The 3 Keys to Navigating Change and Landing on Your Feet (Part 3 of 3)

by Shana Montesol Johnson

If you want to navigate change and land on your feet, understanding the three phases of transition is critical. In the last two posts, we’ve looked at Endings and the Neutral Zone.  This week, I’m wrapping up the series with the third phase: Beginnings.

Part 3: Let Begin

Did you know that you can start something long before truly beginning it?  Starts involve new situations and external circumstances.  Beginnings are about internal developments – new understandings, new attitudes, new identities.  Change expert William Bridges writes that Beginnings take place “when people are ready to make the emotional commitment to do things the new way and see themselves as new people.”

Starts occur on a set schedule. An organization may announce, “Effective [fill in the date], the new change will take place.”  Yet no amount of announcements, edicts, or pronouncements can hurry people into Beginnings.  Beginnings do not follow a prescribed timetable.

You may start working as a newly promoted manager, without first having the internal shift to seeing your identity as such.  You may still be in the Neutral Zone.  And that’s ok – healthy, even.  Bridges, who has studied change for more than 30 years, writes, “Most Beginnings abort because they were not preceded by well-managed Endings and Neutral Zones than for any other reason.”

When Beginnings finally come, we often feel ambivalent about them. We are sick and tired of wandering the desert of the Neutral Zone, so a Beginning is a welcome relief.  Yet Beginnings can also be scary because they:

  • Require us to step up and make a commitment
  • Remind us of all the anxieties associated with the Ending
  • Make the Ending seem that much more final
  • Require us to take a risk – we may not succeed in this new endeavor, this new identity

While there is no magic formula to produce a new Beginning, here are some things we can do to nurture new Beginnings:

  • Understand the transition process and where you are in it. Is this really a Beginning, or are you just trying to rush through the Neutral Zone?
  • Be aware of what you are attracted to. A sense of being attracted to an idea or activity is often the sign of a tug out of the Neutral Zone and into a new Beginning.
  • Envision the desired goal and begin to identify yourself with the final result of the new Beginning. What will it feel like when you’ve actually done whatever it is that you are setting out to do?  Think of yourself as a person who does X, even if you haven’t yet done X.
  • Be patient as the Beginning unfolds. The kind of shift in identity that a new Beginning entails does not occur overnight.


Where have you experienced a new Beginning?  What helped you to land on your feet as you navigated change?  Please share in the Comments below.

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I just read new beginnings and it really helped because the emotions described are exactly what I am feeling. However, my work situation is a bit different. They are reorganizing at work and they are changing our job titles so if you keep your current job you get a new title & a massive pay cut. Or you can choose to go up, to an unknown store within 30 miles, for a year at which time you have to reapply for your job. If you make it, good, if you don’t you get demoted to the previous job. But since a lot of those jobs will be filled, there may be no opening for you and you’re just out of a job. So I have this crucial decision to make and there is no obvious right or wrong. Take a chance or stay put with a huge pay cut I don’t think I can afford but I would have a job for sure. Decisions, decisions.


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