Why Life Transitions are Difficult

Jann Freed Leave a Comment

As I have said before, I am on a mission to retire the word “retirement.”  I remind people that we are not “retiring,” but we are moving on.  Everyone will move onto something.  We may be paid (encore career or second career) or we may not be paid (volunteer) or we may work part-time.  But we will be doing something to get us out of bed in the morning.

After several years of focusing on transitions and helping people figure out what to do next, I have concluded that the hardest part about transitions is the loss of identity and platform.  If you remember the movie About Schmidt, Warren Schmidt (played by Jack Nicholson) was lost without his title, work, and influence.  After watching that movie, I came up with this statement:

If you are what you do and you don’t do it anymore, then who are you?

For most of us, leaving our first careers often happens on average in our 60s.  Some people leave earlier and some later, but it is a theme for people in their 60s.  But for professional athletes, that time is much sooner.  As the US Open is going on now, broadcasters talk about some of the players in their late 20s as “reaching their limit” indicating it might be time for them to “retire.” While a few transition nicely into broadcasting or coaching, not everyone has those opportunities.

A sad story took place this week in Iowa.  A former Iowa football star, Tyler Sash, turned professional after him junior year.  He was clearly a high school star in three sports who continued to be a star at Iowa.  He was fortunate to join the New York Giants and in his rookie year the Giants won the Super Bowl.  But he was cut soon after and returned home as a big fish in a little pond.

I had the chance to talk to a doctor from Tyler’s home town—actually the doctor told me he delivered Tyler 27 years ago.  He pointed out that Tyler was as strong academically as he was an athlete.  Tyler’s dad is a teacher in the system and the family is outstanding in the community.  Tyler continued that by creating a Foundation to help underprivileged families in the community.

While I did not know Tyler, from what I have read—it sounds as if he never found a purpose after football.  This blog post, written by someone who knew Tyler, says it best.  It reinforces the power of purpose, of letting go in order to move on, of why transitions are so difficult.

If you are struggling with a life transition, I encourage you to find someone to help you through it.  The investment of time and money is worth it.  Transitions are often hard to go through alone.