the shape of leadership

Five Keys to Successful Transitions

Graduate gracefully from one season to the next

All of us experience transitions at various stages of life. Whether it’s graduating from school, beginning a new ministry position, moving to a new city, starting a family or entering the twilight years, life is full of seasons.

How do we transition successfully from one season to the next? I believe there are five keys to navigating change well:

1. Focus on your to not just your from. In times of transition, it’s easy to focus on the thing we’re leaving rather than the place God has called us to go. We fixate on what we’ll lose rather than looking ahead to we’ll gain. But transitions imply entering a new season. If you don’t clarify your to, you’ll spend your life living in the rearview mirror.

Joshua understood this when he transitioned the Israelites into the Promised Land.

After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: ‘Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them — to the Israelites’” (Joshua 1:1-2). Joshua kept a forward focus and didn’t let the familiarity of yesterday get in the way of the future.

2. Develop the master skill. Authors James Kouzes and Barry Posner call learning “the master skill.” While we graduate school, we must never graduate learning. Being a lifelong learner is what makes you relevant today and helps you make transitions into new seasons of life.

Philosopher Eric Hoffer once said, “In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.”

If you stop learning in your current season, you won’t be prepared for your next season. Jesus modeled a learning attitude during His transition into adulthood. Luke 2:52 says, “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.”

We must remember that learning has a ripple effect. Learning is the skill that makes all other skills possible. 

3. Cultivate the right perspective. James 1:2-3 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.

Lean on the Lord, placing your full trust in Him as you exit one season and enter a new one.

The only people who consider trouble “pure joy” are those who have adopted a mature perspective. Perspective helps you see transition with new eyes and fresh understanding.

In our culture today, it’s especially important to have the right perspective on seasons of success and seasons of failure. Without the right perspective, success will go to your head and failure will go to your heart. One will inflate your self-confidence, and the other will deflate your self-worth.

Our perspective toward success must be one of celebration and humility. Our perspective toward failure must be one of reflection and learning.

4. Lean in to healthy relationships. Author and pastor Rob Ketterling once wrote, “Our relational circle has an effect on the direction and speed of our lives.”

Seasons of transition help reveal the influence and impact of our relational circle. The apostle Paul tells us, “Bad company corrupts good character” (1 Corinthians 15:33). The opposite is also true: good company builds good character.

With whom are you spending time, and how often? The company you keep will play a role in determining the direction of your life. How often you hang around these individuals will help determine the speed of your life. The key is to make sure you’ve built healthy relationships before transitions come so you can lean in to those relationships when you most need them.

5. Trust in God. It’s in moments of transition that God often does His finest work in our lives. Why? Because that’s when we learn to trust Him the most. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

The word “trust” in that passage refers to full submission to God, and the phrase “lean not on your own understanding” means we refuse to prop ourselves up with our own wisdom.

When Solomon said, “in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight,” he was assuring us that God’s path becomes clear when we seek Him. Simply put, Solomon is saying, “Rather than propping yourself up with the flimsiness of your own understanding, submit to God and seek after God, because when you do, the right path will become clear.”

During seasons of transition, your wisdom will not suffice. You must lean on the Lord, placing your full trust in Him as you exit one season and enter a new one.

Transitions are unpredictable and often unsettling, but these five keys will help you move from one season to the next with a greater sense of confidence, peace and preparedness for what the Lord wants to do next.

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