It happens every once in awhile — the feeling — the sense — the knowing — that I need to make a change in life; something new, something different. I’m not quite sure what I need, or where this is going, but I know I’ve got to do something to satisfy the internal stirring. It’s one of those transition moments.
Bend, Oregon — 1991
Richard Bolles’ two week “What Color is Your Parachute” career planning workshop was held at the Seventh Mountain Resort, on the outskirts of Bend, Oregon. At the time I was in one of those states of mind — the “this isn’t working anymore,” and “I need something new” states, but wasn’t sure what to do or how to go about finding what I was looking for.
So, I gathered together my meager savings and took a chance, signing up for the workshop. As it turned out, the “chance” worked, it was a profound experience that changed the course of my life; and more importantly, changed how I viewed myself going forward.
The Parachute workshop, in a nutshell, involved discovering — in a group setting — one’s innate and learned skills, values, goals, philosophy, ideal work and living environment, and putting it together in a picture of sorts.
We used a posterboard-size flower to draw this picture, with the center of the flower being a prioritized list of our favorite skills, and the petals listing our values, ideal work and living environment, kinds of people we wanted to work around, etc. The flower, once completed, would be a picture of our ideal life.
Bend, Oregon — 2010
Almost twenty years later I find myself back in Bend, with my old flower charts and notes, in a setting on the outskirts of town. This was all by design; a retreat, by myself, to find some answers to the age-old questions. Where am I going? What next? What do I want?
Bend is located on the eastern side of the Cascade mountain range, situated between the high desert to the east and the pine-covered mountains to the west. Because of its proximity to the desert, the temperatures are moderate year round.
When I first came to Bend in 1991, it was a small town — a hamlet — with a unique charm all its own. Apparently, since 1991, the world discovered this appealing village at the base of the Cascades. Today, Bend is considered an ideal area for retirement, with a host of outdoor activities like golfing, skiing, hiking and boating.
Combine the recreational pursuits with a cosmopolitan atmosphere, throw in a temperate climate, and you have tourism as the number one industry in the area. The small town of 1991 has grown dramatically, with strip malls, a Walmart, Costco and . . . well, you get the picture . . . it’s a bustling place.
Within moments of laying out my 1991 posterboard-size flower on the kitchen table, one of the petals shouted at me (figuratively, of course). It was the petal title “Rewards.” What do I want my work, my new or old endeavors to give me? I knew instantly that there were some Rewards that, at this stage in my life, were lacking and that I wanted.
And so it went, petal by petal — along with the center of the flower listing skills — it was a process of reviewing, updating and re-prioritizing from infor-mation I had listed 20 years ago.
On day two of my retreat, the second petal nudged me — the one about physical settings, the type of environment I wanted to work in, to be in. As I stared out the kitchen window at the pine trees, or drove into town glimpsing the snow-covered Cascades, I knew I wanted, and needed, to spend a lot more time hanging out with the beauty that nature has to offer. Resolution: I’ll make this happen. Petal two complete, four to go!
Over the years, depending on what edition of Parachute one reads, the number of petals and titles on the petals has changed, but the overall themes have stayed the same. It’s always been about identifying — by dissecting — one’s uniqueness, and taking that uniqueness out into the world.
Petal three — the one about “Values” was now getting my attention. What do I value? I looked at my old flower from twenty years ago and realized that my values hadn’t changed one iota. Discovering the truth, having challenges, learning, spending time in nature were still on top of my list.
I settled into a routine on my week-long retreat; looking at the flower I produced twenty years ago, looking for new ideas, for changes . . . look to satisfy that inner stirring.
By the end of the week, the pieces of the puzzle came together. I got what I came for: a bit of new lease on life. The skills that I enjoy using, writing, analysis of the financial markets and classical guitar, would in the coming months, be “taken to the next level.”
My home, in a so-so neighborhood of San Diego, is going to be turned into a permanent magical retreat. And, I will be focusing more on the things that I value. There is work ahead; change often requires work, but this will be a labor of love.
Transitions have been described as troublesome opportunities. When the internal stirring becomes noticeable, when the inner voice says “it’s time for a change,” heeding the call is the challenge. It may be a struggle getting through it, but with persistence, the rewards await. Perhaps Isaac Asimov captured the essence of transitions best when he said: “Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It’s the transition that’s troublesome.”
Robert Ross can be reached by e-mail at: SanDiegoRoss@Yahoo.com
Copyright © 2010 by Robert Ross, all rights reserved