May 14 , 2024 /


(Revised and Edited from earlier post of April, 2022)

An automatic transmission shifts gears up and down according to the need of the engine. We could take a lesson from that..  For those of us who grew up learning to drive with a standard transmission, we decided when to shifr and through practice we learned how to drive efficiently, and sometimes, not so much.

When I had the opportunity to shift from full-time to part-time work, I wasn’t sure how to make that transition easily or in a timely way.  Do I just flip the switch and go from full-time, whatever that is, to part-time, whatever that is?  I had to first assess the time factors and define hours or days in some way that made sense.  Full-time was more than 40 hours a week, probably closer to 60, and I could define part-time according to my preferences. My professional identity was independent, self-employed consultant, working often under contract and sometimes independently.  My intention was to become the manager of my time such that regardless of hours or days, I wanted to cut the work time by half or more.

I was part of an organization that was expanding and growing. My intention was to leave the organization and let others help grow the company. My goal was to design and limit my work significantly compared to what I had been doing for 12 years.

Feedback from others was extremely helpful as I wrestled with the transition from full-time to part-time professional work.   One person said, “How long might you be comfortable living with the tension?  For example, in your experience, do these things tend to resolve themselves with a little patience?  And/or is there a willingness for the idea you have for your life to change if something unexpected is being called forth that you didn’t anticipate?”  While I might have responded no, these things do not tend to resolve themselves so what I focused on was my lack of patience, thus the lesson learned was take a breath, step back and realize it doesn’t all have to be accomplished within two weeks or even two months.  Plans are just that and sometimes they need an adjustment here and there, “from both sides now.”

Another person said “Consider filling your other hours (over the 20-30 you’re willing to work) with those things you are excited to be able to now pursue and limit yourself to what you enjoy most. – distancing is an opportunity to appreciate.”   Other responses included answer your own question objectively as if you were one of us and make a pro-con list of benefits and burdens of being either full time or part time.

I did not expect anyone to have the magic recipe or answer that would solve the transition equation but their responses were thoughtful and helpful to me personally and professionally.  The exercise also demonstrated the tremendous value of feedback from others as a learning experience and what I learned helped me take several more steps toward the desired goal.  I am blessed and happy with the results of these past 11 years. I am as busy and as engaged as ever with different kinds of activities from earlier years.  This underscores my tag line: “Change is inevitable. Plan carefully.”

Every one of us goes through and, in fact, we are going through various life transitions, much of the time, one way or another. Living is organic & dynamic, seldom static or unchanging. What we see frequently are people not preparing for whatever might be next and there is one compelling reason. It is not knowing what might be next. However, it’s highly recommended to have a contingency plan. Then one day, if we wake up and wonder where we are and how we got there, at least there’s a plan in place that can be altered according to need. All of this in spite of my wife’s aphorism, “When we make plans, God laughs.”

The following categories are illustrations, stages of some life experiences where transitions can be useful bridges to the next stage of living; living to the fullest potential at any given time and in any condition where we might find ourselves. It may be possible to skip a stage and there is no set time for any particular one with two exceptions. Each one has a beginning and each one generally has an end. They do not occur at a definite point in time such as 5:20 AM on Wednesday, October 25, 2017. Many of these transitions, i.e. changes, are going on simultaneously or at least concurrently.

1 – Aging             Young > middle age > older > 65+ > 90+>

2 – Relationships   Parents > friends > partnered > single

3 – Work               First jobs > career ladder > retirement > last jobs

4 – Health             Active and fit > healthy > illness or disease > decline

5 – Time              Some time > little time > anytime > more time > endtime

6 – Learning        Informal > formal > continuous > independent > lifelong

7 – Family             Family of origin > nuclear family > extended family

8 – Creativity         Genius > scholar > researcher > technician > designer

9 – Living             Dependent > interdependent > independent > dependent

10 Dying             Recognition > resistance > farewell > acceptance

We have opportunities to make the most of these transitions, to use them to our benefit and for the benefit of others around us. We all know our lives are finite, that they will end some day, one way or another. Ask yourselves what you can do to learn from previous experiences how best to prepare for the next transition. These changes are, in most cases, inevitable. Therefore, a plan, even if it requires modifications, is so much better than no plan at all.

The expression, “flying by the seat of your pants” has its origins in the early days of aircraft that had no instruments and relied on the pilots’ skill and judgment. That is no longer possible in most cases although there are times, mostly in emergencies, when the pilot’s skill and judgment are greatly appreciated, especially when there is a good outcome. Go ahead, file your flight plan, read the weather, make sure your craft is in tip-top shape and take off for your next adventure.

If change is inevitable and universal, it is not a matter of whether or not we wish to change.  It is rather how we wish to design and implement change and how we respond to change that we do not control. Whether our concerns are about ourselves, someone else, an organization, a community, a country, or the world itself, everything is in a transition, some small, some large..


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