Transform Your Identity: The Fifth Lesson to Make a Difficult Transition

Who have you been?

Who have you become?

Who are you willing to become?

Making a difficult transition will shape you in ways you didn’t expect.

This is the last post discussing the five lessons to make a difficult transition. In this post we discuss how, with the right attitude, we can leverage that turbulence to build our character and shape our identity to live 100% Alive. Follow this blog to be the first to read the new series on celebrating to live 100% Alive.

I have recently developed a new website that helps leaders, managers, employees, and entrepreneurs relax, refocus, and recharge to overcome their fears, frustrations, and failures. That’s a mouthful. 100%Alive works to help each of us transition through the difficulties of life to do what we never imagined to be possible. Notice how that isn’t just for our personal lives but also has a quick ROI in the workplace.

Difficult Transitions

Difficult transitions are those where we don’t want to leave the situation we are or were in. We were comfortable and didn’t want to change. However, we now have no choice.

The challenge of difficult transitions is that we either

  • a) get stuck and freeze, trying to stay in a situation that has passed,
  • b) blindly rush forward, making critical mistakes, or
  • c) act too cautiously because we are waiting for someone to show us the way.

The challenge in moving forward through a difficult transition is to transform your identity. This frightens many and it should as it a legitimate threat. As individuals, we wonder who we will be after the loss of a loved one? How will our public image change if we go through a divorce or lose a job? We wonder how we will survive, but more importantly, we wonder how it will change us. Despite the common sentiment of lottery winners, gains or losses do change us, and they should. If we have failed to change, we have failed to grow. That’s the value of difficult transitions. They allow us to grow into the person we want to be come.

Pivotal Thinking: Read it Today. Transform Your World

Difficult transitions force us to change in ways we don’t want.

As business professionals, difficult transitions cause us to wonder if we will have value in the next normal? Will be be obsolete, antiquated, and worthless? Will we pivot quickly enough to maintain our status? What will be our identity as things change radically and rapidly?

Think about the last major change you have encountered. It might have been the 2020 pandemic or in a previous job or relationship. The challenge in a difficult transition was that you didn’t want to change. You liked what you were doing but also who you were in that situation. You felt good about yourself. So leaving that situation is difficult.

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”

George Bernard Shaw

Two Difficult Transitions

I have recently made a difficult transition, leaving a group where I was a very active and valued member for 14 years. But the pandemic changed the organization and my value wasn’t what it was in 2019. As much as I would have liked things to stay the same, they weren’t. That left me three main choices.

a) I could have gotten angry and spent my time criticizing their actions. That doesn’t serve anyone. In the process I would have become the grumpy critic that no one wanted. That wasn’t the identity I desired.

b) I could have looked for or even begged for any role available. That too would have changed my identity.

c) I could leave and look for another opportunity. That was the one I chose, yet it was the hardest one to make because I so identified with the organization for so many years. I kept asking myself, “Who am I outside of this organization?” The answer came in a rather obvious, “duh” moment. “I am the same person I was, just working virtually rather than in that organization.”

I also had another more difficult transition where I had to ask the same three questions.

Leaving my role as department chair and professor at a college struck at the core of my identity. You see, I loved the identity of a college professor. When asked, “What do you do?” I beamed inside as I thought of taking others to their highest level of learning. I also valued the social status and collaboration with fellow faculty. I also intensely appreciated researching critical problems and providing a fresh perspective. Leaving was very difficult but, a transition that life dictates on occasion.

Again, 3 choices, all involve identity.

a) I could have found another fulltime teaching position which would have mean another major move.

b) I could have found part-time, adjunct teaching positions. The pay would have been less and the situation conditional, but I would have stayed in academia.

c) I could leave academia entirely and entered the business world. That was the biggest strike against my favored identity.

I chose the last one for economic reasons. Still fearing my loss of identity, I struggled with the label trainer. After all, we train dogs and educate people. I struggled with the label “sales” because of its self-centered implications. I didn’t see myself as a trainer or sales person.

I struggled with my identity until I found my value as an executive coach, guiding leaders to their highest level of opportunity. Notice that the labels often shape our identity. It wasn’t that I wasn’t a trainer or an effective sales person. I didn’t identify with the labels. Part of making the difficult transition is finding how to label ourselves in that new situation. For me, that came when I labeled myself as an executive coach. That might sound like it is splitting hairs, but it is important. The words we use shape how we see ourselves.

It took that difficult transition, to recognize how my value was similar but radically different. It took asking the three significant questions listed below.

3 Questions

Notice how each choice changes my

1. Who have I been?

2. Who have I become?

3. Who am I willing to become?

How are you willing to grow into your new identity?

Remember, many get stuck during difficult transitions. Don’t be one of them. Continually look to the future and choose how you will gladly pivot to your next, great opportunity.

As we conclude this series, follow this post to learn how we can live 100% alive by developing the habit of celebrating others and ourselves appropriately.




Loren Murfield, Ph.D.

I have transitioned several times in my adult life and have done many things that I once considered to be “impossible.” Today I am an Executive Coach – Author – Speaker – Filmmaker – Difference Maker developing aspiring and emerging leaders in their pivot to their breakthrough success.  Contact me today to begin your pivot.

Check out my story and learn about several difficult transitions that led to becoming a disruptive leader.

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