Life as a series of endings and beginnings

Photo by ZHU GUOYONG on

Photo by ZHU GUOYONG on

The snow in Hirafu is melting. Green is peeping through the spongey, sodden earth. There are signs of bamboo shoots, dripping roofs and new birds in the trees. It is spring and these are the signs of another ski season ending. Not all endings are so obvious.

Recognising the exit signs
The time to end one thing and start something new, is not always easily recognisable. It requires a clarity of vision to know when something is over, that it is time for something new. It is a question that plagues many. If it is about work, it could be about when to  leave a job, change careers or start your own business. If it is a lifestyle question, it could be whether to start a family, relocate or retire.

Perhaps the dilemma is presented in the way we think about it, the way we frame it – as an ending. This would be the glass half empty perspective. What about it if was half full? We could reconsider it as a choice, a new beginning, an opportunity for some new adventure or challenge.

There’s a trick to the ‘graceful exit.’ It begins with the vision to recognize when a job, a life stage, or a relationship is over – and let it go. It means leaving what’s over without denying its validity or its past importance to our lives. It involves a sense of future, a belief that every exit line is an entry, that we are moving up, rather than out.
~ Ellen Goodman


Having the wherewithal to adopt such a perspective is not always easy. We can be subject to many doubts and concerns about change. Our “inner critic” can get activated, questioning the wisdom of such decisions. The thing is that the future of work demands that we do get good at this. Work in the future will change a lot and require this sort of perspective-taking to gain the flexibility that will be required to survive.

Identity and our work
Many people spend a large proportion of their lives at work. They come to identify with it and sometimes they “become” that role. Whether conscious or not at first, this can reveal itself when people see themselves stuck a job without options to change. I once spoke to a young professional about his dissatisfaction with his work. When I suggested he could do something else – the response was, “What can I do – I’m just a lawyer?”

Gone are the days of having a career for life. These days, it is suggested that people entering the workforce will have many career changes throughout their work life. People may desire to have one career but those who chart future work trends suggest that change is inevitable and will be imposed. To retain career resilience will require career flexibility.

The future of work
Work in the future will be affected by a number of economic and social factors. These include:

  • automation – it is suggested that 0-30% of the hours worked globally could be automated by 2030
  • an increasing aging population means healthcare and other personal services will be in more demand
  • work in developing and deploying new technologies will grow
    McKinsey Global Institute Report, 2017

Learning flexibility
Along with developments in technology and automation, are developments in brain science. The discoveries about brain function and its ability to regenerate – its  plasticity, is welcome news in this era of change. This ability to continue to learn provides greater flexibility for those facing new beginnings. Learning new things throughout life is possible and highly probable for attaining the skill development necessary for career resilience. That is, being able to adapt and learn new skills and knowledge to deal with new work challenges.

Choices and finding satisfaction
The key to success will lie within the person though. We know change is inevitable. The perspective we choose is ours. This mindset impacts the way we handle changes that follow – as an ending or a new beginning. The flow-on effect will be evident in the satisfaction perceived. 

Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.
~ Lao Tzu


Manyika, JamesLund, SusanChui, MichaelBughin, JacquesWoetzel, Jonathan, Batra, Parul, Ko, Ryan & Sanghvi,  Saurabh. 2017. What the future of work will mean for jobs, skills, and wages McKinsey Global Institute Report, November 2017.

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