Actualization: The "final" stage in transitions

If you were asked, “What was the hardest, most challenging transition you’ve gone through in your life?” you’d probably know.

Maybe it was being seriously injured, going through a divorce, getting fired or restructured out of a job, the untimely death of a beloved, experiencing a traumatic event, hearing a shocking diagnosis, going through a divorce, declaring bankruptcy, becoming a parent, going through midlife, immigrating to a new country with a new language, changing careers, or something else that comes to mind.

And if I asked you, “What helped you get through it?” You could probably think of a couple of things that helped you.
What do you call that point, that stage, when you’ve completed a transition?
I’ve searched the English language for a term or phrase and have yet to discover it. Funny how each of us goes through transitions our entire lives yet there is no concept that captures this final phase, at least not in Western culture. In her book Finding Your Own North Star, life coach Martha Beck refers to this stage as “The Promised Land.” William Bridges, the educational consultant and thought leader who wrote Managing Transitions, offers a model with three stages: Endings, The Neutral Zone and Beginnings. What happens in between Beginnings and the next Ending?

So for now, I will call the stage when we reach our new fulfillment or the completion of a transition “Actualization”. The definition of actualization is: to make actual, to realize, to turn into action or fact.

Actualization applies to every kind of transition: career, home/residence, relationships, family, school/work, health, lifestyle, and money/finances. Arriving at actualization is cause for celebration and acknowledgment. We left our Old Fulfillment, sometimes not by choice or when we were not ready to leave. We moved through the stages of Death, The Unknown, and Rebirth, through the Visioning stage, and Stepping stage until we are here. Celebrate that you are here! Appreciate what you have done to get here!

photo credit: Greg Rakozy on unsplash

photo credit: Greg Rakozy on unsplash

Reaching Actualization is a personal growth accomplishment and teaches us (or reveals to us) a lot about ourselves. Here are some things we might learn in the process:

  • What we are ready to let go of — people, ideas, beliefs, habits, things, dreams — and not yet ready to let go of,
  • How we manage the negative self-talk and self-limiting beliefs of our inner Saboteur, and the external Saboteurs in our life,
  • The experience of a range of emotions, perhaps with an intensity we have not felt before,
  • How we grieve loss(es),
  • How we manage pain and discomfort, what are our go-to’s and what is most helpful,
  • How we deal with uncertainty and anxiety when faced with the Unknown,
  • What gives us meaning and purpose in this transition,
  • How we make decisions and choices,
  • What we prioritize to realize our dreams, goals, and actions,
  • How we experience being a Beginner again,
  • What we imagine for our new fulfillment in the Visioning stage,
  • What strategies help us to take uncomfortable actions, especially in the Stepping stage,
  • Our most effective strategies and tools to plan, organize and prepare taking (new) action,
  • How comfortable we are celebrating the steps we’ve taken and our personal growth during this transition, and
  • What helps us stay grounded and in good health during transitions, and what doesn’t.

Clearly, transitions are an opportunity to learn big life lessons. Even more than that though, as we do the personal growth work, the transition can be a transcendent peak experience. Our perspective shifts and we are not the same person as when we left our Old Fulfillment. Reaching the stage of Actualization grows our resilience, self-confidence and wisdom.

“I’ve learned that our background and circumstance may influence who we are, but we are responsible for who we become.”

actress Lupita Nyong’o 

Be patient. Getting to this final stage of Actualization usually takes longer than we like.
It usually takes years to go from Old Fulfillment to reach Actualization. We want it to go by fast and get “there” quickly, but it takes time and energy: to realize that we have to leave our Old Fulfillment, to grieve and let go, to re-birth and re-invent ourselves, to dream anew, to take steps out of our comfort zone, to understand our fears and (self-)limiting beliefs, to learn how get out of our own way. Giving ourselves permission to take the time, space and energy needed is important.

It’s not really the final stage. Actualization will eventually become Old Fulfillment.
It may be weeks, months, maybe years, and then one day we can find ourselves edging or careening towards Old Fulfillment. Like a perpetual helix, we engage with the next stage of the transition process. That is the nature of change, it is a constant. And this time, we have lived experience to guide us.

photo credit: Ross Findon on unsplash

photo credit: Ross Findon on unsplash

14 Tips for the Actualization stage:

1. Celebrate your personal growth, strength and courage.
2. Stay open to opportunities that will continue to grow you and your confidence.
3. Explore your relationship to change.
4. Reflect on your learning, success, and accomplishment of moving through this transition.
5. Practice abundance and generosity of self. Offer your attention and support. Donate time or money.
6. Lead, mentor and share your knowledge with others. Explore ways to impart your experience, people want it. Read about what makes mentorship work.
7. Update your vision list, vision story, or vision board. Or create a new one!
8. Review your dreams and goals, and set new ones that continue to inspire and challenge you.
9. Embody inner peace, every day.
10. Express gratitude, including to everyone who supported you during this transition.
11. Evaluate what worked, and what didn’t work, what you would do again, and what you would do differently for future transitions.
12. Explore your relationship(s) to Money, Work, Leisure, or whatever else feels out of balance for you.
13. Take time to process your experiences and thoughts about aging, death, dying, and grief. The Invitation: Rich and Raw Interviews about Aging, Death and Dying has a chapter with engaging questions and creative ideas.
14. Practice Core Values: Gratitude, Generosity, and Leadership.