When Is It Time to Transition?

Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots retired this week. He’s 29 years old. He chose this time to transition to something new.

Some transitions are easy for me. I only had one time where I stayed at a job too long. I bought the health insurance for our family, so I stayed for the insurance. My other jobs? It was clear to me when it was time to leave.

Deciding what else to offer in my consulting business and what to stop doing? Not so difficult for me.

Other transition decisions? Eh, those other decisions might not be so easy for me. Here are the questions I ask myself:

  • Am I still physically capable of doing this work? (Gronkowski has had many injuries. I choose to travel to fewer conferences to manage my vertigo.)
  • Does this thing still make sense for my life or my work? (Using a modem to connect to the internet no longer makes sense. It no longer fits what I need to accomplish what I want to accomplish.)
  • Is this activity still intellectually challenging? (I don’t want to do something that bores me.)
  • Does this activity feed my soul? For me, feeding my soul might fulfill my need to belong to a community, my need to learn, or my need to have fun with my work.

You might have different questions. I recommend you create questions that address your physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual needs in some way.

I tend to assume that things will just keep going the way they have been. Sometimes, I need something to wake me up to know I need to ask these questions.

Once I know that I need to make a transition, I can ask “what next” questions—the questions about my options:

  • Is there a way to modify what I did before so I can do something like that now?
  • Is there something else I want to take the place of the thing I did before?
  • What do I want to achieve? Maybe I can go backward from what I want, so I can see my alternatives.

I’m much better at generating options than I sometimes am at knowing when it’s time to transition to something new. Especially if that transition will change my entire life.

Very few of us have to transition the way Gronk is transitioning now. He is changing his entire life. He will make all kinds of choices—at least, for now—about the way he lives his entire life. Not just his work.

When we take everything into account—our physicality, our intellectual, emotional, and spiritual lives—we might discover we can choose a transition time easier. Sometimes, the transition becomes “obvious.” Sometimes, I don’t want the transition. However, when I start to gather data, it’s clear I need to choose again. Then the what next questions make sense.

That, adaptable readers and leaders, is the question this week: When is it time to transition?

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