My partner and I recently had a revelation. Creating and committing to a ‘post-work persona plan’ can play a big part in helping us establish a new identity—one that demonstrates growth and offers a fresh start after spending years with our ‘career identity’ front and centre. It may take a little time and some creative thinking, but it will be well worth the effort as we transition into retirement. And if it’s a well thought out plan, it could sustain us for the next (possibly) twenty to thirty years.
We’ve done some research and found a few tips that could help people plan their journey into retirement. One conclusion is clear: relationships are central to building a happy and fulfilling life in retirement. So, unless someone’s an intentionally solitary creature (and that’s okay) we need to think about building bridges to existing relationships that need a boost and making an effort to make new ones.
Out With Old Habits – In With New Ideas
A good way to start breaking free of any old thought patterns, habits and beliefs that could be limiting as we enter retirement is to write down our response to the following list. It covers most aspects of our lives, and it’s roughly the same list of topics we address every month here on the blog for Everything Retirement. A successful retirement involves taking a hard look at our lifestyle, values and goals going forward now that work isn’t the main driving force. And that’s not to say that continuing to work to some extent post-retirement isn’t a possibility.
Let’s get started. On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being excellent, rate your life satisfaction in each of the following areas?
- Home environment/lifestyle
- Health and wellbeing
- Financial standing
- Recreation and fun
- Work (new endeavour/volunteering)
- Personal growth
Your score, or ratings if you prefer, will help you understand which aspects of your current lifestyle need help. It does come down to a question of who you are outside of work or who you want to become, and what you value most. It could be just one true thing, or a combination of things that will ultimately define you. Use the answers to these questions as a lens through which to navigate the beginning of a stimulating retirement life.
Celebrate the Stage of Life You’re In
We all go through different life stages. During each one, people generally have specific dreams and goals which could be anything from pursuing higher education, choosing a career path, getting involved in a long-term relationship (getting married, cohabiting, or deciding to stay single), choosing to have a family or not, travelling around the world, becoming the best ‘whatever/whoever’ it is we want to be best at, and so on.
And then there’s retirement; often considered the final stage, but it doesn’t have to be. It can be a new beginning especially if we don’t let past regrets or disappointments hamper us.
Mark the Occasion
Rituals play an important role throughout the various stages in our lives, marking special occasions. Rituals can also be a source of comfort, they can be life-affirming, they can mark a transition. From bedtime stories, graduations, religious coming of age ceremonies and holidays to birthdays and anniversaries, just to name a few. It’s probably fair to say that all ceremonies are in fact ‘rituals’ that signify deep-level sociological transactions.
Retirement’s no different. On a deep sociological and psychological level, those leaving the workplace are experiencing an identity shift from employee to retiree. This is a significant personal transition that needs to be commemorated too. Traditionally, the retirement ritual meant there was an office retirement party, a gold watch or other memento awarded as a gift for services. How often this ritual occurs nowadays would be an interesting question.
Times have changed, so if there isn’t any final retirement ‘doo’, then do something yourself to mark the occasion: host your own party and include not only work colleagues and family members but friends too. Or take a trip, or buy a new car if your budget allows—do something! Celebrate!
Update Your Social Network
For some people, retirement sometimes means they’ll need to find a whole new set of friends because often as not, their work colleagues comprise their primary social network.
We may find that as we get older it can be more daunting to reach out to new people, or organise social engagements, etc. as we did when we were younger. This is especially true for those who don’t have family nearby – or any family at all.
If that’s the case, we’ll have to become more of a joiner if we want to make new friends after we’ve retired. Some tips on what/where and how to do that are as follows:
- Go back to school, take courses in a beloved subject
- Find interest groups that appeal to you – political, social, literary, artistic, volunteer
- Check out Meetup.com to find people who share your interests
- Join a club: books, bridge, gardening, sports, theatre, music
- Become more active in your religious community
- Get a dog and take him/her to a dog park where like-minded folks congregate
A Commitment to Connection
Making the transition from a career that once filled our life with purpose to retirement can often leave us feeling lost, lonely and without purpose. The solution? Be more intentional about connecting to the people you care about and to making new acquaintances. If a full-time job meant old pals and family got neglected over the years, then it’s time to reconnect with them now your time isn’t consumed by work.
Think about regularly scheduling get-togethers or establishing a specific date such as the first Sunday every month to join friends for brunch. Or reserve Wednesday nights for family fun and connection. Be consistent; it’s what helps build good friendships and relationships.
Retirement’s an opportunity to reflect on the great things we’ve accomplished, the wisdom we’ve gained and the life experiences we’ve enjoyed. It’s also a time when we can all set new goals and consider the future and what other things we can do. The opportunities the world has to offer us haven’t changed because of our age. It’s just now we have the time to do them.