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Navigating the Internal Transitions that Come with Change


Doubtlessly, humans have a lot of changes to face throughout their lives. From diapers

to grade school, from first love to first heartbreak, from a 1997 Ford Taurus to a 2012

Ford Explorer, from friends to strangers, from a coffee shop barista to a high school

teacher, from sadness to joy…change is inevitable!

Some change is fun- who doesn’t love trying out a new haircut?

Other times, we’ll go to great lengths to prevent change from taking place and shoving

us into a new, and uncomfortable, unknown. And it can be especially unpleasant when

we don’t get a say in the change.

What can make change so difficult isn’t necessarily the change itself, it’s the transition

that takes place. As William Bridges, Managing Transitions, says, “Change is not the

same as transition. Change is situational: the new sites, the new boss, the new team

roles, the new policy. Transition is the psychological process people go through to come

to terms with the new situation. Change is external, transition is internal.”

Dealing with change means going through a transition. Recognizing what this transition

process looks like for you and those around you can help you lead yourself and others

through it more productively.

So, what does this transition process look like?

Developed by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, the change and transition curve can be found


change and transition curve

Let's break down each point:

Awareness (Optimism)- At first, the change might be welcome, or you can see the potential of the positive outcome.

Emerging Pessimism (Disbelief/Denial)- You realize it isn’t actually what you thought it was and start to believe it’s not going to be a positive change, potentially denying any positive points that exist. You might say, “what we used to do/be wasn’t so bad after all.”

Resistance (Anger/Frustration)- New things you aren’t happy about just continue to come and you really don’t want to let go of what was. Things aren’t going as planned. Thoughts of, “It would be easier to go back to the way things were” increase your resistance.

Checking Out (Resignation/Rejection)- You move forward but still wish it wasn’t true. Or you stop/pause completely and consider jumping ship altogether. You might be thinking “It’s pointless. No one cares what I think.” It’s within these first four stages that we realize what once was, no longer is. It’s the mourning of the death of a process, idea, dream, home, relationship.

Acceptance/Experimenting (Renewed Hope)- You accept the change and more importantly, you accept the fact that what once was, is not anymore. Because of this, you are more open to trying the new way out. The ground is still shaky because you might experience quite a bit of failure during the experimentation.

Decision Making (Renewed Optimism/Understanding)- You’re starting to get your stride and see the vision. You understand why the change needed to take place. Completion (Confidence/Relief)- Success! The “new” isn’t “new” anymore. You might think “I can’t imagine ever going back to the old way of doing things.”


It’s important to know that this isn’t a linear process- we can jump over certain parts of

the curve or even go back and forth. And, as a leader, you might be further along in the

transition process than your people because often, you get the news of the change first.

If you’re going through a transition now, where are you? Where are your people? What

conversations do you need to have, or what questions do you need to explore yourself?

What does this information evoke? What would it take to help you move forward in your

transition process?

If you’re going through a change and would like support to navigate it successfully, contact us by clicking here.


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