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Retirement: Who Am I Now?
April 22, 2021
It’s one of the biggest life events anyone can achieve. You’ve successfully navigated a long and fulfilling career and your reward awaits: the blissful stage of retirement. Remember that last final in college? That feeling of freedom and the thrill of the pending activities and opportunities? Many of my clients, however, feel great trepidation facing this new phase of life. They wonder how they will spend their time, find engagement in the world around them, and how much enjoyment they will really find in retirement.
Retirement can prompt major changes in your personal identity, your use of time, and relationships. For many of us, our careers and professional successes define us. So when your working life ends, it’s easy to begin wondering: Who am I now? How do I recreate myself and have meaningful experiences? What is my outlet for creative thinking and entrepreneurial spirit?
To begin to answer these important questions, the first exercise is a brainstorm. What is your mission statement for your retirement? And this may begin with articulating what you don’t want first. Identification of what you DO want is “where the magic happens”. For example, you may want flexibility, adventure, intellectual curiosity, etc.
Here are some questions to get those creative wheels spinning:
- Hobbies: For those lucky enough to have a compelling hobby or interest, retirement allows for a more complete enjoyment of that pursuit. But for many, long-ago hobbies have taken a backseat to careers and families. Consider what is an activity you once enjoyed, but don’t do anymore.
- Half-Retirement: In half-retirement, you have an opportunity to have the best of all worlds—continued income stream, flexibility and fun. Questions to fuel this thinking: What do I feel I’m good at? How have I helped other people in their success, health or happiness? What don’t people like to do that I actually like to do?
- New Pursuits: Try something new! Who or what inspires you? Is there a talent or expertise that you wish you had? What do you need to achieve it? Do you have your sights set on travel? Learn about the history of each destination. Take up a foreign language.
- Volunteering: If community service is “in your blood” or you expect you’ll find enjoyment in “giving back”, volunteering for a charity you wish to support may be a great use of your discretionary time.
- Find Your Community: Maintaining an active social life gets harder with age. And when we retire, we lose a good deal of our social network tied to the workplace. But the benefits are obvious: social engagements provide a sense of belonging and feed our personal identity. Friendships add meaning to life and strengthen self-worth. Look for a new community to engage with related to your hobbies, new pursuits or volunteer activities.
Retirement can and should look different for everyone because of our unique interests. I have a client who, in his retirement from a successful career as a doctor, is now in a master’s program for astrophysics. Another client chose to sell her apartment to see the country over many months and identify a next place to call home.
Retirement is not a phase that happens to you, you create it. Crafting the ideal retirement for yourself with great intention can be a lot of work but can be a very fulfilling phase of life. While the answer to “what brings meaning to my life” is different for everyone, more often than not, great meaning in life can be found in the relationships we have with other people.
Articles and Commentary
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