Living longer, healthier lives means that we humans have more choices and changes to make as we journey through the decades. And a lifelong career is no longer the norm. Getting better at handling inevitable phases of transition is something we can all benefit from, writes Avivah Wittenberg-Cox for Harvard Business Review.
Taking a personal viewpoint, as well as drawing on her expertise as CEO of 20-first – a leading, global gender-consulting firm – she believes that everyone, regardless of their stage of life, should look at periodic change in a positive way.
That can be easier said than done when faced with the scary prospect of such life markers as starting your own business, redundancy or retirement. Wittenberg-Cox says these, and other catalytic events, can all be negotiated more effectively; we can enjoy more options in our careers and personal lives than we ever thought possible if we employ these key strategies to examine and know ourselves.
HOW TO HANDLE TRANSITION
1) Measure out your own timeline from 0 to 100. Follow psychologist Erik Erikson’s theory of adulthood and map yours out in seven-year chunks, noting your achievements and wisdom gained so far. Be aware of the seven-year periods that still, potentially, lie ahead.
2) Choose when a phase should end. Acknowledging timely endings and opting out with dignity will make the finish more akin to a fresh beginning, whether that’s your job or your marriage.
“Do you love where you are, or do you fear leaving it for a murky unknown? The latter is a lousy place from which to live, but many of us stay stuck here,” says Wittenberg-Cox. Believe that redefinition is born of uncertainty.
3) Identify what floats your boat at this point in life. What are your as-yet unfulfilled dreams? Who are the people you want to journey with now? Are you happy to learn completely new skills, or develop existing ones? Do you want a single focus, or multiple occupations? How important is security?
4) Assess how others see you. Check in with friends and colleagues to get a different perspective. What are the qualities you display that people value? Are there areas of your work that have attracted most appreciation? Which of your areas of interest has prompted welcome interaction?
Wittenberg-Cox asks the key question: “When, where, and with who did you feel most alive?
5) Remember to be brave. You probably find it inspiring to hear about people who throw caution to the wind and follow a path that really matters to them, often for the first time in their lives. But could you do the same?
Fulfilling others’ expectations is a duty; fulfilling your calling is a choice.
As lifespans get longer, the secret to satisfaction is to make transitions work for us, ultimately finding the freedom to walk our true path.
“Now that we have a few extra decades to test our wings, the real challenge may be remembering that it’s never too late to fly,” says Wittenberg-Cox.