I have to pack up all my things again. I calculated the exact number of addresses I’ve had at some point, but I’ve since forgotten — somewhere in the high teens. When I was growing up, my parents and I moved every year because of dad’s job, and the pandemic has made college housing even more hectic than usual. But I like moving.
My parents were both military brats, so they grew up moving often too. My mom gets especially antsy when she’s in one place for too long. They’ve been in the same house since I was in 6th grade, and by the end of high school, there were days where I’d wake up to find the furniture in a different arrangement than the night before, and things would move again by the time I came home from school and again when I went downstairs for dinner.
When it comes it housing, we love change. That’s not to say it’s always easy. For one thing, it always seems to rain on moving day, even when we live in the desert. And sometimes it’s downright hard. I remember being so scared when my parents told me that we were moving across the country from Florida to California. I was terrified I wouldn’t be able to make any new friends.
Moving houses is just one of many big transitions most of us are bound to face over the course of our lives. In the work world, on average, people change jobs every 4.1 years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. So how can we seek to honor these inflection points and make them a positive experience for everyone involved?
Being a part of the Center for Positive Organizations has taught me a lot about how to approach change, both in the classroom and out. We learned about how one company, HopeLab, approaches transitions with appreciation and acceptance of all that comes with such large changes: “Transitions are just a part of life. They can be emotional experiences for the person who’s leaving, for the people who are staying, and approaching it with some awareness and some acknowledgement that those things are — they just are. And then continuing to cultivate the kind of community, the kind of organization, the kind of team that we all want to be a part of, even in the face of change and transition.”
When the people at HopeLab celebrated one of their team’s transition to a new career, they embraced the full range of emotions that people were feeling: “In any farewell, you have both the sadness of leaving and the joy of reflecting on the good times. You don’t want to ignore either.”
When we think of ways to positively frame transitions, we often think of the excitement of the new. I look forward to the challenge of experimenting to see which art pieces will go best on which wall in my new apartment. Figuring out how to arrange things is one of my favorite parts of being in a new place.
But there are other ways to appreciate change. One option is to implement rituals during moments of change that help you feel more grounded in familiarity. Whenever we moved, I knew to expect that my dad would carry my mom across the threshold of our new place on the first night, and we’d order a pizza as we sat on the floor, watching a movie downloaded on the laptop.
But my favorite part of moving might be the opportunity to reflect on the time I’ve spent in the place I’m leaving. I enjoy the process of sifting through memories as I pack up my belongings. It’s almost always a bittersweet process as I realize all the ways things have changed and I’ve grown.
For an experience to be positive in the way we mean when we’re talking about positive organizational scholarship, it doesn’t need to be happy. We’re looking to create organizations where people can bring their whole selves, and as the team member who left HopeLab says, “Being vulnerable is being willing to feel and express the whole range of emotions, be it joy and laughter to tears and sadness.” The flourishing and thriving we’re aiming for isn’t superficial — positive experiences and positive organizations are ones that are fulfilling and enlivening, with all the complexity that carries.
Alicia Haun is a content marketing intern at Riverbank Consulting Group. Alicia is a senior at the University of Michigan, where she also works with the Center for Positive Organizations at the Ross School of Business. Alicia is passionate about the field of positive organizational psychology and looks forward to helping work become a place of flourishing.