A guy I know is doing very well in his career, but he is out of sorts lately because he has to give up the activities that helped him build his business in the first place. He started out as a salesman, but now he’s a manager, which is not nearly as much fun and not nearly as good a fit for his personality.
I’ve written before about the changes we all go through as we move through life, and the lessons of resilience are a constant, but there’s no denying that he has lost a part of himself in the transition. His identity as the guy who could outsell everyone else is being displaced by coach and cheerleader for other reps. He once basked in the glory of a million attaboys, but now he’s the guy who gives attaboys to all the other boys and girls on the team.
The more we talked about it, the more I realized he was in mourning. A part of him, a part of his identity and career had died and he was feeling the loss. Shortly afterwards, I had some conversations with friends who were going through other life changes---divorce, moving, job change—and the patterns were the same. Nobody had actually died, but everyone was mourning a significant loss. It didn’t matter if the changes were their choice or not, or if they recognized the transitions as a move for the better. They were shedding a skin, and their new skins didn’t quite fit.
Maybe that’s a good way for us to look at all the changes in our lives, large or small. We don’t need to get dramatic about it, since it’s not really a death, but recognizing the patterns can help us better with our adjustment.
I had always thought it was George Carlin’s idea, but it turns out it was Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross who came up with the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. As I talk with my friends about their own transitions, each of these stages seems to be present at one point or another. The order of phases isn’t always the same, but that’s probably normal. Just as there is no right or wrong way to mourn the death of a loved one, there probably isn’t a correct way to grieve over the loss of a job or a hometown. Whatever the pacing, the key is to reach acceptance and peace.
That also shifts the burden of friends and family to keep our mouths shut about how to deal with the death of a life phase. It’s pretty much never appropriate, or welcome, to begin a sentence with, “What you should do is…” and that’s particularly true in the big transitions of life. Truth be told, we really don’t know what someone else should do and we don’t have to live with the consequences of our advice.
I’m eating my own cooking on this one, resisting the urge to share my infallible wisdom about all issues of human endeavor. More than once, I suspect, keeping my opinions to myself has saved me from mourning the loss of yet another friendship.
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Who writes this stuff?
Dadwrites oozes from the warped mind of Michael Rosenbaum, an award-winning author who spends most of his time these days as a start-up business mentor, book coach, photographer and, mostly, a grandfather. All views are his alone, largely due to the fact that he can’t find anyone who agrees with him.