What Makes Transition Smoother – Continuity or Discontinuity?

The last 48 hours have felt like a long string of discontinuity. We have awakened in Canada, Germany and France over that period and used pretty much every motorized form of transport available.  Last night we arrived in the southern French village of Olonzac that will be home for the next three weeks. The annual “Fete” was in full swing, blocking streets and forcing us to ad lib our way to our accommodation.

We awoke this morning (and a couple of times over the night) adjusting to a new time zone eight hours from that which we are used to and in an apartment with no food (our first order of priority today is to sort that out!) and in an environment where even speaking to someone is a challenge.

All that might sound like whining, but I don’t intend it that way. The intent is just to highlight how life can be sometimes – where nothing seems as it was just a short while ago and even the simplest things in life are no longer automatic.

OlonzacThis is our first opportunity to travel after passing through the gates of retirement. My wife Kendra went “cold turkey”, ending 35 years of working at a single company in a single day.  Where,  in the past, our morning discussions centered around the theme of “I don’t want to go to work”, her daily beginnings are now more along the lines of “I’m so happy!” For me, retirement has been designed to be a more gradual transition where I explore a purpose-driven career before I totally step away from a financially-driven one.

The feelings of discontinuity that were brought about by our travel to get here provoked thoughts of how different approaches to retirement can be continuous or discontinuous as well.   It is certainly true of the two of us and our very different plans for retirement.

Kendra’s approach has been abrupt, and while it has led to the new refrain of “I’m so happy!”, it has also caused her to reflect on what the next 30+ years are going to be like, and how she will be fulfilled by them.  Stopping work has been a discontinuity that she didn’t really prepare for, but is now starting to focus on.  She is joyful in her retirement, but beginning to wonder about fulfillment.

Cafe de la poste - nightMy approach was designed with continuity in mind, but I’m not yet convinced that this is necessarily better.  As I began to contemplate retirement, I wondered what my purpose would be when I stopped working.  In essence, I was afraid of how I would know myself when I stopped adding value through my lifelong career.  This search brought me to coaching, and I truly sense that as something that will fulfill my purpose in the future.  However, when one plans to transition slowly from the familiar to the new, the comfort of the familiar sometimes creates an inertia that is stronger than the pull of the promising new future.  So at times I find myself leaning back towards my past instead of confidently embracing my new purpose.

Just like when I rented a car yesterday from a French person.  I speak some (perhaps adequate) French, but her ease in English, made it easy for me to stay in the familiar language of home rather than embracing my commitment to immerse myself in France.

In many ways, this trip to France feels like a laboratory for my future work, where I will work as a coach supporting people through transitions such as retirement.   I’m looking forward to observing both of us engage in the process!   There will be some interesting things to learn along the way, such as:

  • For Kendra, this will be the first time that a trip isn’t a vacation. It’s just travel.  When she returns home there is no work to return to and it will be interesting for us to discuss how that lands with her.
  • For me, I have the intention of truly “blurring the lines” of work and living on this trip. That is my overall intent with retirement and in my first few months of being in my “first retirement” I haven’t yet been able to find it.  I’m hoping to start to learn what it feels like to always be on vacation while always working. By being able to let go of my current definition of working, I can also let go of my current definition of career and its pull on me.
  • This trip, we decided to rent this apartment for three weeks running, so that we would begin to experience our travel more as a “temporary relocation” than a vacation. We want to know if we can see travel as a part of our continuous living experience rather than feel it as a disruption to life’s routine. Can we feel like we are a denizen of the world rather than a resident in our home?

Olonzac kitchenI’m sure my next few posts will have more to say on this topic, and I look forward to what I might learn. Stay tuned!!  How about you?  How do you experience transition?  Is it continuous? Discontinuous? A bit of both?

Published by

Ian Munro @ leadingessentially.com

Ian Munro is a leadership and vitality coach with a primary passion for working with senior professionals who wish to improve their connection to and vitality in their career, or who wish to make a transition to a meaningful and rewarding retirement. His methods are focused on helping clients understand why they present as they do in day-to-day life, discover their authentic self and give themselves permission to build a meaningful and rewarding future, both professional and personal. Ian’s love for this work has developed naturally as he built his career as an executive and leader in the IT services industry, serving in many roles and facets of this industry over 25 years. As he reached the pinnacle of his career he began to search more deeply for meaning and alternate rewards from his own career and to begin to plan for his own “first retirement”.

9 thoughts on “What Makes Transition Smoother – Continuity or Discontinuity?

  1. I think I’ve experienced both kinds of transitions Ian. Retirement is a big one though and seems more final, so to speak. I wish you both meaningful transitions. ❤
    Diana xo

  2. When I left CMHA I thought it would only be a temporary period of unemployment until I recovered and found a new job. In the meantime I started to follow one of my passion of writing. I am still looking for the n ext money making position but the passion of writing and publishing has sustained my feelings of fulfillment.

  3. Hi Ian, many thanks for sharing these great thoughts on a “different kind of vacation”. Until I read your blog, I did not take this perspective yet (at least not consciously). I am experiencing something similar at the moment whereby I went on several trips with the family over the summer without returning to a formal “day job”. I feel my transition is just beginning and my experience of diving deeper into the world of coaching has been a very positive one. It was interesting to note, however, that while away with the family my “coaching responsibilities” where present with me most of the time and it became a similar experience to your “blurring the lines” vacation. Besides the immediacy of my pending Hudson course work, my thoughts did have a great quality of forward and future thinking. This contrasts very much with my prior vacation experiences that had elements of “dread” about pending work projects and anxiety over an inbox overflowing with unanswered emails. A good reminder for me that the quality of ones thoughts is directly related to the quality of ones present experience. Thanks for heightening my awareness!

    I wish you and Kendra a great “new holiday experience” in France. If by any chance you fly back via Frankfurt and have some time to spare, it would be a great pleasure having you over at our house for dinner.

    Enjoy your time! Best, Rene

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