Old shoes and new shoes. Simple--cut and dry, right? Read on to hear my thoughts.

Transitions are a part of life. Sometimes they’re planned. Sometimes they’re necessary. Sometimes they’re unseen. Sometimes we control them. Sometimes they control us. There are so many variables and factors surrounding transitions big and small. In both our personal and professional life, it’s important to be aware of transitions to ensure we can manage them for the best outcomes.

Big Change

Change is something most of us don’t like. Many of us fear. And few of us embrace. The process of change is often called transition. The image of the shoes above should allow us a brief look at how to apply effective resources to such transitions in the important areas of our life. Much more important than changing shoes of course.

Why Shoes?

I’ve been a sporadic runner most of my life. I go in streaks. Sometimes I do a great job and stay dedicated. Other times I fall off the wagon and struggle for regularity. However, one thing I fear and procrastinate laughably is changing shoes. You see, I’ve had acute Achilles tendon trouble for about 10 years. It’s very strange and comes out of nowhere. I can train hard for six, eight, ten weeks with no issues—and then boom, it flares up.

So, when I have a set of shoes, I never want to change for fear of triggering an issue with my Achilles or some other annoying injury. How ineffectively do I manage changing shoes? A few years back I ran in black Nike high tops for months because my accomplished distance-athlete friend said it was my low top running shoes causing trouble. I even did a triathlon in those cheap high tops in south Florida! You should have heard the course erupt with laughter when my friend called me out on the course! Plus “lacing up” isn’t good for your transition time.

Back to the topic at hand. The shoes on the left have hundreds of miles on them. They have countless training runs, 3-4 shorter triathlons, a half-iron man and a half marathon on their soles. They’ve been through a lot—and helped me achieve a lot. But recently, it was time for a change. In come the white ones.

Visual Confirmation is Not Final

The change is done and the transition complete, right? Blue shoes=old, done. White=new, promising. Simple, right? Wrong. You see just because my white ones show the wear and tear of a few initial uses, doesn’t mean my transition to them is complete. I still think about my old shoes, my body still expects the feel of those shoes and I still see them every time I take the new ones out for a run.

How does this tie in to your life? Are my shoes your former job and current job? Do you think you’ve moved on, but you haven’t? Is it a past relationship and a current one? Is it a stage in life? A diet/health plan? A New Year’s resolution? A personal goal with your spouse? The examples go on—but the symbolism resonates.

When you see me running down the street with my new shoes (or see me in the office at my new job, see me at the gym with my new workout plan, etc.) you think that the change is complete—because that’s what you see. But visual proof is not evidence. What we’re seeing is just another stage of transition. For the change to be complete, the transition needs to have fully run its course. And many times, that takes a period of time much longer than people. For shoes it is a little easier to define the complete change. If I can get through a month of running with no issues? Yes, the new shoes are here to stay. But I could still run in the old ones if I wanted/needed to, right?

This is where shoes differ from life. Most transitions in life don’t allow us to go back (and they shouldn’t, either). In the last few years I’ve had plenty of change and several transitions personally and professional. In a three year span I’ve become a father, moved my family 2,000 miles away for a job opportunity and more recently left the confines (and comforts—or vise versa) of corporate America to run my own agency. So I’ve gotten a crash course in transitions. I’d hate see my grades on some of those transitions. But others I’m pretty proud of navigating. I think the single biggest takeaway is stepping back and having the ability to look at all events through the lens of a longer timeframe. For instance, opening the doors to a new agency isn’t about closing every opportunity for new business. Yes, you need to succeed in bringing in revenue—but just because you don’t close a deal or get the business this time—doesn’t mean that it won’t be available in 6 months or a year. And the thing is, we’ll need new business in that timeframe. It’s about preparing for that next chance at the same business—being aware of what’s needed and what will change. Awareness can help lead to success.

The other immensely important part of transition and change is to lean on, learn from and get support from others. Whether it’s personal or professional—people have great insights from past experiences. They are also removed from the situation at hand—so listen to these people. And seek opinions. Most importantly, listen closely to the ones who aren’t telling you what you expected/want to hear.

What transitions are you experiencing right now? What’s a good example of change in your life recently? How would someone grade you on change/transition? What are you doing to actively manage a successful outcome with change? And finally, does transition ever stop?