The three terms, change, transition, transformation provide us with a clear sense of how permanent change happens.

It is easy to change and then revert back to old habits. This happens a lot during weight loss (for example) but real change only happens when what has been changed becomes a permanent presence in our life. This is why I stopped focusing on dieting and started to focus on lifestyle changes. By changing my lifestyle I know I can achieve permanent results with my weight loss.

So what is the difference between change, transition and transformation? Here is my take on it all.

Change happens to us externally.

As we recognise something needs to change it means the ending of something and the beginning of something new. For example resigning from your current job means (hopefully) you have a new job to go to when you leave. Change can happen in a matter of hours or days. You can change your mind about what clothes to wear and wear something different that day.

Some of us have a harder time changing than others. I love change and will often change round the furniture in my room, change my working schedule, change my hair. More difficult change might be changing a circle of friends, changing jobs, deciding to leave a relationship. Change can fill you with excitement or with fear.

Transition involves our internal emotions.

It includes how we handle change and how we emotionally process any change that is happening. Two people may be made redundant. One may freak out and become unhappy, the other may see it as a challenge to find a better job. Two people experience the same event but how they handle this event is what makes a difference.

For the purposes of changing our life when I work with clients I see transition as the period between deciding to change and making a change. For example when I decided to give up eating meat every day I went through a transition period as I learnt new recipes and cooked new foods.

Transition takes a lot longer than change. It can take years to make permanent change happen and it is important to be okay with that – otherwise it becomes easy to give up. For example building my self-confidence in my 20s took me at least 10-15 years to complete. Going from being socially awkward to enjoying social events took several years.

Transformation is the end result of long-term change.

Using my example of giving up eating meat every day. Now I can cook a plant-based meal four or five times a week without having to think about what I need to cook or the ingredients I need. They are already in my cupboard and fridge as part of my new healthier lifestyle.

So if change is deciding to give up eating meat daily, transition is learning what to cook instead of meat and transformation is when I can cook meals without having to consciously think about what needs to be done and what ingredients I need.

This is how I see the difference between change, transition and transformation.

Helping women go from change to transformation

I use this example of the difference between change, transition and transformation with my life coaching clients to help them understand the process we go through when we change.

Sometimes it is really straight forward and we go from wanting life to be different to changing it but many times, and for many of us, change is an up and down, round and round, one step forward and four steps backwards type process. It doesn’t go in a straight line but instead it takes us on a journey as we figure out why we do the things we do and why we want to change them.