5 Tips to Thriving After Retirement
I was doing some life planning the other day, looking ahead to my future and thinking about where I want to be in another 5, 10 or 20 years.
Inevitably, the word “retirement” came up, as it does for all of us who have spent a lifetime working and striving toward that time where we could step off the career merry-go-round of 9 to 5 and, well…have more time for FUN!
It’s that mythical, magical space of time in our lives where we live the way we want to, doing the things that give us joy without boundaries of schedule or obligation.
But, over time, I started to notice the crack in the façade of that dream called retirement.
Too many of those I’ve known who worked hard and were unwaveringly committed to providing for themselves or their families, got to a certain age only to find they had run out of time to actually enjoy the goal they worked so diligently to achieve.
All the fun, relaxation and joy they expected to receive faded like a mirage because they lacked the energy, the health or the willingness to step outside their comfort zone once that moment arrived.
Apparently, I’m not alone in that observation, because there’s a new way of thinking about this conundrum.
It’s called mini-retirements.
The concept of waiting your whole life to hit re-set and enjoy what life has to offer in new experiences and growth is fading fast into the sunset.
Baby Boomers, for instance, have turned the concept of traditional retirement on its head. Instead of pulling the plug at age 65, many people in their 40’s, 50’s or 60’s are fast-forwarding their dream of owning a business, or traveling the world, well before traditional retirement age.
In starting a new business, for instance, they’re using their treasure trove of knowledge and experience to create new growth opportunities for themselves, teach skills to others or actively engage in a cause they’re really passionate about.
Others are creating mini-retirements earlier in life when they feel they need to be re-charged emotionally and physically. More than a typical vacation, they’ll take 2-3 months or even longer, and temporarily relocate to another place or country that interests them for a full-emersion growth experience.
This isn’t just for singles or couples, people are doing this more and more with entire families!
So, why are so many people chucking the traditional golden egg of retirement and choosing a different path?
Well, as it turns out, some people find retiring…well, boring!
After the initial adrenaline rush of relief that they experience during the first few weeks or months after retirement, many start to feel a sense of disconnection, like a sailboat that’s been forced to drift aimlessly in a doldrum sea.
There’s no “wind” to push them to new experiences, no goals to fill the void that an established career or business used to provide. One day melts into the other and pretty soon it gets harder and harder to remember what you did last month, last week or even yesterday because you might feel pretty much on auto-pilot.
Unfortunately, that’s when depression can set in.
“How can I be feeling sad when this is what I’ve worked my whole life to get to?” they say. “I’m supposed to be having FUN!”
If you’re someone that’s 100% happy playing a daily game of golf, or active in some other passionate interest, and that’s what fulfills you, you’re lucky!
But, many others are not adequately prepared for is the misconception that just getting more free time, without a plan, should automatically equate to personal well-being and happiness.
They’ve missed the biggest learning curve of all.
That is, as humans, what gives us meaning and allows us to thrive is the ability to learn and grow throughout our lives, not just birth to age 65. We never cease wanting to strive toward new challenges or goals.
It’s what feeds our souls and minds and makes us feel we are contributing to the greater good, even if it’s in the smallest way.
Retirement is a social concept. A life marker that many say has long outlived its usefulness. With people living longer, by as much as 30 years or more than a century ago, how is it possible that as a society, we still feel it’s ok to say your mental/physical abilities or social usefulness have suddenly expired?
At best, it’s meant to simply be a shift to a new season in life.
At worst, it infers an end to a person’s ability to be able to continue to contribute to their community in a meaningful and important way.
If they haven’t purposefully made the effort to stay active and engaged in their community, they may also be feeling socially isolated.
Many of us have experienced what this type of isolation can feel like this past year because of COVID-19. What if you experienced that on a daily basis the rest of your life?
Those who have been more goal oriented in life will find it especially hard to slow their roll, mainly because their work identity gave their life meaning and focus.
It may seem like the grass is greener on the other side of the retirement fence, but it can also be a shock to the system when you suddenly lose that reason to jump out of bed each morning.
So, what can you do if you’re facing these experiences to re-charge, reengage and make life more meaningful at retirement age?
1. Find an exciting new focus.
We all have things we’re passionate about. It doesn’t need to save the world, it just needs to engage and challenge you. It may have been something you’ve wanted to do all the way back to when you were a child. Just make it something that feeds your curiosity and makes you stretch a bit.
2. Structure is your friend.
Often the thing that we felt constricted by most in our work environment is just the thing we need to fully experience our freedom.
Structure can be your friend when it’s helping you feel grounded and connected to what’s most important to you, like a healthy life. Create a schedule that provides purpose and continuity in your life. That could be exercising daily or doing research an hour a day on a topic you’re passionate about and enjoy.
3. Evaluate your unique skill set or experience and re-purpose it.
Take that lifetime of work, or personal skill sets, and put them to work FOR you! Take the things you LOVE doing and find a way to re-purpose them into something you enjoy doing. Give back by sharing that experience with others who are just starting their career journey!
4. When in doubt, serve.
Serving others will always bring you back to center, emotionally and on a soul level. Whether it’s volunteer work, teaching or helping those in need in your neighborhood, serving others helps alleviate issues of isolation or disconnection.
5. Create a new mindset.
As I often teach, perception is the key to everything we do in life. Retirement often requires us to re-assess how we want to live our lives. What’s most important to you? Don’t let past expectations limit you in getting you out of your comfort zone and seeing life in a new way.
Noone said it better than Viktor E. Frankl, the famous author and Holocaust survivor, who said – “ What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a free-chosen task.”
So, my friend, until next time….stay safe, stay healthy and stay strong!