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Change-the Next Unknown

November 26th, 2012

As I sit in my office reflecting upon my 35 years of work for ISU Extension and Outreach and 5 years work in youth development before that, I wonder what my retirement will bring. I think about the change literature and I begin to identify with the seven dynamics of change that Ken Blanchard identified. I also think about the transition that this change will cause me to face and I am reminded of William Bridges’ work. I find that I am indeed faced with these aspects of change.

As I think about my last days before retirement, I realize that it is not what will happen next that I think about. Instead I think about what I am about to lose. I am reminded of what Bridges says about the difference in change and transition. It is not so much the change that is the concern, but the transition. As I come to a close in one element of my career, I have to face the fact that my world will no longer be the same. I can no longer get up in the morning and go through my routine with the expectation that I will have my job facing me. Oh, I still plan to work. That is not the part that concerns me. It is how I will do that work that is the concern. My world will be different because of the change.

I am faced with the first dynamic of change; people feel awkward, ill-at-ease, and self-conscious. I do feel awkward and self-conscious. How will I deal with this new world of unknowns? What will be my identity in this new world? I find I am already faced with describing myself as “former Extension person”.

And then I begin to realize the second dynamic; people will think first of what they have to give up. Every day for the last few weeks I have been thinking about these things. I know it sounds silly, but I will miss my parking permit for on campus parking. I will miss my office and even my e-mail. But, probably the most difficult for me will be the wonderful people and the great relationships I have developed over the years.

As I review Blanchard’s seven dynamics of change and bridges three stages of transition, I do experience the aloneness of this transition as I bring closure to the old and enter the unknown. Even though thousands of individuals experience retirement every day and my wife has also retired several months earlier, I still experience this sense of doing this by myself.

The fourth dynamic talks about being able to handling only so much change. I will continue to be conscious of this aspect so that I don’t overwhelm myself with more change than I can handle. The aspect of readiness is the fifth dynamic. And I can definitely say that I am ready for retirement. I have prepared for this for some time and when I finally made the decision it felt so right; just like when I got married.

The seventh dynamic speaks to the fact that people don’t feel they have enough resources to make the change. Well, I can clearly identify with this dynamic. I think about this every day. Even though I have gone over the finances many, many times, I still wonder. While I know that Blanchard was not only speaking to financial resource, this is clearly the aspect of resources that I have focused on lately.

Just writing about this change has me anticipating the neutral zone of the transition. Bridges describes the neutral zone as not knowing what to expect and needing to be able to experience the trial and error until I discover the new beginnings of my next adventure in life. While I intellectually know that this is part of what I will experience, it still causes some anxiety and even some identity conflict. Hopefully, I will enter this neutral zone with the openness and the support of many family and friends that I will find the new beginnings to be a wonder new adventure.

And then there is dynamic number seven; if all the pressure is removed for the change, then people will return to the old behaviors. I don’t know how many times I have said it would be so easy to just withdraw my retirement and continue with the status quo. But I know in my own mind and heart, this would not be the right thing to do. I need to make this change and enter my own transition to prepare me for my next wonderful adventure.

At this point I would normally say until next time, but not this time. This will be my last Blog with ISU Extension and Outreach. I have truly enjoyed writing these Blogs and hope others have found them helpful in some aspect of their life and career. And maybe in the near future there may be another next time.

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