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A Guide to Defining Transition, Transformation, and Change

Clients often ask me the difference between Transition, Transformation, and Change. Counseling and Coaching can help with all of these. What really matters at the end of the day is how you define these concepts according to how you want your life to be different from what it is right now. Because your definitions are particular to your story, your life, your world, your relationships.

To give you some architecture and guidance in getting super clear about what these concepts mean to you, below are some thoughts to re-engage your spirit in the sense of wonder about what Transition, Transformation, and Change mean to you.

Transition is the word that describes a concrete shift or move from one set of circumstances to another:

married to single

unemployed to successful career professional

this career to that

this house/locale to a new one

financial debt to financial freedom

sad to happy

scared and stuck to brave and risk-taking

edge of the diving board to the deep end of the pool

surviving to thriving


Transformation is the word that describes the energetic shifts, which both supports transition, and occurs as a result of transition. Transformation and transistion are a dialectic, which means that change happens as a result of both what you do to cultivate transformation and as a result of the Transition happening itself.

We must transform in order to transition, as much as we transform because of transition.

As you evolve through your transition, you are both transforming as a result, and working to transform at the same time. Transformation is the tail on your kite, the rudder on your boat, the beat in your heart, keen sensitivity to your spirit, your wonder, and your resiliency. Without it, transitions you're attempting to evolve through in your life can be neither authentic nor sustainable.

And Change is the word we use to describe the Big Stuff that happens when transition and transformation dance together. Change is evolution, it's the exciting, heart-racing, life-living, moving forward, growing deeper, getting closer to ourselves and our belonging that we're all here to do and be. We are changed when we have fully engaged in the process of transformation that supports our good, brave work in attempting to move through a transition in our lives.

Imagine an enormous iceberg. Most of an iceberg lives beneath the surface of the water and the rest of it lives above. Transition, or the concrete shifts in circumstances we're trying for, are the visible part of the iceberg - whatever is above the water. Transformation and change are the deeper, inner, underneath-er parts that exist below the surface. This metaphor works to help you really determine what's happening on a transformational and change-level already. Just take a look at what your life looks like right now, above the water, the part you can see. Whatever's there is a result of whatever you've got going on beneath the water. Because our above the water stuff is always a result of below the water stuff. So if you try to cultivate above the water shifts without below the water shifts, transition will be neither authentic nor sustainable.

If we believe change happens in the now, here's how to get present about the above:

1. Conjure up all the courage and bravery you can to look at your iceberg above the water and imagine what it suggests about what's below the water. (You can do it, I am with you!)

2. Be a deep diver and make one change. Right now, pause in your day and decide one below-the-water deed you can do differently that may cause an above the water shift in your present moment.

3. Share your story in the comments below.

© Haley Kliefoth 2016

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