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Sunday, January 28, 2018

How Much Have You Changed?

Change Is Inevitable as We Grow

Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of change in my life. Not necessarily change specifically in me, although I know that is lurking just around the corner. The changes seem to be all around me in people that I know or may work with as coaching clients.
I shouldn’t be surprised. In grad school, I minored in Developmental Psychology. That field encompasses much more than child development; its focus was on human development in the life span.

As some of you know, my mother is 94 and lives alone in The Villages of central Florida. I’ve known for some time that she was waning: losing stamina, having more difficulty with balance and walking speed. She still has a good mind, although now can’t remember as well, and occasionally gets confused. When she caught a cold just before Christmas, everything began to change in big ways. She’s now on oxygen, can’t (or shouldn’t) drive her car, and her life was become much more confined. She’s always been independent, and now must surrender a lot of that to depend on others.

I see the changes and know what they mean. My siblings and I are trying to come up with plans that she’ll accept, at the same time trying hard not to increase any stress associated with upcoming changes. Quite probably, there will be a move to Gainesville in the near future, so that she can be closer to family. But that means leaving the house she and my father built over 20 years ago, and leaving dear friends.

Watching her go through these changes has me thinking about all the different changes we go through in our lifespan.

As infants, we learn about the world around us. We learn to trust (or not). We gradually learn to speak and walk, and our experiences even at that young age helps shape who we will become in life.

We interact with the world and learn about self-control (that’s that potty-training stuff). Eventually we (hopefully) learn to express our needs without temper tantrums. We learn to interact with other children, maybe in our family, maybe in day care or nursery school.
Usually around the age of five or six, we start school. We learn about people who are different than we are, we learn to share. If we haven’t learned any yet, we begin to learn rules. As children we soak up knowledge, learning how to read, write, draw, and think. We begin to problem-solve in more sophisticated ways. We learn to differentiate emotions and their causes far beyond feeling “good” or “bad.” With luck, we learn to use our words. We develop friendships that may last our entire lives. We begin to suspect other families don’t do things the way ours does.

As we continue to grow and develop through adolescence, our bodies mature and we create or discover our identity. Friends become of overriding importance, and we learn how others may treat us. We begin to think about the future, even when it scares us. Gradually, we move towards greater independence. At some point, we’ll be ready to emancipate from our families and create a life of our own. Maybe this will be after high school; maybe it will be after college; maybe it will involve us getting married and starting families of our own.

As we develop, we move toward the work world, and finding ways to support ourselves. Currently, this stage poses difficulty for many young adults. They may exit college with massive debt and few prospects to work in the field they chose. Sometimes it’s necessary to move back in with their parents. Sometimes, to find a job, they have to move across country, away from their support systems.

Time marches on, and in the middle of life (whenever that is), you may develop a “mid-life crisis.” This is usually a dissatisfaction about how you are living. There may be a desire to change life circumstances—to leave a marriage, to move, to change jobs or even careers. This stage is about finding a way to live that will bring greater satisfaction. No matter what, this life stage usually requires change, whether big or small.

We continue to grow and develop throughout our whole lifespan, whether we’re aware of it or not. At some point, we reach the point where we’ve aged enough that we consider retirement or at least changing our work life in such a way that it is no longer central to our lives. When this is, and what form it takes often depends on a person’s financial situation. Have they saved enough to retire? Are they ready mentally, emotionally, and physically to change to a slower paced life. This can be an especially tough life stage, filled with changes in your daily life.

Grandparents may want to live closer and be involved in their children’s lives. Physical impairments may necessitate different living situations, such as living where there are minimal stairs. At this stage, there’s a lot of thought about what the future will bring. People facing the retirement stage will ultimately be making big changes, and may be anxious about the timing of their retirement decision as well as what their daily life will bring. They wonder: “What am I going to do with myself now?”

At some point, you’ll probably reach the stage that my mother faces. Feeling tired, worn out, or possibly sick. That’s when you may feel grateful for the good years, but ready to leave your fragile body as the quality of your life declines.

The timing of all the changes that occur in a lifespan isn’t always precise, and often happens when we aren’t ready for it. Illnesses can happen in midlife. Relationships can sour, changing your emotional well-being as well as your financial stability. Jobs may be lost as industries and businesses change to adapt to societal shifts.

Although there may be plenty of unpredictability, we always have the ability to change. It may take some time to accept the changes. It may take time to see how to create a different life that will be even more satisfying than the path you were on before.
Whatever life stage changes occur for you, you can make it. You may not be able to change your circumstances, but you definitely can change your reaction to those changes.

It’s definitely helpful to have support in the process. Whether you get this support from family or friends, or whether you seek out someone to help you find your new path, I think it’s important to get support.

I also think it’s vitally important to realize that we’re all in the same boat. Change happens to all of us, and when we help each other through the changes that life brings us, we help others as well as ourselves.

If you need help with the life stage changes you’re facing, feel free to contact me at 865-983-7544 or email me at Linda@InnerResourceCenter.com. We can put our heads together and figure out how you can best get the support you need, even if it isn’t from coaching with me. I’m committed to helping people find the resources to change their lives in positive ways. That’s why I call my business the Inner Resource Center, LLC. We all have resources to help us weather inevitable life stage changes. We just have to figure out what they are. I’m happy to help.

© 2018 Linda S. Pucci, Ph.D. All rights reserved.