This question marks the first difference between change and transition, for the latter must start with letting go.
As we noted in “A Lifetime of Transitions,” we periodically reach the point where an attitude, a belief, a style of responding to challenges, a goal or a dream for the future, or an assumption about others—that served us well up to that time—simply isn’t what we need for the future.
A young parent assumes that “there will always be time” to make up to children for the mistakes he or she has made—but then comes the day when the children have become what they are, and no major revisions are possible. Mid-life adults may still be making the provisional commitments that served them well in their twenties, when it made sense to keep lots of options open. But at fifty, that same kind of provisional commitment costs them the significant relationships and the big-league career opportunities that send you into the second half of life with momentum and meaning.
Finding out what it is time to let go of often provides the way to initiate a transition meaningfully. Unfortunately, people are more likely to ask what new thing they can add to their lives. Even though they may get an interesting answer to that question, they won’t be able to use it to make a meaningful transition because people have to start with endings—letting go of whatever it is time to let go of—before they can make new beginnings. If they fail, they find that even “great ideas” and “really exciting possibilities” simply do not help them. So start with What is it time to let go of in my own life right now?
– From Transitions: Making Sense Of Life’s Changes