As I began moving from full-time, compensated employment to something else I realized I needed to refresh myself on managing through change. Retirement is a major life transition, probably one of the biggest in my life. As I read through the retirement books & blogs, many discussed how the ending of a career can cause a shock to the system or even be the start of major depression. Kinda scary.
So I went back into my Corporate training looking for information to help myself manage through the change to a better place than depression. Change management training reminded me: transitions have 3 key phases and transition takes time.
I am also learning a new meaning of time! I have discovered:
– It takes time to establish a new life rhythm. I never realized how much time work took – not only physically getting there and being there, but the mental space that it took as I mulled over issues and problems seemingly 24/7. That is a lot of time to fill. I am adjusting to more time in the house, more together time with my husband, and more alone time.
– It takes time to sort thru and define what could be a passion area. But my nature is a planner, so I need to plan and do, not just think and understand. So it has been a struggle to not just get busy for the sake of being busy. I am learning to balance my to-do list nature with allowing time for reflection, spontaneity and serendipity.
So, the 3 phases of transition:
Phase 1 is “let it go”. (Yes, even without kids, I’ve listened to the Frozen anthem many a time.) This first stage of transition is time to say good-bye to the past and acknowledge it has ended. Thinking about work/career and identify, what needs were being met that might not be met in the future. What losses will need to be replaced? Think through affiliation, routine, identity and accomplishment. For me, the loss of daily connections to people was a big need that needed to be replaced, and quickly. Identity was also something I would need to think about. How was I going to answer the infamous question “what do you do?” without saying “I’m retired”, which says nothing really. Letting it go can also include acknowledging feelings of anger, betrayal or fear, especially if this transition was not as you planned. My husband was dealing with some of these. (Did I mention he retired on same timing as me? More on that in a future blog!)
Phase 2 is “let it be”. Transitions experts agree, transitions have a period of low energy, a feeling of limbo. This is the time to mull over the change occurring…time to just “let it be.” It helped me to think of this time as an incubation period, a fertile time to think and be creative, or the cocoon that allows the butterfly to emerge. This phase has felt long for me as I am taking the time to contemplate what comes next and am exploring some options to discover what might work for me. Being in this phase has often felt like treading water versus moving forward, especially as I’ve been working through the confusion as to what to label myself and the frustration in not knowing what’s next. But, I listened to others who have transitioned into retirement and strongly advised me to not rush through this phase just for the sake of doing something! I am still taking little steps and not quite ready to run into new beginnings.
Phase 3 is “let it begin”. This is new beginnings. This is the phase I am looking forward to – a state of high energy to take acton, be in new situations, take on new endeavors, make commitments to new ways of living, and fully adopting new habits and activities. Yes, I know for me it might take me another year to fully reach this stage. And that is OK!
It is OK to take the time and learn to live in the “let it be”.