Susan Riley | July 2014

How to Transition like an Artist

Are you in the middle of a transition in your life?

Maybe it’s moving from one school to another, or finding out that you are moving from a classroom to a cart (eek!), or maybe it’s a personal shift in your relationships.  For the first time in my career, I am noticing more people in my life are transitioning than ever before.  Some of my friends are changing positions in their districts, some are struggling to determine if they are where they truly belong in their lives, and my EdCloset team are all in the middle of shifts.  Not to mention that I just went through a pretty big transition myself.

Watching all of these shifts going on simultaneously has been so interesting and insightful.  I think that when you watch someone moving on to something new, you can learn a lot about the importance of that experience.  When you have the opportunity to watch and participate in that process with many people at the same time, the reflection becomes even richer.

In Deirdre’s post last week, she discussed that the art of transition lies in what’s between the bookends of the act for an artist.  Without a thoughtful process of transition, the entire scene becomes choppy and feels as though the moment has been wasted.  I believe the same is true of any transition in our lives.  It’s not what’s on either side of the experience that matters – it’s how we manage the movement in between that determines the success of the outcome.  If you are undergoing some change this year, I encourage you to think about it from a new perspective: embracing the process rather than worrying about the ending.  Here’s a few tips on how to manage the transition in your life like an artist:

1. Consider your present from outside yourself.

When an actor is about to shift their character, the actor doesn’t become emotionally involved.  They look objectively at how their character has moved as a part of the cast thus far and what part of their character needs to grow and evolve.  The same is true for us.  So often, we are emotionally charged about our current situation (as we have every right to be) and make decisions about our future steps while swimming in that emotion.  While your feelings are a part of any shift, don’t let them determine how you’ll move from one place to the next.

2. Reflect on your WHY.

Before any artist creates a new composition, they think about why they want to express themselves in this way in the first place.  Maybe they want to try a new technique, or maybe they are moved by something they experienced and want to share that experience in a specific manner.  Whatever the case may be, they are reflective.  Before jumping into your new future, think about your core “why” so that you choose a pathway that will address the real issue, rather than act as a bandaid.

3. Visualize where you want to be.

When an artist creates, they may not know exactly where they will end up, but they have a pretty good idea of the concept they are trying to achieve.  It may take many different turns along the way than are unexpected, but they begin their movement with the end in mind.  As you prepare for your shift, imagine how you’ll feel when you hit that “sweet spot” and know you’ve made it through the transition.  Or think about the top 3 values or conditions that are critical for your next stop on the journey.  This will make your transition from one part of the stage to the next much more fluid.

4. Embrace the journey.

I think this one is my favorite.  Someone once told me that you can either spend your time worrying about it or you can spend you time working through it, but you can’t do both.  There is joy in working through the transition and putting as much of your energy into the process of getting somewhere as there is in getting to completed showcase.  There is also heartache and frustration and anger and excitement.  Embrace it all and enjoy the surprises along the way.  This is a time of renewal for you and your journey – participate in it’s unfolding!

Have you gone through (ore are you going through) a transition?  How did you move through it?  

About the Author

Susan Riley is the founder and CEO of The Institute for Arts Integration and STEAM. She focuses on teacher professional development in arts integration, STEAM, 21st century learning skills, and technology. She is also a published author and frequent presenter at national conferences on Arts Integration and STEAM education. Susan holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and a Master of Science in Education Administration from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. She lives in Westminster, MD with her husband and daughter. Email Susan