Sometimes I start writing with a particular thought in mind, only to find myself serendipitously heading in a different direction. It’s one of the things I love about writing, and today’s article is an example. Initially, I started this post about the transition into retirement, and ended up with “A Life Lesson Worth Sharing”. I started this article with the following sentence….
“As you approach retirement, you’d better be getting serious. This is likely the largest transition you’ve ever gone through in life.”
……Then, I paused.
“The largest transition…ever gone through….in life.” ??
I think not. Marriage? That’s pretty big. Leaving college and starting my career? What about the day I was born? My brain went down a path. How many transitions ARE there in life? Which one is the biggest? An interesting concept…
Exploring the concept of “transitions” led me to recall a life lesson which I was taught more than two decades ago, and which I’ll be sharing with you today.
As my regular readers know, I like to weave in these “softer” philosophical articles from time to time to compliment my “harder” retirement planning posts. They’re both important, and it works for me (I hope it works for you!).
The 15 Transitions Of Life
Here, then, open to debate by all, is the list that I developed of the major transitions we face throughout our life:
- Womb to Air
- Pre-School to School
- High School To College (or first job if no college)
- College To Career
- The First Child
- Maturation Into Full Adulthood
- Raising Teens
- College Expenses
- The Empty Nest
- Retirement Planning
- Living In Retirement
Obviously, not every person faces every transition (except for the last 2, we can’t escape those!), but it’s indicative of the types of transtitions all of us face in life. Sure, one could argue with various aspects, but that’s not the point. Rather, it’s interesting to think about how much our life changes from birth to death, and how retirement is just one of many changes that occur throughout our lives. I could probably write an article on each transition, and may do that at some point (note to self: consider writing an article on each transition over the course of the next year, then weave them all into my first book?!).
Interesting stuff, this “transition” idea.
Time For Change
The point of thinking about transitions is to realize we must always be flexible, adaptive, and willing to change. Regardless of how stable our position in life may seem, the reality is that in the broader scope we’re always near a major transition. Whether you’re planning for retirement or planning your wedding, every transition takes planning to insure success. The better you plan, the higher your odds of success. Don’t stress about change. Plan for it, then embrace it. This is the stuff of life.
Like Sand through An Hourglass
The other thing that struck me as I put together “The Transition List” is the reality that I’ve already experienced 11 of the 15 transitions in my life. I suspect the majority of you reading it are in a similar situation.
Kinda scary, right?
Life passes really, really quickly. Take the time to enjoy each day. Don’t spend all of your time planning for the future, and forgetting to live in the day. It reminds me of a life lesson a wise man taught me more than 20 years ago.
A Life Lesson Worth Sharing
Earlier in my career, I spent a lot of time in Monterrey, Mexico, and remember the infamous “Saddle Hill” (Cerro de la Silla) pictured above as if I were there yesterday (it’s startling to realize I haven’t been back since 1996!). I was in sales at the time, and had a large account in Monterrey. The purchasing guy I dealt with was named Hector, and we became good friends. After several years of calling on Hector, he began inviting me to his home for dinner with his family. He was ~20 years older than me, and became a bit of a mentor. His teenage daughter actually stayed at our house for a time one summer to experience life in the USA. Hector was a true friend. It was a relationship I’ll always cherish.
Hector taught me about the importance that the Mexican culture places on family (and, interestingly, the relatively low importance they place on material items, especially compared to most of the folks in the USA). I learned that there are some truly wonderful folks in Mexico. Relationships matter, and I was fortunate in having the opportunity to develop a deep relationship with someone from a culture which is as interesting as Mexico.
When Hector found out we were expecting our daughter, he asked if he could give me some advice. I was an eager listener, as Hector started sharing what would become, 20 years later, a Life Lesson Worth Sharing with all of you:
“You’re going to love being a Father. But you can make it even better by not fretting over the future, and the way things might or might not work out. And don’t despair over the past, and things you’d wished you’d done. Rather, focus on treasuring every moment you have with your daughter. Those moments pass very quickly, never to return. Focus On Intentionally Appreciating The Now.”
Now that we’re “empty nesters” and our daughter is in college, I realize the wisdom behind Hector’s words, and am thankful he gave me that advice while I could still act on it. I thought about it often during the years we raised our daughter, and frequently took a pause to Focus On The Now as a result. I’ll be forever grateful to Hector for that lesson, and the many times that the lesson caused me to pause and enjoy the moment.
I don’t know why thinking of “transitions” led me to remember the “Life Lesson Worth Sharing”, as taught to me by my dear friend, Hector. But it did, and I think it’s an important message. Enjoy life as you live it, amid all of the many transitions you’ll inevitably go through.
From a wise Mexican friend, 20 years ago. To you, my reader, today.
Isn’t it amazing how quickly life happens?
Focus On Appreciating The Now.