What is a Transition?

By Cicily Maton, Retired Sr. Financial Planner

Cicily Maton has retired, however, Michelle Maton CFP®, EA, CeFT® Sr. Financial Planner and Andy Baxley CFP®, CIMA®, CeFT® Sr. Financial Planner carry on her legacy in the Chicago office.

The dictionary says that a transition is “a process or a period of change from one state or condition to another.”  So, what is a “life transition?” The Financial Transitions® Institute defines a life transition as “a life event after which things are not the same.” There are usually four stages to a life transition: anticipation, ending, passage, and the new normal.

Anticipation is often experienced in the period prior to retirement, or the birth of a baby, or the start of a new job. Endings are often more definitive; you are fired, your spouse dies, you sign the papers selling your business, you buy your first house, or you win the lottery. It is during the aftermath of this ending stage that we all are most likely to be overwhelmed by all that lies ahead.

There are personal decisions and financial decisions to make, and everyone seems to have their own ideas for what you should do.  It is the time we are most prone to make premature and hasty decisions that we could regret later. Those who are fortunate enough to have good friends, strong family ties, and the benefit of good advice will withstand the shock of a sudden life event without permanent rupture and will adjust to their new circumstances.

However, this is not yet the New Normal stage. That may not occur for some time, perhaps years. If your life event came as a major shock to you, you will be in the “passage” stage for as long as it takes. The passage stage is sometimes smooth and easy, but at other times it can be messy and you will feel like you are going backwards. It is a time for trying new ways of living, of thinking, of being you. At times, you might feel as if things are never going to be “normal.”

Many of those who have successfully journeyed through life’s passages have exhibited certain traits. These traits seem to predispose them to a transformation that will lead to a new normal. They have an ability to see potential and opportunity. There is a willingness to examine the experience of the life event. There is a focus on identifying the things that helped them survive so those strengths will be available for the next life event.

The new normal is occasionally accompanied with an even greater transformation. Not only do some exhibit great resiliency, they flourish and excel. They actually thrive! They regain a zest for life, go on to accomplish their life dream, or give back to their family, their community, their country. They become an inspiration to others.

Transitions and transformative events cannot be avoided. We humans experience them throughout our entire lives. Maybe that is what we are supposed to do…continue learning, getting better, and becoming more resilient. And finally, thriving!