can be a minefield. Gray divorce, death of a partner,
sudden illness, age discrimination or brutal corporate
downsizing, to name a few potential triggers.
Veronica Buckley, it was a job transfer to Chicago for
her husband that uprooted her more than a decade ago
from an administrative position she loved in New York.
She was 48 and hadnít finished her college degree.
was my disorienting dilemma," said Buckley,
referring to Columbia University professor Jack Mezirowís
Transformative Learning Theory, which was based on
research in the 1970s on factors that made women
successful, or not, when they resumed their education at
community colleges. As long as our experiences fit in a
preset range, we tend not to engage in truly
transformational learning, the work suggests.
her part, Buckley enrolled in college, finishing not
only her bachelorís degree, but a masterís and then
a doctorate in adult education. She worked for a private
equity firm and now is on the faculty at DePaul
University in Chicago.
one of a small group of Chicago professionals launching
a downtown Chicago chapter of The Transition Network, a
national organization for 50-plus women going through
various types of changes. The group focuses on support
and professional development (www.thetransitionnetwork.org).
secret to making these transitions successful? Buckley
and other leaders of the organization arenít quite
is Mark Miller, author of the just-released book
"Jolt: Stories of Trauma and Transformation."
the book, Miller interviewed men and women of all ages
who had suffered some kind of trauma ó loss of a
child, illness, natural disaster ó and who often
transformed that grief into service projects around the
globe. He also interviewed experts on traumatic
experiences to understand the science behind what was
happening to the people he interviewed.
he cautions that the experts arenít yet able to say
for sure who will be successful at turning a traumatic
experience into a powerful force for good in a life, he
did make a couple of anecdotal observations about those
own gut feeling is, trauma rips apart your sense of the
world around you, and thereís a profound need to put a
life back together, to restore a sense of meaning,"
he said. "It seems the people who do this
successfully are the ones most compelled by that
an unexpected midlife divorce and with two children to
care for in the mid-1980s, Carol Anderson thought she
would try to increase her hours as a part-time early
when she met with a friend in the insurance field, she
started to envision a career in financial services that
would enable her to support her family far more securely
than she would have if she had continued down the early
that path led her to start Money Quotient,
www.moneyquotient.org, a non-profit organization that
offers training for financial advisers to provide more
holistic, life-planning services to clients.
own personal transitions brought me to the realization
that even highly educated people donít often grasp
their own finances," she said. "Research shows
that financial education is not very effective, which
really unmoored me, but I thought that I could motivate
people to understand how money is tied to the vision of
what they want their life to be."
of these students of change offered up an easy,
three-step process for transformation, but if thereís
a common thread, it may simply be that each success
starts with a bold decision. We may naturally pull
inward and try to keep as much as possible constant in
our lives in the aftermath of trauma. Eventually,
however, forging a new path may be the only way forward.