Change is an opportunity to transition from simply surviving to thriving. Whenever you experience a life or career changing event, it’s good practice to know what stage you are in as you’re experiencing that growth and transition. Therefore, knowing and understanding the stages of change is helpful.
Change involves seven stages of transition. Transitions are the process of changing from one state or condition to another (New Oxford American Dictionary). Transitions happen throughout life, both personally and professionally.
“Miracle on the Hudson” is a great example of thriving through change. January 15, 2009 Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger took off from New York’s LaGuardia Airport on a US Airways Airbus 320. He had done this hundreds of times before. But this day was different. Something unexpected and unforeseen happened which required Captain Sully to immediately embrace the change forced upon him. Nothing could prepare him for the exact conditions and situation he faced. No manual to safely land his plane with 155 passengers and crew was going to insure survival. He had no prior experience for such an event before that day. Would his choices work for him or against him? No one knew and only time would tell the full story. We can learn to navigate the seven stages of transition through Captain Sully’s example.
Stage 1: See And Accept
(That A Change In Direction Is Ahead)
The situation causing an inevitable change of direction happened the moment Captain Sully’s plane flew into a team of geese and shut down both engines upon takeoff. Going back in time to avoid the situation, and denial of the gravity of the situation were impossible.
What situation have you found yourself in at work, school or life that you did not ask for or suspect was about to happen? Like Captain Sully, change often comes when we least expect it. The best choice is to see and accept the situation.
Stage 2: Slow Down
Once we see and accept that change is happening, slow down and consider the options. Captain Sully rapidly weighed his options for a safe landing and positive outcome. He was given stats and protocols from the co-pilot and landing options from the air traffic controller. He had seconds to consider and compare them with what he saw from his seat as an experienced pilot.
Likewise, in your personal situation, slow down, take a deep breath and evaluate the information and facts before choosing your action. Insure past beliefs do not sabotage future opportunities. Learn from the past, do not live in the past. Often there is no perfect outcome, only a best outcome. Consider this before making the choice.
Stage 3: Choose
Captain Sully’s primary goal was survival of his 155 passengers and crew. After considering the options, the next step of the transition had to be made swiftly and precisely. He had to choose and trust the choice he made.
This stage requires you to make the choice that supports what matters most. Know why you will proceed with the choice you make then move forward toward the new thing in front of you. Remember that going back is non-negotiable.
Stage 4: Re-Adjust
The choice to land on the Hudson was made and there was no turning back. Landing successfully to save lives became the goal. Sully needed a team. The co-pilot reported stats to make a river become a runway. Flight attendants directed the passengers for maximum safety.
In your situation, rally the team and resources around you to be successful in your transition. Look for the possibilities and stay committed to the choice.
Stage 5: Focus
Captain Sully stayed focused on the outcome that every passenger would be safe. Fear and doubt were not options.
When you transition through change, the most difficult stage is to stay focused on the best possible outcome. It is inevitable in transition to experience both pros and cons. Focus on what is most important to eliminate the temptation to give up.
Stage 6: Move Forward
A mere 208 seconds elapsed from the time Flight 1549 took off until the plane landed in the Hudson River. (The Costco Connection, December 2016 Volume 31, Number 12, page 34) Sully exhibited courage to move forward despite the subsequent investigation which questioned every decision he made.
Be courageous and move forward. Embrace the change to transition smoothly to the final stage.
Stage 7: Gratitude
The path of a few geese crossed with the path of Captain Chesley Sullenberger. Many lives changed that day. On January 15, 2013 ABC hosted Captain Sully and 5 of the 10 new lives born after the splashdown. Yes, 10 new lives from the heroic effort of one man who embraced the situation and in 208 seconds transitioned successfully through each phase of the unexpected change in plans.
Without change new things would be impossible. Gratitude keeps our focus on what we have. Unimagined possibilities happen when change is embraced.
Robert Frost’s famous poem sums up the power of change:
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”
The easy road of doing the same thing and hoping for something new seldom produces opportunity. Taking the road less traveled and embracing change with courage is a path to new opportunity.
“Miracle on the Hudson” began with an unexpected change of plans. Captain Sully’s flawless navigation of the seven stages of transition resulted in saving 155 lives that cold winter day. His courage in the face of insurmountable odds serves as an example of how to thrive through change.
Now It’s Your Turn
Knowing and understanding the seven stages of transition through life changing events will greatly increase your chances of thriving through the change.
How will you respond differently the next time an unexpected change comes your way?
What new opportunity awaits you?