Every Change Has an Expiration Date


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I remember my first personal computer; it was a state-of-the-art dual floppy disk PC manufactured by IBM. In order to run spell-check I had to swap one of the disks out to put in the spell-check disk; my recollection is that there were 10 or more disks for the word processing program. The printer required a special Plexiglas hood that was lined with eggshell crate foam to help manage the noise. At the time many office workers were still on electric typewriters or dedicated word processing machines. That was 1983.

In 1990 I bought my own personal laptop; it was an upgraded model with 20 MB of storage. If I still had it today, that laptop wouldn’t even hold one of the photographs I now take with my digital mirrorless 35mm camera. Part of this post was written on a 120 GB iPad while sitting in a park enjoying the sunshine; it was uploaded to the cloud and then downloaded to a PC when I got home.

In 2004, 90% of American households had landlines; today that number is less than 50%. I am old enough to remember the evolution from 78’s, to 33-1/3’s and 45’s (for my younger readers, all forms of musical records); to eight-track and cassette tapes; to CD’s; to the first iPod, which Steve Jobs boasted was “designed to hold 1,000 songs.” Even that feels outdated today.

Every change has an expiration date.

Today most children still grow up thinking they have to choose a career that will be theirs the rest of their lives. The reality is, some of the lines of work that 2016’s high school and college graduates will experience don’t even exist yet. Even those who do select–and remain in–a single career for a lifetime, will hold way more than one job.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average worker currently holds ten different jobs before age forty, and this number is projected to grow. Forrester Research predicts that today’s youngest workers…will hold twelve to fifteen jobs in their lifetime. (“How Many Jobs Will the Average Person Have in His or Her Lifetime?” Scott Marker, LinkedIn. February 22, 2015.)

It’s not just careers or jobs that are changing. Things change “on the job.” Think about almost any line of work…it is most likely changing at revolutionary speed. Manufacturing. Teaching. Sales. Law. Healthcare. Technology. Construction. Agriculture. Transportation. Do a little research over the past 40 years (back to 1976), which is approximately the average length of a working career these days. If you weren’t around “back then,” it will be difficult for you to even imagine what work in that field was like compared to today.

Every change has an expiration date.

Changes in our personal lives have expiration dates as well. Child to teen to adult to elder. Single to married to single or widowed. Student to worker to retired. Childless to parent to grandparent, perhaps to great-grandparent. A home full of children to an empty nest. Within each of these changes there are more changes, some minor and some significant; the honeymoon is not like the first year of marriage, or the fifth, or the twenty-fifth.

Yet we tend to approach changes as if they are permanent, as if “This is it.” As a result:

  • We continue to invest in the old, the outdated, the worn out and expired well after such investments are justified
  • Decisions become harder and harder to make, and even more challenging to execute
  • We find ourselves “frozen in time,” failing to let go of the past, becoming increasingly isolated as we grow more and more distant from both the present and afraid of the future
  • Hours, days, weeks, years are spent talking about–and longing for–a past that cannot return
  • Victors of an earlier day allow themselves to evolve into victims today
  • Once upbeat, vibrant lives grow disengaged, depressed, despondent, desperate

Every change has an expiration date…but not everything in our lives has to change.

Anchors are what provides a sense of stability even in times of turbulent change. I have addressed anchors several times in my posts; Anchors Aweigh talks about them in depth. For many people, their families, lifetime friends, religious or spiritual practices, core values, and beliefs serve as those anchors. I am not sure whether any of these anchor lasts a lifetime without going through its own changes, at least for most of us. But if we can hold on to them, move with their changes and change our relationship to them when the time is right, they will continue to keep us anchored even as other changes in our lives continue to expire.

How do you address the expiration dates of your changes? Do you allow yourself adequate time to define, prepare for, plan, and execute the transitions; do you try to ignore the expirations; or do you try to leap the chasm at the last moment? What anchors move you through the expiration of important changes in your life? Comment below.

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