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My Thinking About Retirement Needed an Adjustment

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by Denis Wuestman

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?

Some Experiments

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.

Moving off the Career Treadmill to the Next Phase

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.

My Lessons along the Retirement/Life path

  • Stop and assess where you are from various perspectives – not just one or two. Think about your purpose, your time, your financial situation, what energizes you, what makes you “tick”.
  • Open your mind to understanding more about yourself and what is important to you and your closest relationships.
  • Realize that getting off the career “treadmill” is an adjustment – much bigger for some people. Spend time on that!
  • Think of retirement differently– it’s our life we are talking about.
  • Surround yourself with positive people as much as you can.
  • Be a “sponge” – talk to people going through the same thing you are. Seek guidance if you need to.
  • Be flexible – (I have to remind myself of that at least every few hours)
  • Adjust as you Learn – but continue to Learn!

What is your current thinking about what retirement transition means for you?


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