The Self-Altering Process: Exploring the Dynamic Nature of Lifestyle Development and Change


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Normative and comparative functions, which stem from identity theories, work in a way that provide norms and standards for individuals to know how to think, feel, and act and to evaluate themselves Singer, Specifically, to make sense of others and themselves, people usually classify themselves and others into different social categories using social-demographic characteristics such as age, race, religion, or organizational membership Turner, For example, during retirement, people may choose other retired people of similar ages as a normative reference group, identifying themselves as persons who are experiencing life transition from an employee to a retired worker and considering exploring activities beyond work as norms and standards.

Or they may choose other employees in the same organization as a comparative reference group, identifying themselves as senior employees who are entering the late stage of careers and considering devoting to work and becoming a high-performance employee as norms and standards. These two functions may highly intertwine and influence the evaluation of the self. For example, a recently retired professor might know another academic who has been retired for ten years and has stayed very active in several research projects, continuing to write books and articles during retirement.

This more senior retiree could serve a normative function for the newer retiree, as the latter could draw lessons from the way his colleague chooses which projects to stay active in, how he finds support for his research in the absence of an organizational role, and how he keeps up with the literature. With this normative function, the more senior person serves as a role model, providing directional guidance on useful personal strategies for staying vital in the research realm.

At the same time, the more senior person could serve a normative function, in that the younger person might inevitably draw comparisons between himself and the older retiree, with evaluative conclusions about how he, the younger person, might be falling short of the accomplishments of the more senior person.

Thus the normative and the comparative functions can often be difficult to separate.

The Mechanics Of Belief

During this process, both integration tactics and differentiation tactics were used. For example, using the same workaholic colleagues as reference groups, some people acted as workaholics and continued working after retirement, while others forced themselves to behave differently and sought meaning beyond work.

Finding Meaning During the Retirement Process: Identity Development in Later Career Years

In general, however, both types of reference groups were used by individuals to make sense of their relationships with others and to guide their behaviors in everyday life Lawrence, By identifying with a group of people who are important to the individual, one might arouse positive affect, such as pride, excitement, joy, or love Ashforth et al, Such positive affect might encourage people to be self-directed in their career transition, believe in their capabilities, and dare to search for meaning.

Self-categorization theory Turner, indicates that by categorizing people into groups, people may seek to maximize in-group similarity and intergroup distinctiveness. In-group bias might prompt favorability toward members, and people may perceive them as more trustworthy Brewer, ; Tajfel, Thus far, we have discussed a relatively static retirement experience episode, in which the process of retirement is an intentional process involving intentions determined by identity, trial behaviors growing out of those intentions, and success or failure experiences outcomes.

In such a single episode, identity could be shaped by self-comparisons and reference groups. However, we also suggest that retirement process is not static but rather evolves and shifts over time. Therefore, individuals may experience multiple retirement episodes through their later lives. Figure 2. Identity development mechanism. Figure 2 shows the identity development mechanism in the retirement process consisted of multiple episodes. As we discussed before, a current identity could lead to a retirement experience episode as showed in Line 1.

If the outcome is positive, it will reinforce the old identity, which leads to such successful experience as shown in Line 2. If not, the person will revise his or her identity and try another retirement episode, as shown in Line 3. However, an old identity could also directly change into a revised new identity without retirement experience by comparing with multiple selves and reference groups, as shown in Line 4.

the self altering process exploring the dynamic nature of lifestyle development and change Manual

This process could continue indefinitely. John and James loved their work very much and derived their major identities from their occupations. When they reached the age to retire, both of them decided to continue to work as a parttime engineers after retirement Line 1a. John felt happy in his new parttime engineering job because he could successfully use his experience to mentor other younger employees. Therefore, he reinforced his old identity as an engineer Line 2a and stayed in the first retirement experience episode. However, things were different for James. He searched for a new identity Line 3 and started a new retirement experience episode.

What about Ann? Rather, she directly compared current self as an engineer with multiple selves and realized that she always considered being a creative writer as her ideal self Line 4. She started a new retirement episode and tried to write a novel Line 1b. She struggled for a while and thought about whether she should return to her old identity as an engineer Line 5 or whether she should find another newer identity based on comparing with other selves and other reference groups, which may be as a singer. Retirement is no longer a one-time event; it involves a process that iterates in a feedback loop.

As we mentioned, both PCO and developmental network could moderate the relationship between identity and a successful retirement outcome. In turn, retirement experiences people have could constantly change their PCO and developmental network through the process of both personal development and network development. Many people assume that PCO is a relatively stable trait.

The dynamic relationship between sense of place and risk perception in landscapes of mobility

This is an open question, one desperately in need of empirical examination. However, we would argue that PCO could be changeable as a result of life and career experiences. In support of this, Waters, Briscoe, Hall, and Wang found that when people moved from unemployment to reemployment, their levels of PCO declined.

These authors suggested that PCO may have a dynamic nature that is apparently activated by the adaptive needs under different career conditions.

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In their study, when people regained employment and their careers were, once again, influenced within an organization, the need to be protean may have declined. So it would be a true personal development process. For example, a person could use retirement as an opportunity to make a major self-initiated change in his or her life, moving to a far-away place and starting up a totally new activity, perhaps opening a hobby store, thus making a vocation into an occupation.

This could be the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. In terms of developmental networks, we argue that a successful retirement experience would reinforce both the quantity and the quality of developmental networks in the long term. For example, similarities in attributes, such as age, gender, religion, values, and education, may lead to the formation of best friendships; or differences in task-related skills and knowledge may lead to the formation of effective coauthorship.


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With the successful retirement experience, individuals may build and reinforce their relationship with others who share similar interests or backgrounds with i. The second mechanism is relational mechanism, which indicates the importance of trust, information, and opportunities for interaction in the evolvement of social network. Prior successful retirement experience may enhance the trust and interaction between the retiring person and his or her mentors and produce more information about such career transition. Therefore the quality of developmental network would be enhanced.

For example, during retirement, individuals may jump to a new company, join a new club, or move to a new city. In sum, despite its stability in the relative short term, the retirement process is dynamic when examined over a longer term. Individuals may cycle through one retirement episode to another because of the deeply identity reconstruction or because of the personal and network development. This dynamic may also be influenced by the contextual factors, which we discuss next.

Careers have been considered as continual change and learning processes across various boundaries within multiple social contexts e. This contemporary view of careers has led to calls for a more interactionist approach to careers research in which both individual and contextual factors are considered. Broadly speaking, the major outcomes associated with retirement adjustment may be classified into financial well-being, psychological well-being, and physical well-being.

However, retirement itself is rarely the cause of changes to well-being but instead is influenced by related factors or changes associated with the retirement process. A review by Wang and Hesketh argues that outcomes are impacted by factors within five categories: Individual attributes, preretirement job-related factors, family-related factors, retirement transition-related factors, and post-retirement activities. Additionally, depressive symptoms were found to increase with length of retirement period, particularly if the individuals experienced more initial depressive symptoms.

A greater sense of mastery was not only predictive of higher morale in men but also of fewer depressive symptoms. Furthermore, while financial, physical, and psychological outcomes can be analyzed independently, they are also interrelated. Finally, poor psychological health may increase the likelihood of engagement in maladaptive coping strategies and decrease the sense of personal empowerment. Some studies have already made a contribution in this direction. For example, literature that considers retirement as identity crisis Miller, assumes that individuals derive their identities from their jobs.

Moreover, consistent with the idea of identity continuity, Reitzes and Mutran found a lingering effect of identities, such as preretirement work identity, preretirement friend identity, and preretirement parent identity, in earlier retirement adjustment and self-esteem. Therefore individuals may make use of their preretirement identities to help their adjustment to new roles or stages in the life and career cycle. We focus on the psychosocial process of identity transition during retirement and argue that identity and retirement influence each other by communicating with self e.


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It is a highly dynamic and interactive process that evolves over time and is embedded in certain context. Though focusing on retirement, these ideas could be applied to other settings that involve fundamental identity change, such as early career, unemployment, and career transitions across different jobs, levels, and functions.

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Identifying the period of retirement remains an unsolved question. Or, in the case of mandatory retirement due to certain political or organizational policy, individuals may start to change their identities a few years before retirement, because they know exactly at what age they are required to retire and plan for that accordingly.

For example, Hall and Richter have studied psychological versus physical transition, and they found that there were three distinct styles with which people make the switch between the work identity and the family identity: anticipatory, discrete, and lagged. In the anticipatory style, the person begins to move into the identity of the next setting before leaving the present one.

The Self-Altering Process: Exploring the Dynamic Nature of Lifestyle Development and Change The Self-Altering Process: Exploring the Dynamic Nature of Lifestyle Development and Change
The Self-Altering Process: Exploring the Dynamic Nature of Lifestyle Development and Change The Self-Altering Process: Exploring the Dynamic Nature of Lifestyle Development and Change
The Self-Altering Process: Exploring the Dynamic Nature of Lifestyle Development and Change The Self-Altering Process: Exploring the Dynamic Nature of Lifestyle Development and Change
The Self-Altering Process: Exploring the Dynamic Nature of Lifestyle Development and Change The Self-Altering Process: Exploring the Dynamic Nature of Lifestyle Development and Change
The Self-Altering Process: Exploring the Dynamic Nature of Lifestyle Development and Change The Self-Altering Process: Exploring the Dynamic Nature of Lifestyle Development and Change
The Self-Altering Process: Exploring the Dynamic Nature of Lifestyle Development and Change The Self-Altering Process: Exploring the Dynamic Nature of Lifestyle Development and Change
The Self-Altering Process: Exploring the Dynamic Nature of Lifestyle Development and Change The Self-Altering Process: Exploring the Dynamic Nature of Lifestyle Development and Change

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