Earning Tomorrow’s Eyes: When You’re Forced Into Early Retirement

So, you’ve been forced into “early retirement,” eh? Well, my first piece of advice comes from the immortal words of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy”: Don’t Panic!

It is distinctly likely that you are raging with one or more emotions: anger, frustration, sadness, disappointment, joy, worry, excitement, fear, anxiety, numbness, doubt — to name just a few. Whatever it is, start with genuine permission to feel it all, deep into your soul, all the way down to your toes. Let it serve you, inform you, empower you and relax you, because when you resist it, whatever the emotion is, it will cause you to tense up — question everything — judge yourself unfairly — and judge the person who “retired” you even more unfairly! Or worse, it will give away your power, create weakness, cloud your vision and fog your mind.

And who the heck wants that!?

Instead, feel it all.

Give yourself enough space to truly separate.

Remember, just because the power got shut down on the ginormous cruise ship of your life, the HMS Career, that doesn’t mean it stops right away — it still has serious emotional inertia pushing it in the same direction. You will continue to see things the way you’ve always seen them, thinking and feeling about them the way you’ve always thought and felt. It’s impossible to have a new, clear, and creative thought just yet, while stuck in the emotional thick of it. Give yourself time to separate from that momentum. Give the ship time to slow down so you can steer the HMS Career in a new direction.

Oh, and Breath. Slowly.  Deliberately.

William Bridges in his quintessential book Transitions calls this period the Neutral Zone.It’s that period when you let the past fade away enough to open up space for something new. When you go from an ending to a new beginning you are still looking with old eyes and at a high risk of seeing what you’ve always seen, duplicating the same mistakes or being trapped in old thinking. You’re not ready to explore something new when everything still looks the same — or worse, when it’s still wrapped up in the emotions of having been forced into change. Take time for the ship to slow down enough to make a significant course adjustment of attitude and action; only then can you can see something, think something, feel something new about where you go from here.  

Too many people want to move too quickly and nothing real changes; they simply end up singing the same song with a different verse, including all its bad transitions and dissonant chord changes.

You can’t see tomorrow with today’s eyes. So give yourself time to earn tomorrow’s eyes. You may be shocked what you end up seeing; the opportunities may actually look exhilarating.