So much of life is a transition, I’ve spent 3 years focused on the transition from full-time work and have both research evidence and practical experience that people will have thoughts on what they can, and can’t do, based on age.
It is not true that our capacity to learn diminishes with age. Yes, we lose brain cells but we have so many that they are not missed.
Indeed, chronological age is an unreliable predictor of how people will behave (Bernice Neugarten, 1996).
We may say that we are too old to do something, and someone may believe this is so, but this is not because of biology.
This is why an understanding of transitions is important.
Transitions can be events (like retirement) or non-events (not getting the promotion) that alter peoples’ lives. The more these events or non-events alter our roles, routines, assumptions and relationships the more we will be affected by the transition.
We know the transition we are going through but other people don’t.
When we meet people, we don’t know what is going on in their lives – have they just been made redundant, had a romantic breakup, just got promoted, experienced the birth of a child? Are they in the process of selling a house or become a carer for elderly parents? All of these things can disorientate us while we adapt to the change.
If you have found yourself doing this in the past – focusing on your age as a reason why not to do something, instead focus on the transition.
With each transition, at any age, we need to spend time to consider:
Who am I?
Is the transition making us reconsider who we are, right now. In what way are we changing?
Do I belong?
Have you a sense of belonging? This is when you feel part of things. You know the ropes. You know what is expected of you. When we are in transition we are in a liminal state and need to adjust to the new role or situation. It can take time to find ourselves again.
Do I matter?
I cover this in some detail in my book. Too many people feel isolated and alienated both at work and when they leave work. We need to know that we matter.
Am I in control of my life?
Do I feel competent to master new situations and new tasks? We can feel incompetent when we start a new job or start going to a gym or become a new parent. Being in control means that we can master new tasks. With a major life change we are in a state of upheaval. We need to accept and roll with this lack of control.
Are things bringing me down?
A transition can be challenging, it can make us feel that we are burned out or feel stuck. We need to remember that this is perfectly normal, anything we can do to help to reenergise ourselves is good.
What can help us approach a transition is to consider the 4S’s of transition theory (Nancy K. Schlossberg)
Is this transition, positive or negative, expected or unexpected, voluntary or imposed? Are we at the beginning, middle or end of the transition?
What kind of strengths and weaknesses do we bring to the situation? Do we have previous experience in making a similar transition? Do we believe there are options? Are we optimistic and able to deal with ambiguity?
Will you be helped or hindered by the people you know? Consider your family, friends, co-workers, supervisors, and if needed find professional support.
STRATEGIES FOR COPING
We need to create a plan of action to boost our strengths to cope with the transition. Do you have several coping strategies or just one? Can you change the situation (negotiation or assertiveness) change the meaning, by reappraisal or shift the blame from yourself. How do you manage reactions to stress?
This should be helpful as you approach a transition in your life.
I’d love to know how you have dealt with a transition.