Last week, I started a series on transitions. These concepts are based on Dr. William Bridges’s ideas. This week, I will continue the series.
- Dismantling: When our lives are defined by the circumstances, such as a career or marriage, we establish certain habits. During my full time working days, I had a certain morning routine that had been perfected for optimum time management. The day after I retired started the same way, except that I wasn’t going anywhere. A sense of emptiness came over me. Thankfully, I had a big project lined up at home, so I treated it like work and kept going. Eventually, I created a new morning routine that was better aligned my new life.
If you are going through a big life change, consider how your old habits might contribute to the resistance you may feel.
- Disidentification: In our culture, most of us identify ourselves with our work. I’ve had many clients express dismay about losing their identity after retirement. I too had the same issue for a while. One day I was an Assistant Vice President at a university, the next day who? One of my clients said “Today I turned in my papers. I’m no longer an attorney. I don’t know who I am.” And another, “I used to be an accountant, I don’t want to be just a grandma.”
Dr. Bridges puts it this way: “Clearly, the old identity stands in the way of transition – and of transformation and self renewal.”
A big life change is a good time to discover who we are as a person outside of our old circumstances. A good support structure, such as a close family member or a friend, or better yet an objective observer such as a coach would be very helpful in this situation.
May your transitions be smooth.
I am fascinated by how people deal with big life changes. One of the best books I have read about dealing with life changes is “Transitions” by Dr. William Bridges. I decided to create a series of posts to share his ideas and how I reacted to one of my big changes, retirement, in light of those ideas. I regularly post these on Linked In and on my Facebook group called OK (fellow) Boomer!
“The new growth cannot take root on the ground still covered with the old habits, outlooks, and attitudes because endings are the clearing process.” William Bridges, PhD
- The above quote is from Dr. Bridges’s book “Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes”. His three step process for dealing with change begins with endings. In coach training program, I learned the importance of “completion.” This is a tool to help a person end something specific by taking notice of what the experience has taught them. It could be the past year, a project, a marriage, a career… I don’t mean to equate a career or a marriage to a simple project, however anything that is ending deserves us to take notice instead of just trying to move on, which is what we humans are inclined to do.
- Dr. Bridges then goes deeper and divides the ending process into its components. The first of these is disengagement. As I was reflecting on this word, disengagement, and how I managed transitions in my own life, I realized that I had almost instinctively disengaged from my job even before I announced my retirement. I fully believe this helped make my retirement much easier than if I had just stopped working on any given day.
Change is what happens to us: a retirement, a divorce, a company merger, becoming an empty nester etc. Transition is how we deal with that change internally. If we take the necessary steps to complete “what was”, “what is” will find fertile ground not resistance.
Have you noticed how you deal with change? Our past is a good indicator of our future inclination, unless we become aware of how helpful/unhelpful our old behaviors were.
I recently finished The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. A very interesting and profound story. A sentence that one of the characters utters is a guide not only for the protagonist, but to all of us. “You don’t have to understand life, you just have to live it.” Mrs. Elm
I sometimes allow my mind to take over with its endless chatter while I just sit there wasting my minutes away. It’s like a social media feed going on in my head. Jumping from topic to topic, trying to make sense of world events and conversations with people. As a mindfulness practitioner and certified teacher, I know I’m not supposed to judge myself for this but, sometimes I do anyway.
One thing is for sure: there is no fix for this situation, because nothing is broken. I am a human being. My mind has evolved as everyone else’s, to engage in this chatter in order to protect me. This ancient urge still follows all of us. It is the most common excuse people give for not meditating. “I can’t quiet my mind” they say. Well, neither can I nor anyone else for that matter. Our minds have a mind of their own. Judging ourselves, as I sometimes do, is the hurtful part.
Our job is not to quiet our mind. It is to become aware of all the chatter. You then get to choose whether you want to relive those events in your mind or live the current moment that is unfolding. We are responsible for living our lives the way we see fit. Sometimes, it is just better to understand life than to do laundry. As long as that choice is made in awareness and not mindlessly.
Most of the time though, I choose to live the moment and get a rush of good feeling because of it. I get rewarded with perhaps an opportunity for an amazing photo of the Chicago River (above), or a sparkling kitchen sink, or clean socks to wear, or what have you.
Wishing you many rushes of good feelings and much love
Yes, Retirement Coaching is a Thing!
Retirement Coaching training manual defines retirement as “a dynamic process whereby client and coach explore all aspects of designing a dynamic and rewarding retirement lifestyle, and serves to guide the client towards implementing a plan of action.”
Retirement ranks 10th out of 43 most stressful events in a person’s life, according to Holmes-Rate Stress Inventory, especially for those who have their identity tied to their work. Loss of identity, structure, purpose, community are some of the reason why depression rates, especially among men, double after retirement. While coaches do not offer therapy, a trained retirement coach can help mediate between the expectations of retired life and its realities. Especially if the coach has personal experience with retirement.
One of the plans I hear from people about their post retirement lives is that they will travel. This is a wonderful plan, but not a full time one. Before the pandemic, and having had this exact conversation with many people, I sat down and calculated how much I had traveled. (I too love to travel!) At the time, it had been 2190 days since I had retired. During that time, I had visited nine countries that took a total of 90 days. You do the math.
I also hear, from friends and clients, that they are worried about not being relevant any more. Or that they are bored everyday, so they watch TV all the time. Or that their relationships with either their spouse/partner, or their children, or both, have changed for the worse.
Working with a retirement coach to create a vision for your ideal retired life can prevent all the negative parts of this new life style. Yes, retirement coaching is a thing. I have the certification to prove it. If you’re planning to retire in the next year or so, connect with me. If you have recently retired and have gone past the “honeymoon” phase and are now in the “now what” phase, connect with me. I would love to be your guide in your journey.
After a long “health break” or “me time” I am back in business. My non-financial retirement planning group program is ready to go and it starts in September. If you are planning to retire soon or have recently retired and past the honeymoon period, this program is for you!
Retirement is a major life transition. While most people plan for it financially, few consider other aspects of retired life. SHAPE refers to these other aspects: Social, Healthy, Accomplished, Purposeful, Engaged. These are the dimensions of well-being based in Positive Psychology.
In conversations with friends and others who are also retired, I hear that they lack a purpose; that they have become lazy; that they miss structure in their lives; that they realize most of their socialization was with work colleagues and now they feel lonely etc. I too went through most of these issues when I first retired. That is exactly why I chose retirement as my coaching focus. I know I can help.
I am offering SHAPE in two ways:
1. As a 6 week program starting Thursday, September 7 at 6:30 PM Central. This is a 6 week program with each session lasting up to 90 minutes.
2. As a 3 week program, starting Saturday, September 9 at 9:00 AM Central. This is a 3 week program with each session lasting up to 3 hours.
Both programs will also include a one hour individual coaching with me, arranged at a mutually convenient time. In addition to understanding each of the five aspects and how they are affected by retirement, participants will have numerous reflective exercises and develop a personal vision statement. Maximum enrollment for each program is 6 people. At only $315.00, this is a small investment you can make in yourself.
Please reach out to me at email@example.com for more information.
For my 63rd birthday, I got myself a new life!
Out of nowhere and no one (not even the doctors) know why, my heart started to skip a beat. (No, I’m not in love in a romantic sense, ha!) My heart literally was pumping only half the time, even though the upper chamber was sending signals to pump regularly. Half of the electrical signals were getting lost somewhere in the middle.
My smart watch alerted me that my heart rate was below 40 at 4:30 one morning. I had been feeling a bit lightheaded and was running out of breath quickly for a couple of days, but hadn’t worried about it that much until that warning.
I am a very healthy person in general and I am in reasonably good shape walking about a 5K most days with short spurts of running sprinkled in. I do Pilates on Tuesdays and workout with a fitness trainer on Fridays. I do not take any medications. (Even the nurses commented that I was a strange patient with no meds.) So this episode was totally unexpected.
At the urging of the nurse practitioner at the urgent care center, I took myself to the emergency room. They admitted me immediately, put a pacemaker in the next day and I came back home the next. Wow!
I am originally from Turkey so the famous Mediterranean diet is natural for me. And, sure enough, my heart condition was not caused by any blockage in my arteries. Only electrical.
I am grateful to be alive, grateful for the technologies both for alerting me and for fixing the miscommunication in my heart, grateful for medical science, and of course grateful for the wonderful doctors and nurses who took such great care of me while I was in the hospital.
The H in SHAPE is for healthy.
No matter what your age, but especially if you’re of a “certain” age, please, please listen to your body. I am living proof that even when you’re doing everything right sometimes things can go wrong.
I vow to be more mindful of my body and never again take this such complex and awesome biology for granted.
How about you? How do you listen to and take care of your body?