Heraclitus, an ancient Greek philosopher, once said that “Change is the only constant in life”. Centuries have passed, and the statement is as true today as it was then. The question is: are we using this period of change for growth?
Studies report that the most significant causes of stress include deaths of parents and other loved ones, moving homes, changing jobs, etc. From a psychosocial developmental perspective, we progress through many such periods, where our past roles are different from future ones. These include Childhood, Adolescence, Young Adulthood, Middle Adulthood, Mature Adulthood, Older Adulthood, and Elderhood. (For details on these stages of life, see “The Stages of Your Elongated Life”.)
The Gap Year
Because life stage transitions can be stressful, society has acknowledged the need for taking time off. Young people take “gap years” often to figure out what they want to do. People often take “sabbaticals” from their jobs, because they want more from life; some use them as growth periods, getting new skills to qualify for new positions. Parents take “maternity” and “paternity” leave to bond with their children, and to address the additional life-changing stresses as their family or homes change. Some companies have introduced a “phased retirement” program that allow full-time employees to work part-time schedules while beginning to draw retirement benefits. This gap year concept is perfect for you to take the time to plan for the next stage of your life.
We believe that people will make more effective and satisfying plans for their next stages of life, if they truly work through these transition periods to identify their goals and develop effective strategies to meet them. For instance, someone considering retiring from work should:
- Identify their current and future lifestyle needs (e.g., work, travel, entertainment, education, community involvement, and relationships)
- Estimate what changes need to be made in each building block (e.g., health, wealth, relationships and purpose) to enable them to live their values and achieve their goals. (E.g., Can we afford not to work for the next 30 years of life, based on estimated lifestyle and health care expenses, financial resources, and changes to savings over time)
- Connect with informed and expert sources who can help make these decisions.
To reduce the stress between these stages, view these gap, sabbatical, and phased-retirement programs as G.R.O.W.T.H. (Goal Re-Organization With Transitional Health) times. These are periods with sufficient time and resources to evaluate goals and adopt strategies to implement them successfully. Individuals should look forward to GROWTH times throughout his/her life. Companies that encourage employees’ personal and professional development, can offer appropriate GROWTH times to help employees navigate life changes. Rather than simply offering time, they can provide coaching and information resources that will enable employees to make better decisions with less stress.
For instance, Age Brilliantly has developed the Retire Brilliantly Workshop. This one-day program allows members to assess their values, goals and resources and identify first steps to create a solid plan for retirement. Participants continue working on their plans at their own pace and/or work with an accountability group to stay on course.
For more information on how companies can create more effective GROWTH times to help employees with their life transitions, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.