Archive for April, 2008
We’ve now reached the third and final stage of the transitions process. (My last several posts have dealt with emotional states that an individual typically experiences when going through a major life change.)
Somewhere towards the end of the “pit stage,” the urge to look back, mourn your losses, and remain stuck in the past subsides. At this point, people begin putting the majority of their focus towards the future. They’re eager to move forward and chart a new course in life.
Although this is generally a positive time, filled with hope and anticipation, this period can also present some pitfalls along the way. Sometimes, people are so relieved to have put painful feelings behind them, that they can become overly eager and act impulsively.
If one is conducting job search, something might come along and she’s offered a position. Although her head is telling them to take it, reservations are lurking somewhere in the back of her mind. For such scenarios, it is always best to have created a list of seven or eight “must-haves” before mounting an active search. This provides a benchmark to measure how appropriate the job offer is and how well it will suit your individual goals and needs.
Finally, at the end of the transition process, an individual moves through to her next life stage and onto acceptance and understanding of the experience. Usually, she will gain a new perspective about herself, her strengths, her aspirations and needs, and her own life’s path.
Williams Bridges, author of the book, Transitions, defined the process: an ending followed by a period of distress and confusion leading to a new beginning. And Elisabeth Kübler Ross also wrote of transitions in her book, On Death and Dying. She identified similar transitional stages, which she called the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
So, when undergoing any major life transition, be it the loss of a job, being faced with a serious illness, or other events that have a significant impact on you, realize that there are certain predictable stages and certain emotional states that are a part of the process. Know also that you will come out on the other side having gained a greater knowledge of yourself and the strength of your own inner resources.
As Ben Stein, writer, TV personality, and actor said: “It is inevitable that some defeat will enter even the most victorious life. The human spirit is never finished when it is defeated…it is finished only when it surrenders.”
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Whenever a person undergoes any major life transition, there are typical emotional states that she will experience. We’ll now take a look at the second stage… the most difficult and painful part of the process. (If you haven’t read my previous post, please refer to it now so that you can understand the first stage and the beginning of the process.)
Once the initial shock has subsided, reality sinks in. This part of the transition process is often called, “the pit stage” and with good reason. People come face-to-face with the fact that life will be different. They frequently experience feelings of sadness and grief at their loss. Many will feel anxious and afraid and some will become withdrawn and consumed with worry. In the case of a job loss, people will often ask themselves, “Will I ever find another job I like?” Or, “How can I pay the rent and put food on the table?”
These are real concerns and we don’t want to minimize them in any way. One of the best methods to address such fears is to face them head on. In the case with finances, it’s wise to put pen to paper and write out a detailed budget. Which payments must you make on a monthly basis? Where can you economize? Who can you turn to if you need emergency funds? By putting your budget down on paper, you’ll take your fears from an amorphous, black cloud hanging over your head to a concrete plan. This should help to alleviate a number of your concerns and help you focus on other matters.
As far as finding a new position, you’ll want to do the same thing. Do your research, talk with people, get your resume together, and make a plan. How many calls will you make each day? How many resumes will you send out weekly? How many hours will you put towards your search on a daily basis? By writing out your action steps, you can provide a tracking process for your search. This will give you something tangible to refer to and will greatly help with any feelings of anxiety that the pit stage can bring.
And, finally, try to focus on your future with optimism. Many of us are advocates of the Law of Attraction, and we’ve seen how positive thoughts influence outcomes in our lives. So, track your successes, have confidence in your abilities, and chart your course. Success will be waiting just around the corner.
Be sure to come back and take a look at the third and final stage of transition; what to watch for and how to move forward on your very own path to a brighter future.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 3 so far )
In my last post, I talked about how corporate downsizing is an unavoidable fact of life in today’s economy. I also mentioned that, rather than being a bad thing, losing one’s job can actually prove the threshold to new and fulfilling directions. Sometimes, undergoing a shake-up, whether wanted or not, can jolt us out of merely going through the motions and awaken us to living on a more conscious basis.
Nevertheless, when one is laid off, especially from long-term employment, she generally experiences a roller coaster of emotions. There are, however, certain predictable stages to periods of major life transitions and it’s helpful to know what to expect. That way, you and your loved ones can prepare.
The first stage reported by those who are experiencing major shifts in their lives is usually one of shock, denial, and disbelief. People say that they feel somewhat numb and there is a sense of unreality attached to the situation. They often have trouble concentrating and making plans. Life feels fuzzy and out of kilter.
Another coping mechanism many use is to minimize the impact of the experience. Individuals may swear that “it’s no big deal” and that their lives are relatively unaffected by the change. Some may even experience a bit of an emotional high. This is often seen in news stories of families who have lost their homes due to a natural disaster. “We’ve lost everything… but we’re okay. We’re altogether, we’re safe, and we’ll rebuild. After all, these were just things.” Such sentiments are admirable but often change after the shock has worn off. It is almost as if our subconscious tries to buffer the blow by denying its impact—a form of self-protection until we can deal with the situation.
Others may use anger to divert their more vulnerable feelings. It’s often easier to get angry and place blame outside of ourselves and onto those around us. That way, the shock and hurt are masked as we become consumed with self-righteous resentment. “How could they do this to me after all I’ve done?” or “I’ve worked my tail off for these people and this is how they repay me!”
In my next post, we’ll address stage two of the transition period. Whether you’re experiencing the loss of your job or other major, life-altering event, the road to renewal may be a rocky one. Despite the initial pain, however, the change often leads to a revitalized sense of self and on to new challenges and exciting directions.
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Lately, wherever you turn, you can’t miss the news on the economy. It spews from talking heads on TV, from radio broadcasters, and from big, bold headlines: businesses, both large and small, are tightening their corporate belts and laying off workers in droves. Especially vulnerable to these shifting tides are older employees.
Of course, the suits would never admit it, but the recent economic downturn provides the opportunity to unload employees who have worked long years to achieve some pretty big salaries. Adding to the financial cost of older workers is the mindset that we are no longer willing to disregard the fullness of our lives, focus solely on the grindstone, and cheerfully put in a sixty-hour workweek. Whether or not this is true, the perception is there.
So, what does that mean for us women over fifty? Actually, this can prove a positive and motivating turn of events. Many of us may be in careers of long standing and are feeling that we are ready for a change. Although we may be less than enamored with our situation, it is the brave few who willingly opt to turn away from the familiar and head into uncharted territory. So, although we may not recognize it at the time, getting the corporate shove out of the nest is just what we need.
In fact, it is often the difficult periods of our lives that provide us with the greatest gifts. Distress often leads to progress. When written in Chinese, the word “crisis” is composed of two characters: one represents danger but the other represents opportunity.
I’m a career and life transition counselor by profession and will spend several upcoming posts addressing career issues. As I’ve written many times before, this period in our lives can be our most rewarding and successful. We are at the top of our game. We have honed our skills, expanded our experience, and own our strengths like never before.
Again, it all comes down to our attitude. We ladies over fifty have earned the right to know that our work has meaning beyond a paycheck. This truly is our time to express ourselves, both at home and in the workplace, in all our wondrous maturity.
Here’s an article on businesses for boomers to get you thinking in some new and different ways.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 8 so far )
I love the book, Gift From the Sea. Although it was originally written in the 1950s, Anne Morrow Lindbergh exhibited a life-force and style that was far ahead of her time. Or, maybe not. Perhaps, I’m just flaunting the bravado and self-indulgent pride we boomers are known for. Maybe our mothers and the women of their age group were not as housebound and repressed as we imagined. Maybe they knew secrets at midlife that might prove important lessons for each one of us. At any rate, Lindbergh certainly did.
Having known great tragedy in her life, the kidnapping and murder of her twenty-month-old son, she must have experienced her share of soul searching. This reflects beautifully in her writing; there is a depth of spirit and self-revelation on every page.
Gift From the Sea is about women, relationships, and growing older—all examined through comparison to various seashells. Throughout, Lindbergh reminds us of the gifts we often overlook, but which are so essential to our nature and inner wellbeing.
Describing midlife, she writes: “We Americans, with our terrific emphasis on youth, action, and material success, certainly tend to belittle the afternoon of life and even to pretend it never comes. We push the clock back and try to prolong the morning, over-reaching and over-straining ourselves in the unnatural effort… In our breathless attempts we often miss the flowering that waits for afternoon.”
I treasure this passage and I treasure this book. As I look at the pages, yellowed with time, it is a true gift. It was my mother’s and I inherited it after she died. Yes, perhaps she did have her own important secrets at midlife and, now, she’s passing these down to me.
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