Moving into your third chapter in life brings a lot of opportunity for self-exploration and moving in new directions. How do you choose to navigate through the transition? How might this transition help you show up in full expression of a new part of yourself?
When and How Does it Begin?
We often talk about retirement starting on the date we leave our career or business. It really is more of a process than a date. There are different phases of the process that people commonly experience. There's no absolute best formula for how to make the transition. Each person will have their own path and many simply intuit their way through it.
If you're curious about what's ahead or feel like something you've moved through it and something is a bit unsettled, let's look at five stages of this transition. You may not experience all five, and you may do more than one at once. These can go in random order, sometimes because life happens along the way and you have new circumstances to work through. You may find cycles you repeat within these stages, maybe multiple times. Think about where you find yourself or have found yourself in these stages:
#1. The Exit Strategy
The move toward retirement starts a lot earlier than your departure date, unless your retirement came through no choice of your own. If you have poured your life and identity into your career, you may especially find this stage more extensive. The anticipatory process may include:
Many folks can hardly wait for their official retirement date. Others have some trepidation or don't have a picture for what's going to happen next.
#2. Retirement Day and The Honeymoon
There may be lots of fanfare and good-byes. You may quietly just walk away one day. Or your job may simply end, possibly sooner than or not in the way you expected or wanted. (I will talk about the unique process in the case of unplanned retirement in another blog.)
The next day you begin to take a rest and celebrate all the things you don’t have to do any more: commuting, getting up early, packed schedules, and possibly shaving for some folks like David Letterman. You get to do all the things you’ve been waiting to do—travel, golf, bike, spend time with family, hobbies, cleaning out closets that have been neglected. Ah, this is the life!
For some folks, life feels great for many years to come. Others wake up one day, a few months or a couple of years into retirement with a vague restlessness or a yearning and realize there has to be more to life, which ushers in the next stage (or increases the urgency).
#3. The Quest and Vision
For some, this stage is almost panic-filled, and for others it is a slow musing that goes on a little each day.
You may find some of these questions circling: What will I do that gets me out of bed in the morning and gives me purpose to my day? What am I not doing now that I used to love doing? Who am I now that I'm not a (insert your professional identity). What do I feel called to contribute to the world? What size do I want that to be? Where can I learn something new? What is waiting for expression in me? What social needs do I need to fill? Is it at home or out in the world? How does it add balance and meaning to my life?
This is a great opportunity to intentionally look at your whole life going forward and see how the pieces fit: your physical and mental health, your spirituality, your hobbies, your social responsibility, your community, your family and your friendships.
Does what's calling you become work of some sort and involve unretiring? Does it involve volunteer work? Is it something you do on your own or with others? What kind of plan do you need to make? What are your guideposts for how you prioritize if you have a lot of things you want to do?
#4. The Plan
Once you begin getting clear on something you know you want to do, there may be a planning stage. Some plans are only as involved as picking up the phone and making a call or finding a groove you fit into.
Others will come up with something that takes more planning, for example starting a new business or writing a book or even doing an overhaul on health habits and lifestyle. As you get an idea of what that added focus in life will look like, what do you need to do to make it happen? Getting clear about your 'why' and your 'what' and your 'when' will help you be clear about your objectives.
A great plan increases the impact of your time as you begin doing. How does it impact the other parts of your well-being? How does it affect the people in your life? What do you have to give up to do something else? How can this change with you as you age?
#5. Living, Tweaking, Celebrating
As you begin incorporating your plan into life, what markers do you put in place to help assess along the way whether your plan is indeed happening? Is it a great fit for your life? Are you staying healthy doing it? What you thought might or might not fit may surprise you as you begin living it. It's just fine to change your mind one or ten times...this is retirement!
We can easily forget to take time in the present moment to notice how grand our todays are. How will you celebrate that great fit or challenge or stretching each day? Be intentional about it as a health practice. Be in your days.
Your True Expression
How you move through these stages and exploration enables you to move into a time that can be the richest of your life. It isn’t simply about being done with your career and winding down. It is about beginning the part of your life that can be the truest expression of you...your second mountain or your further journey. How will you choose to show up in it?
Questions for Reflection and Comment (I love to hear from you!)
A part of my vision is to help create community around this stage of life. In what ways would connecting with other people approaching or living retirement be helpful for you?
There's More to Life.
Ruth Tongen helps people take stock, plan and live retirement in a bigger, happier, healthier way. She helps people move past sticking points and begin living with clarity.
E-mail her: firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or to explore how she may be of help to you.
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Ruth Tongen helps people plan and live meaningful, fun and healthier retirements.