of adulthood.  All transitions end with a new beginning.

Transitions can set you up or trip you up. If they’ve been tripping you up, take a look at the beginning, middle, end.  Would it help if you progressed through the end, then the middle, then the beginning?

If you need support in your current transition, email me at

The Possibility in Uncertainty

On my fiftieth birthday I awoke jobless, homeless, alone for the first time in 30 years and able to say "I'm better than I should be." I was facing what appeared to be insurmountable uncertainty.  As I reflect back on that I realize there is possibility in uncertainty.  

To find the possibility in the uncertainty, you must carefully guard what is going on inside your own head.  Consider changing the way you use the two words, what and if.  Rather than saying, "What if the sky is falling?" like Chicken Little; try, "What if this turns out to be the best thing that ever happened to me?"  Instead of using what and if to delineate every possible bad scenario, use them to accentuate all the possible positive outcomes.  If you give  your mind even just an inch of negativity and worry, it will take a mile.  

On this uncertain journey, escort your mind at all times!

photo credit: <a href="">Wednesday Wisdom #33: Uncertainty</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">(license)</a>

photo credit: <a href="">Wednesday Wisdom #33: Uncertainty</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">(license)</a>

When treating uncertainty as the source of possibility, get moving.  Stop sitting, stop waiting, stop sulking, stop wringing your hands and do something.  What is the next thing that needs to get done? What action can you take today? What is the goal for the future?  What small step can be taken today toward the possibilities?  When I was facing uncertainty from every aspect of my life, I just took the next step.  No, I didn't have it all figured out and I definitely didn't understand it all but I could figure out what could get done today.  Just do that.  

Action and movement will help you uncover the possibilities under the uncertainty.   

When you face uncertainty, a great deal of reassurance can be found in putting your confidence in something bigger than yourself.  If you are the biggest thing in your world, it is sure to crumble. The absolute best way for me to face uncertainty is to hope in a God who is bigger than all that I am facing.  I admit that most of life is out of my control which could leave me very shaken, if it weren't for the fact that I trust in a God that restores my confidence.  

Having confidence in something beyond yourself will keep you watching for the possibilities.

To reach for the possibilities in the middle of uncertainty: be attentive to what is happening in your mind, take daily action toward the next best step, and put your trust in something bigger than yourself.  

Plagued by Self-Doubt?

If you're like I am self-doubt nips at your heels.  Here's some ideas on maneuvering through self-doubt.



 “Be brave.  I need you to be brave,” said the preschool teacher as she stood by the lone red truck on the rug.  Clean up time was over and the little ones were in line anticipating the playground.  The teacher was expecting the child who played with the red truck to take ownership and come put it away.  “BE BRAVE!”

It’s astonishing how often I’ve needed that admonition in life: BE BRAVE!  Show courage!  Face the danger! Endure the pain! It will be worth it.

The three-year-old boy stepped out of the line headed to the playground, picked up the little red truck and placed it in the “transportation” container.  It must have seemed like an eternity playing out in slow motion for him; all the while, his preschool teacher was telling him how brave he was.

I stood in the doorway of that classroom watching it all unfold twenty years ago. That snapshot plays through my mind again today.  I’ve never needed to be brave more than I do today at fifty years old.  I want desperately to step out of the place headed to where I’ve already been and move in a new direction.  It’s time for me to be brave.  Maybe you need to be brave too -- in your leadership, in your community, in your home.

What does it mean to be brave, you ask?  It means — do it afraid!  It means — take a deep breath and run toward it, not away from it.  It means — don’t let fear determine your destiny.  It means — act in spite of what you are feeling.  

Bravery is something you acquire over years of practice.  To practice bravery, start by admitting you are scared and notice that you are not alone.  You may be surprised to learn that everyone deals with this emotion. Ask them! Once you acknowledge that you (and everyone else) are afraid, name what you are afraid of.  Is it failure, humiliation, others responses?  Re-frame those fears. (It might sound something like this:  Is it failure, or is it an education?  Humiliation fosters humility which is an excellent quality in anyone.  You cannot control other people’s responses, so why let that control you.)  After you re-frame your fears, embrace uncertainty.  Life is full of risks and uncertainty, so embrace your vulnerability and take a step forward.

BE BRAVE!  The world needs all of us to be brave.  Show courage to step out of the pack and move in a different direction -- a direction that calls you to more.  Face the danger of starting over, if you’ve ended up in a misguided place.  Endure the pain of disapproval from your peers and begin something new. It will be worth it for you, your family, and the community around you.