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Learning to Surf the Waves of Change

May 10, 2018 | Professional Services

Sam Friedman
Sam Friedman
Freelance writer in Fairbanks

There comes a time in life when you are ready for a new chapter.

A guide to the next passionate chapter of your life

There comes a time in life when you are ready for a new chapter. When you are either satisfied or not with where you are and what you have accomplished but you are done with it and not sure what to do next. Whether you are a Baby Boomer starting to age out of your career or someone just trying to make sense of what you want next in your life, at one point or another we all ask ourselves what’s next and all too often the answer is, “I don’t know, I’m not sure”, or “who knows”. This is normal but still stressful. It’s what you do with that desire for something new or different that makes all the difference.

CREDIT: KEVIN M. DEE

Learning to Surf the Change

Aging Baby Boomers are increasingly faced with these important life choices. They are at an age at which retirement is looming but perhaps they are not quite ready to shelve decades of hard work. There may be financial issues holding them back or that looming question of “what next”. The process of change is difficult and most folks resist it. Charging headfirst into any change is foolhardy and can be disastrous. Unless you learn to master change then all your previous success could be for naught. We live in an ever-increasing change curve. The trick is to not resist the change but to embrace it. That may sound counterintuitive but it works. When life hits you like an unexpected wave at the beach, learn to surf it. Here are the dynamics of learning to surf change.

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Everyone likes to think that they can live their lives full of passion at all times doing what they love and loving what they do. The reality usually turns out to be a bit different. Just like riding a wave, our passion for our lives and what we are doing with them, is exhilarating and fun. But when we get hit by a wave we weren’t expecting, it can be quite the knockdown.

For example, when we are working a great job with great coworkers who are all engaged in doing great work, it’s extremely fulfilling. These chapters in our lives during which we are fully and fervently engaged last as long as they last but eventually even those change and become less motivating, causing us to become less engaged. The wave passes. We need something different and new to re-engage our passion and satisfaction. To look out for the next wave that is right for us. So we tend to withdraw to think things over and decide what we really want. If you have ever wondered “what’s next” then you have felt this too. Maybe you’re seeking a more challenging life (bigger waves) or maybe you’re seeking a more peaceful life (smaller waves). Life can be viewed as a series of chapters in which we redefine what’s right for us on a regular basis based on our current stage of life.

I used to think that sleeping ‘til noon and drinking beer was my calling but alas, my college days are behind me and I have given up on one of those pursuits. What we wanted when we were younger changes as we age. Our wants and needs change as we grow. If you do not own your state of happiness—no matter where you are in life, who will?

At some point in life, each of us has to take pause to determine what we want; today, tomorrow, and for our future selves. To review where we have been and acknowledge those efforts in order to determine and prepare for what lies ahead. It is at the crossroads between what you want and need and what makes you happy that renewal occurs. It takes some time but the process is straightforward.

The Hudson Institute of Santa Barbara defines the renewal cycle in its LIFEFORWARD workshop as illustrated below. The workshop motto: “A guide to the next passionate chapter of your life”.

Time to Reflect

A Graying Workforce

Credit: Frederick Hudson, Hudson Institute of Santa Barbara

To gain a handle on what is important to you now give yourself time and space to reflect. Ask yourself “what do I want now” to determine what is true for you. And this includes all areas of your life. It includes your career, your significant relationships, your health, your finances, and even your recreational goals. All the things that are important to you are considered and integrated into your future plans.

Not surprisingly when I coach clients and ask them what they wanted to do with their lives as a child a smile crosses their faces when they remember those childhood dreams. When I ask them how they felt about that dream back then they are enthusiastic and excited. When we connect our desired goals with the experiences we want to have then we align to those goals. I have met truly happy people with little money and truly miserable people with lots of it. One newly minted multi-millionaire told me “money can’t buy happiness but it sure can rent it once in a while” while sipping champagne on New Year’s Eve in the Caribbean aboard a chartered mega yacht with his family and friends around him. That was all new and exciting to him back then. I wonder if it would be as fun and thrilling now?

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Finding Renewal

Once you know what you want in your life now, you can look at where you are and make a plan to bridge the gap between where you are and where you want to be. It’s at this point that you begin to move forward. The caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland said it best when Alice asked him which way to go. The caterpillar asked her where she was going and when she replied she wasn’t sure. He responded, “Then anywhere is fine”. If you don’t know where you are going you probably won’t get there. But once you do know, that’s when the magic happens.

Sure, there may be tradeoffs between wants and needs in our lives but it is the exercise in dreaming and defining what you really want that lets you move closer to your truer self. Seek experiences that fit who you are and that make you happy. If you don’t know what that is then maybe it’s time to step back and look deep inside yourself to figure out what you really want so you can begin your own journey of renewal.

Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it; Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.
—Goethe

Kevin M. Dee has a master’s degree from Vanderbilt University and is the President of KMD Services & Consulting. He has been providing organizational development services, human resources consulting, and leadership development since 1984 in Alaska and internationally. Contact him at [email protected].

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