"Change, like a wedding or retirement, is  a singular event; transition, like the marriage or the rest of your life, is an ongoing process of adapting, inner transforming  and learning."

 

"In the middle of the road of my life I awoke in a dark wood where the true way was wholly lost."

- Dante  

 

"Life is much too short to stay stuck in the doldrums for very long."

 

"To your kids, it's a big deal that you are getting divorced, but how you get divorced is even more important.  Parents get divorced, but kids don't -- they need a healthy connection with both mom and dad."

 

"Life is like a 10 speed bike.  Most of us have gears we never use."

-Charles Schultz  

 

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"

- Mary Oliver

 

"The idea is to die young as late as possible."

- Ashley Montague

 

"Perhaps your life is filled with secret possibilities you never imagined."

- Robert Fritz  

 

"I was going to stop procrastinating but I decided to put it off."

- Anonymous

 

When you feel connected to something, that connection gives you a purpose for living."

- Jon Kabat-Zinn

  

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  1. Lifestyle planning is of equal importance to financial preparation -- the activities complement one another.

  2. Ease your transition into retirement....start practicing now!

  3. You will carry many aspects of your current lifestyle into retirement -- the Continuity Principle!

  4. Plan for a great retirement but prepare for the unexpected -- the Adversity Factor!

  5. Clear and concrete retirement priorities inspire good saving habits.

  6. Share retirement dreams with your partner -- synchronize your glide paths!

  7. If your marriage is a little tired after many years of hard work and raising children, join the club....now is the time to begin renewing relational vitality.

  8. It's time to retire...when you have activities you'd prefer to be spending your time and energy on outside of work, and you have the financial resources to support your preferred lifestyle.

  9. Practice savouring the moment -- it's the only time you've got!

  10. Open yourself to new possibilities, passions and unfulfilled desires -- it's time for Mid-Life Discovery!

 

KEY RETIREMENT QUESTIONS

  1. VISION -- Based on my life experience thus far, how do I picture the elements of a high quality life, going forward?

  2. IDENTITY -- Who am I, and who am I to become?

  3. PURPOSE -- How will I apply my talents and energy meaningfully?

  4. RELATIONSHIPS -- Who will be key partners in my future, and how will I sustain these relationships?

  5. RESILIENCE -- What is my capacity for resilience in the face of change, and how can I strengthen it?

  6. ENERGY -- How will I maximize health and fitness?

  7. LEISURE -- What activities will provide pleasure and satisfaction?

  8. TIMING -- When will we initiate major changes and transitions?

  9. LOCATION -- What does "home" mean to us, and where are we best to locate ourselves?

  10. EFFICACY -- How will I engage constructively with the world of post-work?

  11. LEGACY -- What differences do I wish to have made when I look back on my years of retirement?

  12. FINANCES -- What income flow do we need to support ourselves through the remaining chapters of life, given our preferred lifestyle and other particulars?

 

 

Saturday
Dec062008

Transitions...and the Cycle of Renewal

"It's not so much that we're afraid of change and uncertainty, or so in love with the old ways, but it's that place in between that we fear...  It's like being in between trapezes.  It's Linus when his blanket is in the dryer: There's nothing to hold onto."

                                       - Marilyn Ferguson

When you know you're in transition, or when a big change hits your life, or even if you are just experiencing dissatisfaction or a vague sense of fatigue or unhappiness with something, understanding the cycle of renewal can be very useful.  The following framework for thinking about change and transition is derived largely from the Hudson Institute model first put forth by Dr. Frederic Hudson:

Phase 1 is Disenchanted Endings. A cycle of renewal can be triggered dramatically, for example, when you lose your job unexpectedly or your partner leaves your relationship (shock predominates), or more subtly, by an inner sense of dissatisfaction, disillusionment, confusion, fatigue or unhappiness (disenchanted feelings).  Phase 1 is disenchanting in that some aspect of life that once worked well, that provided satisfaction, fulfillment or a sense of meaningful purpose, has ended, stagnated or gone flat.  It can take us a long time to recognize the extent of our disenchantment, often because the situation hasn't broken down completely and thus continues to give us some satisfaction and reward.  We can "muddle along," often for a long while, trying to change superficial aspects of the situation, trying new remedies, or feeling uncertain and more or less paralyzed, before we are finally moved to respond more effectively.  However these feelings arise, disenchantment is a signal that our life is calling for change. 

Phase 2 is Exploration and Soul-Searching.  This phase is one of inward incubation or cocooning, and can be a difficult phase emotionally.  Something has ended or something needs to change or be renewed, but our new direction remains unclear.  We've let go of the trapeze bar without certainty of how we'll land.  Under these circumstances, it's normal to feel confused, anxious, upset, forlorn or lost.  Our world has shifted but many of the implications remain unclear.  Our tolerance for ambiguity and uncertainty is tested during this time; an important task is to manage our emotions, energy level and physical well-being.  We need to double back to understand what has changed or been lost in our life, and we often need to explore our assumptions and priorities before we can get realistic about entertaining new options and possibilities.

Phase 3 is Rebuilding.  Once we begin to envision new directions and possibilities, we need to gather information and resources, continue our networking, and build upon existing skills.  As we actively consider various options and clarify which priorities are most meaningful and workable, a renewed sense of personal direction and hope gradually emerges.  We may have some false starts and experience some emotional relapses into confusion and uncertainty, but these are in the service of starting afresh.

Phase 4 is Relaunching.  Entering this phase, our readiness and resolve to embark on a new path has crystalized.  We have renewed our sense of meaning and purpose and created an action plan with commitment to a new direction.  Typically, we experience a pleasant sense of wholeness and integrity, as our thoughts, feelings and actions have transformed to a new level of personal integration. This phase, associated with high energy, enthusiasm and excitement, is one of active growth and learning which may lead into a long-term period of stability and productivity.  

Like all phase models of human experience, these phases blend together more or less continuously.  Depending where we are in the cycle, we often identify more with one phase than another, although we usually experience an ebb and flow back and forth as we progress along.  There is no right or wrong way to go through the phases, nor is any particular time frame necessary.  A phase model is simply a useful map to provide a sense of perspective, and perhaps assist us in focusing on the task at hand.

Phase models have a long and honorable history in modern psychology.  One of the more interesting and provocative models was elaborated in a little gem published in 1964, Kazimierz Dabrowski's book Positive Disintegration.  I well remember reading the books from this Polish psychoanalyst as he was a professor at the University of Alberta when I first attended in the early 1970's.  His theory of adult personality development suggests that with certain personal qualities and circumstances one's personality organization could disorganize and disintegrate, but in a creative and positive fashion so as to re-integrate at a higher level of development and complexity (see www.positivedisintegration.com). 

Kubler-Ross' stage model of anticipatory grief was the first of many maps of human adaptation put forth in the grief and bereavement area (see www.elisabethkublerross.com).  Kubler-Ross first cued us to the profound emotional experience accompanying adjustment to one's impending death.  Other models have articulated the profound interplay between human emotion and meaning, as we re-work our connection with a loved one through grieving (e.g., see William Worden, Thomas Attig, Sandra Elder/Karen Martin, and many others). Grief and bereavement are among the most studied experiences of profound transition, and have helped us to understand the importance of emotional processing in the transformation of our relationships in the face of bereavement, as well as the primacy of human meaning as the essential fabric of all loss experiences.

William Bridges' seminal 1980 book, Transitions: Making Sense of Life's Changes, also originated in the area of loss and bereavement, but brought the focus of transitions into the world of business and organizations.  His three phase model begins with the Endings, passes through the anxiety-laden Neutral Zone, and finishes with New Beginnings (see www.lossesintranslation.com/transition-coaching.php for a good elaboration of the model).  Bridges' work in particular distinguishes change from transition.  Change, often originating from the outside the individual, is typically the event which sets transition in motion, while transition is the complicated, long-term and often painful re-working of one's personal identity in the world.  His more recent book, The Way of Transition (1991) is a moving account of Bridges' personal experiences around the death of his wife, and it develops his ideas in more detail.

Similar ideas have also been developed in the area of marital therapy.  Noted sex and marital therapist David Schnarch writes in his book Passionate Marriage ( 1997) that "marriages, like people, go through cycles of growth and disruption mixed with periods of comfort and stability"  (see www.passionatemarriage.com). He aptly describes how most marriages move from the initial excitement, risk-taking and discovery of early intimacy to increasingly stable familiarity.  Eventually, few risks of self-disclosure are taken, and a once lively relationship starts to feel stale and boring.  He describes this state as emotional gridlock, noting that it is easy to slide into excessive controlling of your partner, or excessive accomodation to your partner, or physical and emotional distancing, rather than developing your own capacity for "self in relation."

Finally, a very useful integrative model for transitions is used by Frederic Hudson and his partner, Pamela McLean, founders of The Hudson Institute of Santa Barbara (www.hudsoninstitute.com).  This model follows the person through the stable, productive time of "Going for It", into getting stuck in "The Doldrums," and entering a time of inner renewal, "Cocooning," and a time of "Getting Ready," as one prepares to launch another chapter of life. The model integrates inward transformation with the outer world of heroic creation, emphasizing the reconstruction of self identity as we move forward into fulfilling future possiblities.  The Hudson Institute has created a number of powerful and intensive programs around this conception of adult growth and development.