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The Season of Change and Transition

By Taunya Marie Tinsley, Ph.D., NCC, LPC 

Are you seeing signs of fall in the air?
Do you welcome or dread the fall season?
How do you handle the change of seasons?

The months of August and September represent a time of change and transition.  It is during these months that we begin the transition from summer to fall, where the weather begins to change from hot to brisk.  The leaves on the trees begin to change their colors from green to beautiful shades of orange, red, yellow and brown.  The birds also begin their trek, migrating to warmer and sunnier climates.  Students go back to school.  And of course, football season begins!

It is also during the months of August and September where individuals begin another cycle of change and transition in their lives, from one season to another.  In her book, The Seasons of Change: Using Nature’s Wisdom to Grow Through Life’s Inevitable Ups and Downs, Carol L. McClelland describes one’s personal change and transition metaphorically using the seasons of winter, spring, summer and fall.  The fall season “represents a time when shifts occur indicating that, in some way, life is changing – possibly even in ways you weren’t anticipating or wanting.  As a result, you begin [or should begin] to prepare for what’s to come (p. 48).

Schlossberg (1981, p.5) defined a transition as “an event or nonevent that results in a change in assumptions about oneself and the world and thus requires a corresponding change in one’s behavior and relationships.”  Transitions, whether positive or negative, can be accelerated by events such as a change in physical context, change in relationships, routines, assumption as well as taking on a new role or physiological changes.  “Moving through a transition requires letting go of aspects of the self, letting go of former roles, and learning new ones (Anderson, Goodman, & Schlossberg, 2012, p. 39).  Moving through the season of change and transition can often cause confusion that can have an impact on one’s ability to focus, work, play and love.

McClelland (1998) provides five questions to consider for determining how the changes you’re experiencing came about:

  1. Did you initiate the change yourself, or was it forced upon you?
  2. Did you know the change was coming, or was it unexpected?
  3. Do you think the change you’re going through is good or bad?
  4. Is this change timely and in sync with the normal pattern of your life, or is it untimely and out of sync?
  5. Are you making a decision or taking action?

Some of these changes include predictable and anticipated life events, both athletic and non-athletic; unpredictable, unanticipated, and involuntary life events, both athletic and non-athletic; and nonevent transitions, both athletic and nonathletic. Examples of changes may include, but are not limited to, ending a relationship, divorce, declining fame, dealing with physical injury, reoccurring health problems, experiencing a physical death, moving to a new city, marriage, financial issues, academic or vocational issues, having a child, playing for a new coach and/or with a new team, being cut from a job or team, or retirement from work or sports.  Whatever the change you are experiencing in this season, all change and transition require us to take a journey, a journey of growth, which every human being must experience to become wiser and whole. 

Although your reactions to transitions change over time, you can still experience feelings of grief and loss as you leave familiar roles and try to develop new roles.  Kay and Schlossberg (2010) suggest that you assess, evaluate and strengthen your 4’s to master the season of change and transition:

  1. Situation – What is going on in your life at the time of change?  How do you see the transition?  As you contemplate making a change or weathering a change, think about the situation.  Is it positive or negative; predictable and anticipated; or unexpected, unpredictable, or involuntary?  Are you dealing with more than one life event?  Have you had previous experiences with similar transitions?  It may help to think of ways you can seek advice, negotiate, take optimistic action, and assert yourself.  Try to see a positive outcome to the transition or reframe the transition by viewing it in a different way.
  2. Self – Who are you?  How well do you know yourself?  What are your internal resources for dealing with change?  Do you have the inner strength to deal with it?  Do you feel overwhelmed or challenged?  Do you have an optimistic outlook?  It may help to see yourself in a different light.  Understand that feelings of grief, loss, sadness, or anger are normal and transitions take time to integrate.  Also, view the transition as strengthening your ability to cope as well as practice affirming yourself.
  3. Supports – What help do you have from others? Do you have the external resources and support to deal with change?  Do you have support from family, close friends, teammates, and/or co-workers?  Do you have support networks in your community and on the job?  Is there a match between what you need and what you have?  It may help to think about what you need and how you can get it.  Also, practice asking for support, it gets easier.
  4. Strategies – How do you cope?  Do you know when to take direct action or when to refrain? Do you have the abilities to utilize a variety of coping strategies?  Can you change the way you view the transition?  How do you manage your reactions to the transition?  To strengthen your strategies, it may help to review your strategies and coping skills.  Determine what is working and identify new strategies and skills that may assist you during your transition.  Whether or not the transition is one we want, all change and transitions require time for adjustment.  Additionally, because everyone’s transition is unique, each person’s strategy for working through change may be different.

The change in seasons from summer to fall is inevitable and is a natural progression, one we cannot control, as it is with life changes and transitions.  Just as you navigate, maneuver and plan accordingly to transition successfully from one season to the next, you need to plan accordingly to navigate and maneuver through life’s transitions, which will increase your potential for growth, increase your happiness, and increase your total health and wellness.  Furthermore, planning, and developing strategies, for transitions will allow you to have a good chance of success during your season of change! Have a great fall season!


Anderson, M. L., Goodman, J., & Schlossberg, N. K. (2012). Counseling adults in transition: Linking Schlossberg’s theory with practice in a diverse world (4th ed.). New York: Springer Publishing Company.

McClelland, C. L. (1998). The seasons of change: Using Nature’s wisdom to grow through life’s inevitable ups and downs. Berkeley, CA:  Conari Press.

Schlossberg, N. K. (1981). A model for analyzing human adaptation to transition. The Counseling Psychologist, 9(2), 2-18.

Schlossberg, N. K., & Kay, S. (2010).  Transition guide: A new way to think about change. Rockville, MD: TransitionWorks, Inc.

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