Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Trouble With Transitions...

The trouble with transitions is that they take time and they often distract from our goals. Unfortunately, transitions are the path to the goals, so they're tough to avoid. The trick is to see them as the path, while keeping your eye on the destination.

The trouble with transitions came up for Camille and me as we have settled into our new place in Portland, ME. During all the time we've planned this move, we focused on why we were moving: the disatisfaction with our current state (not happy with where we were with our work, wanting to do better), and how much better our end state could be (happy: working on what we're passion about, figuring out what that is). The "figuring out what that is" was seen as a transition we could look forward to. It was itself a goal of sorts.

What we didn't count on was that if the figuring it out was a goal, then there was a transition to that goal. We were so focused on the cool aspect of our new and improved life that we forgot about the path that would get us there: All the little, pain-in-the-butt details, like deciding which size trailer we'd need to cart our stuff to our new place; getting our seven year old Honda to the shop and prepared for a 2,000 mile road trip towing the trailer; and once we arrived, all the little stuff we needed, like a laundry basket, a mop, a shower curtain, a waste can, internet connectivity. All these details needed tending to before we could focus on the real fun of figuring it out. And, while on some level we knew we had to contend with them, they distracted us from our goal; from what we really wanted to do.

So, after congratulating ourselves on arriving in Portland without incident; on getting the trailer unloaded and returned to Uhaul in two hours; we returned to an apartment full of boxes that needed to be unpacked. We needed to unpack, sort and decide where everything went. We needed to figure out why we couldn't find the iron, and why would it not get packed. Then we needed to break down the boxes and figure out how to dispose of them. Then we needed to Google directions to the recycling center. Then we needed to figure out if "cardboard only" meant that you couldn't throw in recyclable paper in the bin. Then we needed to go to Target and Walmart and the grocery store and call Time Warner to schedule internet hookup and then... Well, you get the picture; you've been there yourself.

Needless to say, our sunny dispositions suffered as we dealt with these transitional details. We tended to be less than understanding of each other's attitude, we were impatient, we snapped at each other...you get the picture; you've been there yourself. We got sidetracked with all the what and the how and let the why get lost.

Fortunately, we were able to regroup and ask ourselves "what was happening here?". As we reviewed our behavior, we realized that in our excitement of finally being in Portland to set our lives on a new course, we had focused on the end point, the goal, and not the path - the transition - to that goal. We let the what and how distract us from the why.

The lesson learned was that we needed to keep focused on the why, but also needed to realize that the what and the how are crucial to getting there. They are the path to the why. They are the necessary transition to why and they require time and energy. However, we can't focus just on them, we need to understand the role transitions play in gettinng us to our goals, but we can't let them undermine our ability to achieve those goals.

The trouble with transitions is that we need to keep our eye on the ball; realize we're engaged in a journey, not an event...you get the picture, you've been there yourself.

So how have you been able to keep focused on your goals and not get distracted by transitions? Have you been able to understand and appreciate the transition as a necessary path to your goal? Have you learned any lessons from your transitions? What have they been?

We'd love to get your feedback on our "journey" as well as hear about your own journey in new directions. Please use the comment section below to share your thoughts and ideas.

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