RISMEDIA, March 16, 2011—(MCT)—Research suggests that most Americans don’t want to retire to a life of just hitting a tiny white ball around a well-manicured lawn. Instead, they want to do something after they “retire” from their primary career. Trouble is, many Americans don’t know how to go about it. They don’t know what steps to take to figure out what to do next in their lives.
Or at least that was the case for many years. Today, there are a small but growing number of experts, including Marc Freedman of Civic Ventures, who are helping Americans on the cusp of retirement or in semi-retirement transition from doing one thing to doing something else.
One such expert is Doug Dickson, president of Discovering What’s Next, who has created a process based on qualitative research and 15 years of professional experience in the career transition field. In Dickson’s model, which is in some ways similar to other models, there are five distinct stages involved in moving from what you are doing now to what you will do in the future.
According to Dickson, each stage is linked to what he called transition themes. And each stage is linked to a specific purpose, as well as tasks, outcomes and questions. What’s more, each stage is linked to what he calls “identity changes” as well as the individual’s state of mind and emotions.
He calls the first stage “acknowledging the need to transition.” Dickson said the transition to what’s next doesn’t always begin abruptly. “For most people, it is the consequence of a fair amount of pre-planning or at least some thinking in advance, and it may not emerge for months or years after the initial idea settles in,” he said. “Yes, there are other people for whom it is fairly sudden and it is often triggered by outside events, such as the loss of a job, or some sort of health issue that makes people realize their mortality and sends them in a different direction, in terms of them thinking about their future.”
He said this stage is characterized by first-hand recognition that something different is happening, and secondly, the beginning of a disengagement process.
“There’s a disconnection process,” he said. “You need to separate from whatever it was that you were doing previously and go into what Williams Bridges, author of Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change, calls the ‘neutral phase’ or ‘neutral zone.’ And out of that you gain new perspective and begin to figure out what comes next.”
There’s likely to be a good deal of tension, ambiguity, apprehension and confusion that is associated with this stage as one tries to figure out who you are and what you want to do. Typical of the questions that you might ask during this phase are: “When and where do I begin?” and “Where do I get support?”
The second phase is called “discovering your potential.” This phase is generally by introspection. “It’s about thinking about the possibilities,” he said. “It’s about re-examining your life and trying to figure out what is important to you and how that might be expressed in terms of what comes next. For a lot of people, what’s important is constant, but some people lose track of what’s important and need help regaining a sense of what’s important and what might not be so important.”
This stage is also characterized by becoming aware not just of the possibilities but also what’s possible and right for you at this stage of your life. “It’s more of an affirmation, than it is an exploration,” he said. A typical question that you might ask yourself in this stage is: What are my gifts, passions, values, needs, resources?
The third stage is called “discovering your options.” This stage, Dickson said, is marked by exploration and experimentation. “It’s about exploring the range of possibilities, and actually putting your toe in the water.” In this stage, you will experiment to see what works and what doesn’t. “You want to engage in something that will help you to test the waters and confirm that this is where you want to head,” he said.
Typical questions in this stage include: How do I express my true self? What fits? What works for me?
The fourth stage is called “discovering your goals.” This, he referred to as the time-commitment and planning phase. This phase is characterized by the statement: “Out of all the things I’ve been looking at, this is what I want to have next,” Dickson said. In this phase, you’ve narrowed down the number of things you might do to two or so and you may not be sure which of the two you want to do.
In this stage, “you start to actually move forward in a way that identifies what you need to do, who you need to talk to, what kind of resources you need and so on,” Dickson said. A typical question in this stage is: Which options will help me realize my emerging identity?
And then, there’s the final stage, which is called transforming “what’s next into what’s now.” This is the implementation and engagement phase. Typical questions are: How do I protect time for all I want to do? How do I rebalance my time? What’s my sequence?
Now truth be told, Dickson said, most people don’t move through the five stages as presented. “This is a very linear model and unfortunately or fortunately nobody really moves through life in the linear, and nobody moves through this model quite in the way it’s set up because the stages overlap with each other,” he said.
“Sometimes they cycle back on each other, and so on. But we found that it’s very helpful for people to understand that these stages are distinct and even though they may well appear muddied as they occur in real life, it’s helpful for people to know this is what they can expect next.”
What’s more, he said it’s important for people to understand where they are in terms of the process “because it can be very confusing, for people to go through a change of some significance without having a sense of whether they are making headway and where it’s all going to lead.”
And the more information that people have in advance about what to expect, the better, he said. “The process can be very draining emotionally for people,” said Dickson. “And if they have a sense of what to expect, it’s a lot easier for them to say that ‘This too shall pass. And all I need to do is focus on where I am now and not necessarily on what the end result will look like because I am focusing on this stage where my challenge is today and not to worry about what’s going to happen two, six months from now, whenever it is.'”
(c) 2011, MarketWatch.com Inc.
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