How has your world shifted in the last four months? I suspect that most of us have felt a sea change. We may not yet understand all the ways our world has changed or will change, nor have we fully grasped all the ways we have been and will be impacted. The changes can at once feel both exciting and overwhelming. I have been reflecting on the saying from Jon Kabat-Zinn, “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”
As the world around us is changing, we may find that our own plans are shifting, including our work plan or our retirement plan. For those who choose to continue working, the way work looks has and will change in most cases. Some folks who were soon ready to retire now feel they can't or don't want to retire. There will be many others who hadn't yet planned to retire, but now suddenly find themselves retired. It may be that while we were previously focused on finding something meaningful to do, now we may be more focused on how to just be well and content in our downsized world of options.
The reality is that no matter what our transition, it takes energy, whether positive or negative. If it lasts over time, we need to be particularly present to taking care of ourselves. How are you doing that? Let’s take a look at what we know about the dynamics of change and some simple strategies for how we can take care of ourselves in the midst of this time.
When we look at change, William Bridges’ model is one of the most widely known. Bridges names three stages:
The stages don't neatly line up in a linear fashion, where one ends before the next begins. They overlap and we are often experiencing aspects of more than one at a time. We can go forward or backward in our stages, much like grief.
It is common, when going through change, that we want to get “back to normal”. Yet the truth of change is that we aren’t going back to the old normal. There will be a next normal at some point, but we don't know it yet. Getting ready to go back to the old is a common and very human reaction to change.
Another common reaction is called ‘change-back’ where we will see a faction of a group or even a part of ourselves deny change is happening and seek to make sure the new ideas and behaviors developing don’t work. This, of course, delays the inevitable. The longer the neutral zone is, the more change-back we see.
In these past four months, we have encountered a number of waves of change. We've experienced some endings (some we may not even realize yet), and we may be beginning to see some of the new that is emerging. I suspect most of us are feeling the restlessness of a long middle. It is not easy to be in all three places. We will each move at a different pace through change. There is no right or wrong pace, only great ways to take care of ourselves as we move through. With all these waves of change, are you learning to surf? It is as important as getting to the other side. Here are some simple questions to ponder and ideas to let soak in as you journey through each stage:
In the Midst of the Neutral Zone:
Moving into New Beginnings:
Finally, and most importantly, how can you make this fun and easy’? When I work with people in the midst of transition, that is always part of our quest. How can you take what seems overwhelming and break it into a really simple next step? Can you find places to laugh along the way? Giving yourself ease is one of the kindest things you can do for yourself and it is a way of knowing you are truly surfing the waves.
Ruth Tongen helps people plan and live meaningful, fun and healthier retirements.