Pay Attention: Change v. Transition

Change v Transition


It happens to us all. You may be the kind who loves change; you create it in your life. You hop jobs, towns, boyfriends, friend groups, whatever. If your life stays the same for too long, you force change upon yourself otherwise you’d crawl out of your skin.

Or you may be the kind that hates change; you resist it at all cost. You are a creature of habit. You love consistency and when the winds of change tickle your noise, you brace yourself, holding tightly to what’s familiar, begging God to not force too much change upon you.

Personally, I have experienced a lot of change over the last 12 months. Maybe the most changes I’ve ever faced in one short period of time.

I’ve been learning that change, in and of itself, is not the thing we love or hate.

Well, maybe it’s what we think we love or hate, but I think we’ve mislabeled some things. Change is an external force. It happens. Something was and then is no longer. But transition on the other hand, transition is the process you and I go through–usually caused by change– that is the soul-wrenching (or spirit-freeing) journey we actually hate or love.


Transition is always a three phase process: an ending, a neutral zone, and a new beginning.* The problem is that you and I pay way too much attention to the change, when instead, we should be paying attention to the transitional process.

A wise man, Dr. Curt Thompson**, often says,

“Pay attention to what you’re paying attention to.”

Over the past year, I’ve been determined to pay attention to what I’m paying attention to. It’s easy to pay attention to the changes that have happened. Far less easy to pay attention to the actual transition God is taking me through.

So, if you too have experienced change recently and want to pay attention to the transition you’re going through, here are some questions to consider.

1. What has ended? Beyond the actual change, what endings have come to be? Are there relationships that have ended? Identities that I’ve let go? If I had to identify some endings that have taken place in this season of life, what would they be?  Is there something God is calling me to let go of?

2. What has God been teaching me about Himself (His character or His word) during this transition? Have I seen God in a unique light/perspective in this season? Have I learned something perhaps I couldn’t have learned earlier in life? How has this impacted my trust in Him?

3. What have I learned about myself? What has God shown me about who He created me to be in this season? Am I who I want to be?  Am I least on the path to who I want to be?

4. What have I learned about others? Family, friends, my spouse. What is God teaching me about the way I relate to others?

5. Am I growing closer to God and others or farther away from God and others? Am I where I want to be?

6. What is beginning? Are there new interests or passions God is stirring up inside me? Is there a new identity or role God is leading me to take on? Are there new friendships or relationships He’s brought into my life?

I may not know all the answers to those questions, but here is what I do know. I don’t want change to occur in my life without paying attention to the transition God takes me through and the process of learning more about who God is and who He has created me to be.

*Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes, William Bridges.

**Anatomy of the Soul: Surprising Connections between Neuroscience and Spiritual Practices That Can Transform Your Life and Relationships, Curt Thompson.