Retirement is something many of us dream about. We work our whole lives to ultimately retire and enjoy life. We spend our days at work traveling, managing, communicating, helping, studying and becoming masters at our craft. We may spend more time at work than with our families. Our work can become our identities, where we have community and connection with others. It’s where we get acknowledged and where we get opportunities for growth.
So, when retirement is peeking around the corner, there are many things to think about. What will you do with your days? How will you continue being stimulated and challenged? How will you shift your life experience to now make the most of your gifts and talents? Most importantly, how can you maintain fulfillment in your life?
Hitting retirement age might feel like you are at that last chapter of the book, and you want so badly to skip right to the end to see what happens. “I just want to be done!” For some, retirement can be a very smooth transition. For many, retiring can bring on a whole new set of stressors. Here are a few thoughts to consider when contemplating retirement.
Be happy NOW. If you are struggling, maybe you have blamed work for any dissatisfaction in life. “Once I retire, everything will be better.” Perhaps it will, but perhaps you will find the same dissatisfaction once you are retired, and then what? How can you find satisfaction and joy right now, before you retire? If you are struggling with this, talk with someone. See if there is anything you can do to help bring more joy into your life NOW, before you retire, and you will set yourself up for success when you retire.
Take a break…or not. As you think about retirement, consider your personality and whether you want to relax for a bit of time before starting anything new, or if you want to jump right in. Only you know the right answer for this. Maybe you will want to stay completely free for a few months or longer to get your bearings. Or maybe you are someone who wants to hit the ground running. Don’t let what other people do be your compass. Check in with yourself to find out what works best for you.
Don’t over commit. Consider retirement your new career. Just like your first job, give yourself time to learn the ropes. Before committing to anything long term, take time to see how you respond to retirement. Can you join that organization, take a board position, or sign up for that new class? You’ll only know if it’s right after being in retirement for a bit of time to see how you adjust to this new way of being. Give yourself an amount of time that feels right before making any big changes. Practice creating healthy boundaries and only saying yes to what feels right to you.
Stay flexible. As you move forward through to retirement, remember to stay flexible. Life can be unpredictable. Learning to go with the flow will reduce stress and keep you in the head space of creativity instead of rigidity. Most of us will find more joy, life satisfaction and fun from this place of flow. For those of us who prefer to be in a structured environment, stay structured in things that are easy to maintain. And practice breathing through those things that can’t be controlled.
Wherever I go, there I am. You probably already learned that no matter what changes happen in life, you are the same person that you always were. It’s the same with retirement. You just might notice that you have more room to do the things that you’ve always wanted to do. You also might notice that you have more time to spend strengthening those challenging parts of yourself that you never had the time for while working. Be ready for growing pains AND pleasures.
Taking time to ensure you are truly ready for this will best prepare you to make this next chapter of your life a successful and happy one.