By Susan Spaulding
I’ve got a question for you if you’re nearing 65.
What does the “r-word” mean for you?
I’m willing to bet that many answers would not necessarily fall into the “typical” plan for retirement. The Boomer Generation completely changed the social and cultural landscape, and that trend is continuing into retirement. For many, the same-old plan—quit work, kick back, take it easy—holds no charm. Maybe you don’t feel ready to give up the challenges and excitement of work. Maybe you’re ready to leave behind the career, but are just as motivated to start a new one.
It can be really exciting if you’re thinking about staying in the workforce longer or doing something completely different. But doing retirement differently also means having to deal with some tough questions. For example:
- After you’ve been working for 30 or more years, how do you reinvent yourself?
- When you’ve followed a rhythm that has been working for you, what do you do when that rhythm no longer exists?
- More importantly…how do you create a new story for yourself?
Tough questions deserve thoughtful responses—and there is a simple way to start figuring out what retirement will look like for you.
For a lot of people, retirement is less about a graceful exit and more about a complete reinvention. No matter what your future plans are, it’s still important to spend some time thinking about how these changes will impact you and what you want to become. Before you start out, it’s crucial to take inventory—not only will it help you process the changes you’ll experience, but it will also help you to clarify what your new life will look like.
There are three good ways to start thinking about this. First, thinking about your purpose. What have you accomplished so far that’s given you the most satisfaction? What motivations and desires will drive your new life?
Second, what is your passion? For a lot of people, it means going back to hobbies or interests that fell by the wayside a long time ago. Maybe there’s something calling you that you’ve never had the chance to explore. Listen to those feelings that draw you to a cause, a field, or an industry.
Third, what does your personality say about you? The tough part about reinvention is learning to adapt to a new identity—so think about how others have viewed you in your past career. What skills or abilities distinguished you from the rest? Identifying those trademarks can help you to navigate changes and find a path that works for you.
Once you’ve reflected on who you are, your passions, and those skills that make up who you are, it’s time to start organizing that information.
Maybe you have a pretty good idea of what you want to do, or only the slightest hint. No matter what, the key is to take it slow! Test your ideas in tiny ways. Rather than applying for a non-profit job right away, could you spend a few weeks volunteering? Rather than taking six months off to travel Asia, how about a two-week test run? Give yourself permission to experiment in tiny ways and move on if it isn’t working out. It’s just fine to test the waters, but it’s miserable to jump in with both feet and find out it’s freezing!
Another important part of recalibrating is community. You may feel like you’re starting out on your own—leaving behind the support and friends that you had in your career. But there are new friends and new communities that can help you start a new life for yourself. Before you start out, start looking for those places where others are dealing with the same questions. Connect with people who are doing what you think you might like to do. Ask questions and get involved! No matter where you’re headed, people who’ve been there before can be a great resource.
Doing retirement differently doesn’t just happen—it takes a lot of soul-searching, testing, and recalibrating plans before you hit on something that fits. But most of all, don’t be anxious—be excited! Every day, people are transforming retirement into something different that is a good fit for them.
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Written by Susan Spaulding, award-winning businesswoman, consultant, and author of Recalibrate for Life 2.0, Transition Stories for Business Leaders.