The transformational power of transitions — don’t rush through life

“Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It’s the transition that’s troublesome.” 
 ― Isaac Asimov

Transitions shape who we are — they create opportunities for profound growth.

Separating boys from their families is a rite of passage into adulthood in many African communities.

Kids undergo an arduous process facing the elements of nature on their own. The ritual often involves spending a couple of nights alone in the woods or killing their first animal.

After this enduring experience, kids come out to the other side as adults.

Unfortunately, our society underestimates the power of transitions — we want a better outcome without the suffering of the passage.

Everyone wants to transform their lives. But no one wants to go through the pain of change. We love the pleasure of life, but not the chaos.

You don’t need to kill an animal or to go through a cruel rite of passage. Everyday transitions can transform you too. You have to welcome the troublesome space between peace and chaos.

Don’t rush through life — the journey is the transformation.

Every exit is an entrance to a better place.

 

Transitions Are Blank Slates

We’ve got the idea of transformation all wrong.

Whether it’s personal, digital, career, culture, life, or business transformations, we’ve become obsessed with the outcome — our future state.

We look for the fastest route to achieve a result but underestimate the value of the transition itself.

The real transformation happens along the journey — not at the end.

Rites of passage are experiences that help us move from one stage to another. We let go of our current status to become something else.

Graduating from college, getting married, or having children are rites of passage too. They change our lives — usually for the better.

But the transformational power of transitions is not limited to life-changing events. Your everyday life is full of opportunities for profound change.

Slow down.

Appreciate the space in between moments. Live in the present of self-understanding. Find your place in the transition.

Liminality is a space between two definite states — it influences who we become.

The idea of liminality was introduced by Arnold Van Gennep in his book The Rites of Passage.

The anthropologist described how each rite of passage — such as coming of age rituals and marriage — has a three-part structure: Separation, Liminality, and Reassimilation.

Separation means letting go of your past identity. You withdraw from your current status. And prepare to move from a familiar place to an uncertain one.

The Liminal phase is the transition. You must navigate through uncomfortable, unchartered waters. There’s no script that you can follow.

The Reassimilation marks the end of the journey.

This last phase is characterized by celebration. You’ve been transformed and can now re-enter the world with a new status.

The initial and end phases are more peaceful and pleasant. But, the Liminal stage is full of uncertainty. That’s why we want to rush through it — we hate chaos.

Liminality is the quality of ambiguity or disorientation that occurs in the middle stage of rituals. It’s the process of transformation.

Make room for new energy, wisdom, and insight. Navigate transitions with an open mind instead.

Uncertainty is a blank slate — turn it into an opportunity for growth.

The transition is the transformation — Pic by Clemens van Lay

Liminality: the Space between Chaos and Peace

Most people believe that transformational processes are rational — but they are not.

Most change initiatives fail because we want to control the transformation — and underestimate the emotional journey. Instead of designing an experience, we focus on the process, communication, and goals.

The Liminal Space is a transitional place that can be hard to tolerate. We must overcome our fears and anxiety. When we embrace uncertainty, better things can happen.

Anthropologist Victor Turner took Van Gennep’s concept to the next level. He spread the idea of liminality to other fields.

Turner defined liminal individuals as “neither here nor there.” They are betwixt and between the positions assigned by convention.

A state of liminality is one where the order of things seems suspended. It’s a space between now and the future — the place where transition and transformation occurs.

“Neither here, nor there.”

There’s a call. You want to become something new — to shift your identity, but it’s scary. Ambiguity makes you feel uncertain and out of control.

Liminality is a state beyond where you are today and before where you’ll be tomorrow.

The new stage has not emerged yet. Whether it’s a new idea, a personal transformation, or a cultural change, the ‘thing’ is becoming.

“If you do not expect the unexpected you will not find it, for it is not to be reached by search or trail.” — Heraclitus

Life is a continuous transition — yet we struggle to accept that it’s fluid, uncertain, and out of our control.

Change is messy and threatening. It’s normal for you to want to run away. To want to get quickly to the reassimilation phase — to your new normal.

Instead of rushing through life, pay attention. Enjoy the experience of going through a transition.

The Liminal phase is an opportunity for self-reflection.

Confront your fears and emotions. What are they trying to tell you?

Understand the transformation. What is happening to you?

Let go of the belief of certainty. What are the things that you can’t control? Why?

You don’t need to navigate uncertainty alone. Ask for help.

Borrow a fresh set of eyes. Listen to other people. Ask for their ideas and opinions.

Once you are in the Liminal space, the only way out is forward. You can’t go back to your previous state.

 

Change Is the Experience of Becoming

Focusing on the gap between the before and after creates fear and stress.

We worry that we won’t be able to make it to the other side. Instead of navigating the transition, we get caught in the change gap. We let frustration, anxiety, and disconnection mount.

Welcome the transition — spend time discovering the journey.

Change is not a black-and-white approach — current state versus future state. A real transformation occurs during the transition. You get better as you make progress along the way.

In his book Transitions, William Bridges explains how every transformation begins with an ending and ends with a beginning.

Why begin with an end?

As the author explains, a divorce, death, or new job mark the end of a cycle. Endings break up our old cue system. They disrupt our natural state.

We resist transitions not because we can’t deal with the change but because we can’t accept the situation has changed. We don’t want to give up a piece of our lives.

The transformation starts by letting go of your current state.

As Bridges wrote:

“To become something else, you have to stop being what you are now. To start doing things a new way, you have to end the way you are doing them now. To develop a new attitude or outlook, you have to let go of the old.”

If you’ve sold your house, quit your job, or started a new project — empty your cup. Make space for the new state.

The Separation stage prepare us for the Liminal phase. You say farewell to the previous status. And welcome your new state: being in transition.

Accept consciously that your current status no longer defines you.

The project you used to manage is now under someone else’s responsibility. Your house has a new owner. Your previous job is no longer yours either.

You cannot get back to any of those places. Move on. Embrace the transition.

Get ready to travel through uncomfortable, uncertain places.

Take the long way home — Pic by Mantas Hesthaven

“Traveler, there is no road;
 you make your own path as you walk.
 As you walk, you make your own road,
 and when you look back
 you see the path you will never travel again.”

— Antonio Machado

 

The Liminal stage helps you move forward and grow. Live liminally — discover your path as you walk.

 

Design the Experience of Transitioning

Liminality starts by letting go of your current status.

But real change requires more than saying ‘no’ to the past and ‘yes’ to the future.

The future is always unexpected and uncertain — you must carefully design the journey. An effective transformation requires both a ceremony and guidance.

The process of a rite of passage is purposefully designed, managed, and guided. The journey is uncertain; the ritual should not.

Find a coach or guide to help you — or your team — navigate the transition.

All transformations are emotional, uncertain, and messy.

Embrace the pain — the Liminal space is an opportunity for learning and personal growth. But it’s not always easy.

Don’t bypass or rush the transition. Shortcuts can speed up progress but not the learning — grow happens throughout the journey.

Keep exploring. Don’t let the obsession with the end result get in your way. Keep your mind open.

The future status happens to us.

We discover, develop, and earn it as we move forward.

Transitions are rituals of discovery. The journey shapes who you become.

The Liminal space is an opportunity for prototyping your life. Experiment with who you want to be before you come out on the other side.

The only way out is through — there’s no room for shortcuts.

A transition is a path between chaos and peace. Emerge on the other side as a new, better you.

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