[INTERVIEW] Duncan Morris, 'How I personally managed transition'

Talking with Counsellor, Mentor and Business Coach Duncan Morris


If you are a keen observer of nature, you will know that transition is part of the natural order of things. We call the transition between day and night ‘twilight'; the transition between summer and winter we call ‘autumn' or ‘fall'; the transition between being a child and being an adult we term ‘adolescence'.

Transition is the movement between the old and the new, sometimes swift but more frequently transition is slow and even painful. It is for this reason that we can experience transitions as stressful and disorientating. When you are experiencing a transition in your life or even considering a transition, it is easy to doubt the decision you made to leave the ‘old'.

Hearing the experience of others who have made significant transitions and how they have coped and adjusted is necessary for encouragement and motivation. In this blog, Jessica Morris interviews Counsellor, Mentor and Business Coach Duncan Morris about the transition he is presently experiencing, how he copes with the inevitable changes and the positive outcomes for his health and wellbeing.

JM: Having made the decision to transfer from management to counselling, can you tell us what motivated you to make the change?

DM: Having been in senior management for 10 years, the last four in the public service, I became aware that my personal values were not only being challenged, but my work/life balance was nil. I was either at work, or thinking about work constantly. In addition, my role in management had grown enormously- 10 fold in fact. I realised my job was too big for me. After struggling with this for some time, I was faced with the fact that I needed to assess my career and lifestyle choices.

JM: Can you tell us about the risks involved in making this transition?

DM: When considering the need to be true to my values and gain a better work/life balance for the sake of my physical, emotional and mental health, and my family relationships, I asked myself what I really wanted to do with my life. I loved working with people, and initially trained as a social worker with the aim of being a counsellor. However following graduation, I walked into a management position and continued to climb the ladder of success. Now after so many years working in this sector I was needing to assess the risks to me leaving a well paid secure position and the status that has become important to me.

Risks I considered were how my reputation and identity would be impacted in the professional world that I had been a part of for so long. Financially, I was on a good salary and did not have to worry about expenses, yet the idea of transitioning from this position would mean there would be literally no guarantee of an income in the future. The means by which we would now pay for expenses and costs like our mortgage would be up in the air, and I was unsure as to how my family would react to my decision to go from a secure and well paid position to an uncertain future. I had no certainty of actually having clients and to top it all off, it had become evident that I was pretty burnt out. What if I didn’t have the physical capacity to start and sustain my own private practice due to this?

JM: In spite of these huge, and often life changing risks, there were also benefits involved in this change. Can you tell us about them?

DM: I would be able to set my own workload and therefore better care for myself physically, emotionally and mentally. I would no longer have to be involved in the politics and bureaucracy of the workplace in a large organisation. I would be able to work one on one with people; this has really energised me in this transition. In addition I would have opportunity to be more positive and proactive about my wellbeing and family relationships. I would be able to sustain them in a healthy manner. Ultimately, these benefits far outweighed the risks involved in moving from a secure job in senior management to that of a private practitioner.

JM: What has changed since you made the transition?

DM: I made the move, and I am more relaxed around home and the house now and my health is improving. In many ways, the roles have been reversed in our household and my wife has become the major bread winner. She has been supporting me financially and I’ve been making a conscious effort to do things around the house that I took for granted previously. I’ve handed the finances back to my wife as well, and she is far stricter than I was. However, this is very much needed due to our new financial circumstances. I am much more aware of money I spend because we now need to be able to survive as a family on our new budget. In terms of family relationships, I’ve had the opportunity to spend more time with my daughters, and this has allowed me to cultivate a deeper relationship with them. They often tell me that I am happier now and have more energy. A special privilege has been that I have been able to support my mother in a more intentional manner as her husband and my father died earlier this year. I simply would not have had the time or the energy had I remained in my previous managerial role.

JM: Lastly, after making this difficult transition yourself, what advice would you have for others going through, or considering a similar change?

DM: If you, like me, have been considering making a transition in your life, I encourage you to be true to yourself. Know yourself and your needs so you can be healthy and happy. Ascertain what your personal values are in the work environment and in life, and determine what is important to you as a person and in your work life. Create a support network around you; not just in your family relationships but also in the form of professional support. I meet with two different mentors who work in the business sector and they have helped me to work through the transition.

Any transition is difficult, and the changing circumstances of the past 4 months have been challenging for both myself and my family. My safety net is that I have the skills and abilities to get a financially secure job should it be required. To date that has not been required, as a family we are doing well with what we have. I am getting healthier and am enjoying life far more than I used to. Ultimately, I get to do what I enjoy the most: work one on one with people. In doing this, I am fulfilling the intentions I had when entering this industry 20 years ago.