Our eldest daughter, Amie, was coming up on 21 and we were performing a major spring clean in advance of the party. Realistically, the typical guests were going to be more interested in Jaegermeister Bombs than cobwebs – but we do what we’re programmed to do. Anxiety is such a terrible thing!
Letting Go: We cleared out about 50 Disney tapes and DVD’s that we’d bought over many years. The kids have moved on. We don’t even own a video player any more so it made sense to pass these classics onto a younger crew. While gathering up those old tapes, there was sadness around letting go of the past, a silent recognition that we were sliding into a new era sometimes referred to as the third phase of life.
Third Phase: It’s hard to escape wrestling with this dilemma. In the social arena, I meet older golfers that used to hit the ball a country mile, saddened now because they can’t drive it as far. In similar vein, some people hate losing their physical attractiveness (consider yourself lucky that you don’t live on the west coast of America where the youth culture exacerbates this). Sometimes it’s letting go of ambition – like that corner CEO office suite that, realistically, may never happen now. The underpinning theme is transition –from where you were to where you are going.
Coaching Executives: In executive coaching projects, similar issues often arise. I have a couple of ‘standard responses’. Firstly, the feelings have to be acknowledged and understood. Listening is a high contact sport. It is crass and unskillful to hear without empathy. Secondly, at the appropriate juncture, I often try to inject a sense of perspective. So you used to ski in Colorado every year and now its Centerparks in the UK? But that’s still OK compared to…(insert appropriate comparison point). Sometimes it’s helping executives to embrace what’s ahead – focusing on shaping tomorrow rather than regretting the losses of yesterday. The rere view mirror is interesting – but the windscreen offers so much more possibility. The unspoken need is: ‘point me in the direction of hope’.
Final Chapter: Don’t let these transition points get you down. This movie is never over until it’s over. And, like all great stories, there can be twists and turns right up until the very end. There is still a bit to go yet. And, the really good news is that you get to write the final chapter. Make it a thriller.