I just spent a few days helping a new group of college freshmen settle in at my alma mater. These students are going through such a huge transition in their lives and have big hopes, fears, and unanswered questions. They are saying goodbye to what they have known and are surrounded by “newness,” they get to form new identities, make new friends, discover new places, and take advantage of new opportunities. In times like these, as we charge forward towards new beginnings, we can sometimes forget to fully take in and appreciate where we came from.
I think that Bruce Tuckman’s model of group development actually illustrates this transition really well. In his model, there is a stage for “adjourning” or saying goodbye and a stage for “forming” that highlights “hellos” or fresh starts. The typical depiction of this model shows these stages as being distinct and separate, but I think that more often than not they exist in tandem. Life doesn’t move in such a linear fashion, which means these stages get messy and mixed up, which can make it hard to fulfill our needs in each of them.
In adjourning, it’s important to take the time to reflect, evaluate, and celebrate! In forming, it’s important to learn, clarify, and encourage. These two processes may seem paradoxical and it can be challenging to give our attention to both. For example, it might be hard to fit in all of our farewells while also trying to pack and plan effectively for a big move.
Whether you’re headed off to college, switching jobs, or going through any other sort of major life transition, we can and should give time and attention to each of these stages so that we can make the most of these changes. Here are some things to keep in mind:
Do recognize and validate all of your feelings. I tend to get so caught up in the sheer amount of things that need to be done as I’m going through change that I don’t stop long enough to process how I’m feeling about all of those things. Excitement, anxiety, stress, nostalgia, anticipation, sadness, optimism, whatever else you might be feeling, sit with it! It might be uncomfortable, and that’s okay. We had our students write down one hope and one fear going into their freshman year of college and we discussed how to make our hopes come true and how to reduce our fears. Writing these kinds of things down can be helpful because then we can’t try to move past them too quickly.
Don’t forget to celebrate. Celebrate the people you’ve met, the things you’ve accomplished, the places you’ve been and the things you’ll miss. Do this in whatever way feels most natural to you, throw a party, visit your favorite restaurants, make a scrapbook, or write thank you notes.
Do think about how to stay connected. Whether it’s friends, family, or teammates, there will be people we may have to say goodbye to through these transitions. Many of our “goodbyes” are more like “see you later”s. That being said, we still have to be intentional about staying connected. In some ways, this is easier than ever with the help of technology, but I also think this can make us pretty lazy when it comes to keeping in touch. Think about what you need from each relationship and what you can realistically offer in your new situation. Those needs and offers might look really different depending on the person, but it will help you to set expectations and goals for those relationships as they change moving forward.
Don’t feel like you have to have everything figured out right away. This period of time is marked with uncertainty. It takes time to get settled into new places, roles, and relationships. Be an active part in the process by asking questions, stepping out of your comfort zone, and staying positive. Remember to be kind and gracious to yourself as you learn and develop through these transitions.
Do make plans! What are the things you want to do? Who do you hope to meet? How do you want to grow? Thinking about these things can help us be more excited and prepared to take advantage of new opportunities that come with change. Use these plans more as general guidelines or suggestions so that you don’t miss out on experiences that may seem “off course”.
There’s a quote I really like that says, “Change is the only constant in life”. At the same time, change is the one of things we aren’t taught how to “do”. Because of this, I don’t think we maximize the full potential and power of change in our lives. The good news is that I do think that we can learn how to do this better and that while changes might still be hard or challenging, we will be able to navigate these transitions with greater skill, ease, and enthusiasm.
If your team is going through a big transition, try some of these activities to help facilitate the process:
Affirm the people in your group by letting them know the impact that they have had on you
*Meet the Author*
Caelan Cooney is the Program Coordinator for Leadership Inspirations and spends most of her time helping to create meaningful programming and content. She got her start in leadership as a high school DECA student, and went on to graduate from Chapman University with degrees in Business Management and Integrated Education. As a regular contributor to From the Balcony, her favorite topics to explore are personality theory, group development, and conflict management. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, rock climbing, and listening to podcasts.