Managing Change: A Success Story

Rafa Garces

To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself.” ~ Henri Bergson

Change is a constant in our lives. As Tom Hanks so pithily affirms in the movie, Forest Gump, “Change happens.”

I work with clients who are near or at retirement. I hear stories of planning for change—even wanting it, and then when it happens, it feels like an uneasy bombshell. The loss of a job, planned or not, and the follow-up retirement, welcome or forced, ranks as one of the highest-stress changes in life. It’s natural for people to resist retirement change. It interrupts their schedule, pushes them out of their comfort zone, and can make them feel they’ve lost their identity and control. Some of my clients’ most-stated reasons for resisting retirement change?

  • Fear of the unknown (“What do I do next? I’ve done this for so long.”)
  • Not feeling ready (“I’m not ready for downsizing; I need more time.”)
  • Stuck in the past (“I miss my old job; I wish I were still there.”)
  • Risk averse / Worried what others think (“I’m not great on the Internet; I won’t fit in.”)
  • In overcoming this resistance and moving forward, what’s worked?

    1. Pinpointing and acknowledging the obstacles in their way.
    2. Facing the barriers preventing them from taking action.
    3. Working hard on developing and following a realistic plan of action.

    Marty had an interesting launch into retirement. An Operations VP with a Fortune 500 retailer, he began his career in the stock room and rose through the ranks. When his company downsized, Marty took early retirement. A huge life change. After 34 years working for the same company, still wanting to work, he had to restructure his life. He had lost much of his social life, as it was also connected to his old employment.

    He first tried to keep busy job hunting. He was repeatedly told that he was overqualified.  He felt that at age 58, doors were closing too early. He tried consulting for a year, and decided it wasn’t a fit. He drove taxi for a friend’s company, and tried to start a small business with another fellow retiree. Things fell through. This was a tough time for Marty; he felt defeated and pessimistic.

    A friend invited him to Florida. Marty figured he had nothing else going. Subletting their apartment for six months, he and his wife set off for tropical warmth. While there, he met the friend’s neighbor, who owned a bagel shop. Marty worked there awhile for something to do. He became inspired and within a year, opened his own back home. It was slow at first, but his prior retail operations expertise combined with the excitement of this brand new adventure (one that was his own business baby) made it work! That was six years ago. He loves his life!

    Lessons learned from Marty? His sudden change in employment motivated him to try new places and explore different options. He took risks; but also did not jump in erratically (sublet his apartment so he could return to Minneapolis). He experimented before making major moves. He rediscovered his strengths, his joys and a new career at 58 years young! He planned to make the future his present. His strategic approach to change and retirement produced delightful results!

    You see things; and say, ‘why?’ But I dream things that never were; and say ‘why not?’” ~ George Bernard Shaw

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