“The world is constantly changing – as are we. Which makes it that much more important in periods of transition, to evolve out of outdated perception of who we are, or our ill-fitting costume, and reframe them with ruthlessly edited belief that connect with our soul.” – Chip Conley, Wisdom at Work, p. 69.

Life is full of transitions. Sometimes it seems like we are either in the throes of accommodating a prior transition or looking forward to the next transition. Some transitions are predictable, for example graduating from high school or college. Others are less predictable. These transitions might include trauma, illness or an unexpected break-up.

Even the rich and famous have to undergo life transitions. Cara Lambardo in the WSJ has a profile of investor Carl Icahn as he plans to move himself and his business from New York City to Miami and begin to transition the management of his firm to his son. Either of which would be considered a big deal. Together all the more so.

In a very real sense we cannot plan for every eventuality. We try to take care of the obvious things like various forms of insurance and saving for retirement, but there are more things that can happen to us than we can possibly plan for. As Douglas Boneparth notes:

Just as accidents happen, so do transitions, whether we want them to or not. As adults we do have some ability to plan for the transitions that are ahead of us. Avivah Wittenberg-Cox in a piece in HBR from last year does a nice job laying out the steps we need to take to not only survive a transition but in a very real sense to thrive. She writes:

“Longevity means that, more than ever, we need to plan for change. Using the gift of decades requires acknowledging their existence and deciding what you want to do with them. People say you can’t have it all, but the gift of time gives us new options to have a lot more than we ever thought possible.”

One key part in planning for any kind of transition is understanding your own values. On the face of it this seems easy and obvious. However it can be harder than it looks. Understanding your values is a key part of being able to plan for the future. Carolyn Gowen at the Financial Bodyguard writes:

“The initial, and arguably the most important, part of the financial planning process is all about YOU. Not what you earn, or how much wealth you have accumulated, but what drives you, what gets you out of bed in the morning, what are your hopes and dreams?

Determining your values is a vital part of this process. Life is a series of compromises and for the vast majority of people, there will be trade-offs needed: spend a little less now to be able to choose to stop work a little earlier, for example.”

It’s difficult to see how you can plan for a future life transition if you don’t understand your own values and interests. Related to this is the idea of having a sense of your future self, or future self-continuity. Which is defined as ” the connection and perceived association between who you are today and who you will be in the future.” Meghaan Lurtz writing at Nerd’s Eye View writes about the role future self-continuity plays in being able to effectively plan for the future. She notes:

“High self-continuity (feeling highly connected to the future self) has been linked to better health, wealth, and ethical behavior. Yet, high future self-continuity is not necessarily the norm…Increasing FSC may also help with other more common, and perhaps more difficult, financial planning scenarios like actually transitioning into retirement, getting through a divorce, or thinking about death and other major life-changing events.”

The thing about transitions is that we do get some practice with them over time. Recognizing that each transition is unique is both helpful and somewhat anxiety-inducing. The hope is that we get better with big life transitions over time and can help others out along the way who are experiencing what we might have.

“Most of us come to the realization that the older we are, the less we have to prove, and the freer we are from the shackles of convention. With this freedom comes life-giving energy, an unconquerable generosity of spirit, and a profound desire to give back.” – Chip Conley, Wisdom at Work, p. 215.

Here’s hoping your next life transition makes you freer and more generous of spirit.

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