There was a time not long ago that I had created for myself a picture of what it would be like to stop working – commonly referred to as “retirement”. I convinced myself that I would find great pleasure in not having to get up early, commute long distances and have little time for relaxation. In fact, I created a vision of what my days would be like but my vision became fuzzy when I realized that the activities I planned would occupy so little of my time, and it got me thinking. So I looked to experiment a little first, figuring I would follow a “phased retirement approach”, being comfortable that I could alter the course at any point if need be. This philosophy served me well at other times in my professional life – so why not try it again?
The first thing I did was to negotiate not having to be in a traditional office setting 5 days a week – I would telecommute 1 day and, in addition, started to take more regular Friday’s off during the nicer weather months. This was a big adjustment but started to feel good as it was giving me time to reflect and really think about what is next for me – how do I want to spend my time, what will keep me energized and engaged. This was a true turning point for me and taught me the power of reflection.
I soon realized that this was not something I wanted to figure out alone – so I spoke to good friend of mine who would encourage me to “try” some different things – reading books, speaking to different people and taking an assessment about what my perception of retirement currently is vs. what I expected it to be. BINGO! That opened me up to an interesting perspective about this so called retirement and led me to conclude – that this is about LIFE – not about stopping something but about pursuing fulfillment in ways that I haven’t thought of.
Leaving the traditional work force was no easy task – as a matter of fact – it took time, a lot of planning and buy-in from others, but, after 3 and a half decades, I was ready to get off that “treadmill”. A friend of mine once said to me to “Be Careful” about stepping off the career “treadmill” too quickly as we became so used to it – that we might find it hard to replace the things we liked about the “treadmill”. Great advice. Replacement became an important theme for me – as my personal assessment told me that my identity from my job was important to me (sound familiar?). Not surprised – as many of my friends/colleagues experience the exact same thing. Perhaps, my greatest lesson here came from a relative who at age 62 “retired” after a long career as a blue collar worker. He would sit on the porch of his house (yes there were porches where I grew up!), read papers and putter around. But, when I visited him, I noticed that he was unsettled. It wasn’t until he took a part time job working in a non-profit environment that he became happier. He needed to replace what he missed about work and chose to do something that he had not done before. Hmmm….
I understood that my thinking about retirement needed an adjustment and that I had a lot of things to work on including where work “fit” into my life – but not just any work – productive and fulfilling work that I would enjoy. I learned how to be patient and to try things and probably most important – to enjoy the journey.
What is your current thinking about what retirement transition means for you?
Listen to our retirement podcast and learn more about how to retire well and adjusting to retirement.