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Over the past two to three years, there is no doubt you’ve been through a tremendous amount of change. The pandemic transformed the way we lived and worked. From career security to The Great Resignation, many of us were provided with plenty of opportunities for reflection. You went from working live to virtual and saw family and friends change careers, move from their homes (even total relocations), and pick up hobbies they’ve dreamed about for years.

As a financial services professional, you’re often the Gandalf of change in your clients' lives. Their financial goals and situations may have varied during their own transitions. Whether they were affected by the big shift to technology in the workplace or stock market shifts, or are worried about the recession, you’re the guide and sounding board they need while they navigate their personal and career transitions. 

Change takes place in many forms—whether they’re combining assets when committing to a new relationship, welcoming a baby, or taking the next step in their career. However, something you may not consider is the importance of the transition that takes place within yourself in order to stay aligned with your pursuit of purpose. Understanding the difference between the two is crucial so that your mindset can catch up with the world around you and you get fired up for new beginnings.

The Difference Between Change vs. Transition

It’s not uncommon for you to hear people talk about change and transition like they mean the same thing. Transitioning your parents to a retirement home involves a deep inner process that may take both you and them longer to embrace than the actual physical change of their home and lifestyle that takes place. It can provide a change in your client’s financial outlook as well as the mental transition for them to get used to becoming the caretaker for their parents.

Change is a specific event that you can point to—the day you lost your job, the day your significant other moved in, when you started a new career, or when you began planning for your own succession. But focusing on the change isn’t what will align you with your purpose going forward. You must go through the stages of transition and the psychological process to adapt to long-term change. Whether you’re going through this yourself or guiding your clients through it, this perspective is crucial for sustainable growth in the right direction.

“Change is situational. Transition, on the other hand, is psychological. It is not those events, but rather the inner reorientation or self-redefinition that you have to go through in order to incorporate any of those changes into your life. Without transition, a change is just a rearrangement of the furniture. Unless transition happens, the change won’t work, because it doesn’t take.” – William Bridges

The Stages of Transition

When you’re going through a transition, it’s the process of moving from your old way of thinking or living to a new set of experiences caused by change. There are several types of transitions you may go through, such as: 

  • Personal - becoming an empty nester, beginning the divorce process, moving homes or even communities
  • Physical - a change in your diet or dealing with an unexpected illness
  • Work - you’re retiring, pivoting your career, or adapting to a technology-focused world

Whether you’re going through a transition yourself or spearheading a change for your family or colleagues, it’ll be much easier if you take the time to embrace the stages so you can recognize the best way to approach what’s to come. 

Stage One: Letting Go

A transition doesn’t happen in a neat, straight line. Think of it like a messy squiggle that loops forward and back while you navigate new emotions, thought processes, and realizations of who you’ll become in the process to support your next chapter. You may be surprised to learn that the beginning of your transition starts with the end - the end of something in your life. 

This can happen in two ways - internally, like many financial services professionals often face during a mid-life reflection, or from an external kick, such as an upcoming retirement. It’s not uncommon to go through phases of denial and a rollercoaster of emotions during this initial stage. 

In order to combat objections and resistance, you’ll want to foster support and give yourself time to adjust to the new information you’re presented with and take it slow. Whether you’re in this stage or guiding a client through it, the key is not to rush. Reflection and communication at your own pace can help softly move you into the next stage, which can feel a little awkward. 

Stage Two: The Awkward Middle

The Modern Elder Academy refers to the technical term for this stage as being liminal or in liminal space. This means you’re at the threshold related to the transitional phase in your process. What does that look like?

Well, for some, it’s the messy part of the divorce process when you’re not yet single but not married, either. It can be the quiet weeks before you get that new job or launch your business. It’s when you’re not exactly where you’re meant to be, but you’re on your way, which sometimes feels a little uncomfortable.

This can be incredibly daunting for financial services professionals opening their own firms. You’ve suddenly shifted from the comfortable role you’re confident in to wearing more hats and focusing on other business tactics. Learning to embrace the transition and commit to a path of ongoing learning is the key to becoming the person you’re meant to be. Falling in step with your journey instead of being frustrated you can’t skip a few chapters to get to your end goals is the key to fulfillment during this time. 

“A lot of people resist transition and therefore never allow themselves to enjoy who they are. Embrace the change, no matter what it is; once you do, you can learn about the new world you’re in and take advantage of it.” – Nikki Giovanni

Stage Three: New Beginnings and Excitement 

Stage three is when you’ll feel a fire light from within and have a new energy about leaning in on what’s to come. After finding clarity in your unique situation, you’ll be more confident about taking action. Not only did your circumstances change, but you’ve undergone an internal transition that will only enhance your experiences moving forward.

You’ll begin to find your flow, both in your personal and professional endeavors. The key to reaching this stage successfully and sustainably is allowing yourself to meet yourself where you’re at throughout the process and allowing for an adjustment to get comfortable with the unknown. The other side of the unknown is where all your goals come to fruition.

What seasons of change, transition, and the unknown have you navigated over the past 2-3 years? Many financial services professionals have seen the effect on both their professional and personal life, including:


  • Age, fitness, and health
  • A limited number of moves left
  • Decisions increasingly consequential
  • Legacy and orality are profound and urgent
  • Entertainment and fun
  • Family and friends
  • Financial
  • Love
  • Physical office environment
  • Self/personal development


  • Branding
  • Commission/Fee for service
  • Compliance and licensing
  • Information and time management
  • Leadership
  • Marketing and sales - live to virtual
  • Office environment
  • Products and services
  • Technology and equipment
  • Team structures
  • Succession
  • Vision, mission, and purpose

Understanding transition gives you the wisdom to clarify your purpose, and your why, make course corrections, get things wrong, experience doubt, build experience, recognize wins, celebrate milestones, and manage your narrative towards a purposeful growth mindset.

“To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.” – Henri Bergson

Are you ready to move past the complications of change and embrace the journey of a transition? You don’t have to do it on your own. At Leading Advisor, we help you navigate through your awkward middle and streamline the process that allows you to make your way to new beginnings with strategy, support, and guidance. Contact us to find out more about how we help financial services professionals transition to the peak of their careers.

Simon Reilly is a consultant, speaker, and author with Leading Advisor and a contributing columnist for Advisor Today.

For more insights from Simon about financial advising during times of economic uncertainty, read his article How To Prepare and Cope With Conversations About a Recession.



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