Recently I’ve heard a number of folks talking (both live and on blogs) about “failing at retirement” and returning to work fulltime. While in some cases, these individuals discovered that they get a lot of personal satisfaction from their work, others in fact failed to replace full-time work with anything, and therefore defaulted to go back to work. And in some cases, that work is not fulfilling but just something to fill the days.
On the cover of my retirement journal was the Thoreau quote: “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined.” A big part of my retirement journey has been to dream and figure out what I wanted my future to be. Beyond having the finances in place, I had done very little envisioning of the future when I retired. I don’t think I am alone!
Most folks will agree that a successful, fulfilling retirement is “doing what I want, when I want, and with whom I want”. What many fail to realize is, figuring out what makes a fulfilling retirement for you takes work. Understanding your core values, strengths and interests take intense self-knowledge. Knowing what you want to do versus what you should do takes self -reflection. Working through your grief (things lost from working life), fears, and bad habits takes effort. Knowing whom you want to spend time with and where you want to spend that time takes contemplation and conversation.
No one else can figure this out for you. Nobody else’s plan will be right for you. There is no perfect list of 5 Things To Do for a happy, satisfied retirement. You have to do the work – the self-reflection, the identification of your future dream path, the sorting of choices, the activation of your dream.
So my recommendation for anyone approaching retirement or recently entered into retirement: Take the time for introspection. Do the soul searching. Create the life vision. DO THE WORK! You have to take the responsibility to do the work because your retirement path will be uniquely yours.
Tools that helped me:
- Thinking through the 7 Life Domains (Work/Career, Relationship/Connections; Leisure/Hobby; Location/Lifestyle; Health & Wellbeing; Self-development/Volunteerism; Finances/Prosperity) and what I wanted each to look like.
- Looking back at my whole life (in 5 year increments!) and remembering my accomplishments, my goals & dreams, things that made me happy.
- Spending self-reflection time to understand which “benefits” of fulltime work I personally needed to replace – structure & time management; affinity & connectedness; identity & status; financial compensation; accomplishment & purpose?
- Imaging five different futures via writing stories (creative writing class!).
- Brainstorming a Life Possibilities List.
- Creating a vision statement and then an action plan based on my values & interests.
Moving from a being workaholic to a living more relaxed way of life has been a big learning curve for me. I am a beginner at living. I was an expert at working! I had mastery in knowing how to manage the work. Yes, many days it was challenging and I needed to learn about new technical things or develop new skills. But I knew how to do it – the momentum of the day was familiar, if intense. In many ways it was second nature. Not anymore. Day-to-day life is no longer routine; there is not yet a comfortable pattern. I’ve been at this for 2 years and I feel like I should have gotten the hang of it by now! But I am getting OK with being a beginner.
I am still experimenting with life strategies. Creating a fulfilling life for me means finding activities and interests that simulate the mind, connect me with others, and get me active. Yes, there are days that I feel irrelevant, disconnected, restless, worthless. Not everything works out. Not everyday is filled with mind-opening, soul-touching, physically-active activities/events.
So, I am continuing to work at retirement! (Yes, I am a “work in progress.”) Someday I hope to become an expert at it!
Picture Credit: Pixabay