Change and Transition

There are many types of change that one experiences during a lifetime. Change can have varying amounts of impact on a person’s life. Change unsettles our lives, shakes us up, and it requires time before we adjust. If change is significant, it is a transition. Retirement in the twenty-first century is a significant transition. Even if you manage to have the retirement life you’ve planned for, there are changes that you had not planned.

A transition is either an event (like moving, divorcing, having a baby) or a nonevent (like not being able to retire when you expected). If an event fails to happen, it can have just as much impact on your life. Transitions are usually associated with changes to your roles in life or environment that require restructuring how you view yourself and your world. The process involved in adapting to a transition takes longer than most people expect – typically 6-12 months. Research indicates positive life events like marriage, the birth of a child or a new job have as much potential for psychological disruption as negative events. Transitions involve opportunity for personal growth. They provide an opportunity to review your life.

Transformation may or may not be initiated by a transition. Transformations occur only a couple of times in one’s life. The key difference between a transition and transformation is a transformation occurs internally. Oliver Wendall Holmes wrote, “A mind stretched to a new idea, never returns to its original dimension.” A transformation is a metamorphosis of one’s being.

There are a number of factors that can affect the transition to retirement. The more challenges you face, the more difficult the transition may be. Look at the factors below to help evaluate the obstacles you face.

Inhibiting factors in transitions

• Economic insecurity – low income, debt, high financial commitments, fear of job loss, low retirement income security.

• Emotional insecurity – no partner, few friends, dependent relatives, secret grief (lost lover or child), sense of guilt, unresolved issues or regrets, multiple transitions, anxiety over being diagnosed mentally ill . Unable to anticipate a positive senior experience.

• Health – chronic or undiagnosed conditions, low fitness, fatigue, lifestyle

• Hostile work environment – work overload, unrealistic demands, insufficient resources, abuse of life-work boundary (excessive time demands affecting relationships, leisure, fitness). Low respect/high control culture. No time off except sickness absence. Discipline for absence. Scapegoating weaker members by stressed team. Harassment or abuse by aggressive/stressed manager. Boss changes. Rigid agenda.

• Poor transition management – no support, no preparation for change, unrealistic time scales. No monitoring of key issues pre-crisis. No opportunity for fresh insights. Past achievements ignored or rubbished.

People often fantasize about their retirement goals. When actually confronted with retirement life, they have a completely different experience. Understanding how significance of this change will help people retire and find the happiness they desire.

About Cathy Severson

Cathy Severson helps baby boomers find more meaning and purpose in their lives and work. Get your copy of her complimentary e-book Guide to Retirement Activities a comprehensive look at work, volunteering and leisure based on an individuals’ personalities. Call for a complimentary 20-minute consultation to answer your most pressing concern. 928.775.4949 or email Cathy at

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