A View from the Chair

Change management cartoon. Cartoon image © cartoonresource

Most of us do not enjoy change. It is uncomfortable, challenging, and often aggravating. We go to great lengths to avoid or counteract change in both our personal and professional lives.

As physicians and healthcare workers, we work to prevent, slow or lessen the effects of the changes – aging, illness and death – that come with the passing of time.

While we may be more skilled in fighting change than most, we may also be less skilled in embracing change.

Moreover, as a society we crave stability yet live in times of uncertainties like market volatility, natural disasters and political instability.  

As we head into a new year and start a new chapter as a department, I would like us to think about how we can respond to these challenges and changes by seeking opportunities to make the most of each phase of this transition period.

“Transition always starts with an ending. To become something else, you have to stop being what you are now; to start doing things a new way, you have to end the way you are doing them now; and to develop a new attitude or outlook, you have to let go of the old.”
-William Bridges, author

Bridges says that change is situational while transitions are psychological.

Fear of change cartoon. Copyright 2007 Dan Savage.

Transition is the inner reorientation and self-redefinition that we have to go through in order to incorporate any change into our lives. Unless transition happens, the change will not work, because it does not “take.”

Without a transition, a change is just a rearrangement of the furniture.

He describes a three-phase process: Ending/losing, letting go (a neutral zone), and a new beginning.

As we transition towards the new comfortable norm, we pass a neutral zone that is exceedingly uncomfortable and uncertain but also exciting and creative. His premise is that this is where the growth happens, both for individuals and organizations.

Trying to avoid the neutral zone or passing through it too quickly is a lost opportunity.

I encourage you join me in accepting and embracing change as we go through this period of transition.

Let’s ask ourselves: Are we making the most of the transition? Are we missing an opportunity for improvement because of discomfort? What kind of colleague/physician/mentor/trainee do we want to be and is there unrealized potential we can now act upon?

I thank you for your courage and openness and wish you all a happy holiday season.


William Bridges is the author of several books on transitions, including “Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes”, “The Way of Transition: Embracing Life’s Most Difficult Moments” and
“Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change.”