Transitions Through Life

Surviving every stage of life.

Even Happy Transitions Are Bewildering—But Why?

Why do transitions-even ones we elect-upset us so?

Why do happy transitions—like a wished for job or relationship—upset us? I interviewed a new college president about her transition. She was thrilled to be selected but wondered why she felt depressed after starting the new job. A newly married couple moved into their first home. Following the excitement hanging pictures and showing off their new home to family and friends, they felt letdown. Why do transitions-even ones we elect-upset us so?

In the thirty years since I started studying transitions, I have learned some things I can share. First, there is the expectation that the new home, the new car, the new baby, the new job will makes us content and joyful. Often reality is not quite what we imagined or hoped for. It's about expectations.

Second, and, more important, every transition changes our lives. Transitions change our role, relationships, routines, and assumptions. For example, your new home or your new job changes your role. You are now a homeowner; you are now a college president; you are now an account executive; you are now a licensed plumber. With each new role change, you are in touch with new people and new colleagues—new relationships. And with each transition your routines change. If you change jobs, clearly where you go for coffee changes; if you move, where you take your clothes to be cleaned changes. And last, your assumptions about the world can change.

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Retirement-which is a career change-is a perfect example of the challenge of change. When you were working, your roles, relationships, routines and assumptions were in order. When you leave that life, it takes time until you establish a new set of roles, relationships, routines and assumptions. The same is true when you experience any transition—divorce, return to school, job change, and so on.

So, even with a desired change there is disruption in your life. Until you establish a new life—or get a new life—you will feel bewildered.

The answer: Be prepared and be patient. Be prepared that following a new transition there might be a let down. Be patient as it takes time to get a new life.

Nancy K. Schlossberg
Author, Revitalizing Retirement:  Reshaping Your Identity, Relationships, and Purpose

Copyright, 2011

 

Nancy Schlossberg, Ed.D., is a Professor Emerita at University of Maryland, College Park. She is the author of nine books.

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