A highly coveted and much-awaited chapter in life is retirement, but…the anticipation and expectations around what retirement can or should be, often leaves people feeling overwhelmed and stuck. Contributing to this conundrum is the heavy focus on finances to the exclusion of what is meaningful and fulfilling. Clearing out the confusion and moving into a space that makes you feel energized, clear, and positive (even excited!) is possible for you. Here are four steps to get you started:
1. On your terms.
There is a lot of baggage associated with the word “retirement.” Visions of elderly people watching TV or on a cruise ship frequently come to mind. The word “retired” is defined as resting, so it doesn’t lend itself to engagement, activity, or action. When I begin the coaching journey with my clients, this “retired” label is something I’ve seen holding them back or keeping them from pursuing their dreams. But here’s the thing, each of us gets to define “retired” on our own terms. If taking an extended post-career break to reflect, reset, or refresh is what you know is needed, that’s your definition. If re-invention, stepping into intriguing but uncharted territory is what excites you, that’s your definition. And anything in between. The key here is not buying into society’s or other people’s perceptions, descriptions, and expectations. So, ask yourself: “What does retirement mean to me?”
2. It starts from within.
When you’re contemplating life after a career, a helpful realization is that our work generally focuses on the external. In other words, the emphasis is on strategies, tactics, to-do lists, deliverables, and more. When we transition into retirement, just as in any significant life change, a sustainable and empowering approach is to focus on the internal and start from within. Take the time to apply the three steps needed for a successful transition which means starting with the end, going through the messy middle, and then entering a new beginning (cited in William Bridges’ book “Transitions”). So often, people leap right into the next phase of life and get into the doing. While this may be exciting and action-oriented, it is generally steps over thoughts, feelings, and beliefs that exist and can result in disempowering patterns or habits brought into retirement. This approach can hold us back from learning, growing and evolving. So, before moving into retirement, take the time to acknowledge and celebrate the close of your career chapter (ending), take time to reflect on what you want to bring with you and what you want to leave behind (messy middle), and then with clarity and conviction move into this next chapter (new beginning).
3. Who am I without work?
Our identities are often intertwined with our roles, and this is especially evident when we leave our careers. That’s why this is such an important area to explore. We not only exit the position, but we can often leave our identity, or sense of self, behind too. People can feel at major loose ends when this happens and question their self-worth and purpose. Recognizing this phenomenon is the first step. Next, delving into all the strengths that you have that you can carry with you into retirement is insightful. Also, separating yourself from what you did in your work role from who you are is essential and empowering as you step into this new role of a retiree.
4. Make it happen.
Studies show that impactful things happen when we take thoughts from our minds and put them on paper. We get clearer, we get more committed, and we move into action. It’s like the difference between having an idea of where you’re going vs. a map showing you how to get there. So, what are you writing down? A great place to start is by answering questions that resonate with you, like “What does retirement open up for me?” or “What do I want next in my life?” or “What do I want to bring into this next chapter and what do I want to leave behind?” By answering these types of questions, you will raise your awareness of areas of opportunity and obstacles. This realization will provide direction on what your next step could be.
The most impactful thing I’ve learned while working with my clients and from personal experience is this: When it comes to retirement, the missing piece is gathering knowledge and insights so you can start mapping out your path. This will prepare you for your journey into a meaningful and fulfilling next chapter.
Wendy Leggett is a Certified Professional Coach specializing in non-financial retirement life planning. She’s credentialed with the Retirement Coaches Association and affiliated with the research-based Retirement Life Plan. Wendy is passionate about creating a retirement by design, not default. She supports client well-being and fulfillment by helping her clients develop their “beyond the financials” roadmap for a successful and meaningful transition into their encore years. https://confluxretirementcoaching.com/