Are you spooked by retirement? If you are, you are not alone. The word “retirement” is pretty scary! After all, what are we retiring from? What are we retiring to? Does the prospect of retiring cause your heart to stop, or give you chills? Or are you faced with an uncertain future due to unexpected job loss leading to sleepless nights and more anxious moments than you can stand?
There is no doubt that facing an uncertain future is frightening. It is this type of fear that leads to illness, depression and all that is dark about this stage in life. Spooky, indeed! And if you are the glass is half empty sort, you realize more and more that there are fewer years ahead of you than behind. This is even more scary if all you see ahead of you is a cliff.
Just the other day I was talking with a client about how she felt as she looked forward to her retirement. For her, all she saw was a cliff which led to her feeling anxious and fearful. These feelings are not unusual for retirees. Even those who are looking forward to this next stage of their lives have expressed trepidation and fear accompanying their feelings of being hopeful, excited, and happy. Experiencing multiple disparate emotions is like the fear of the unknown which is normal.
How then, can we control and even reduce our fear of the unknown so that we can embark upon this next stage with confidence? Let’s begin with
Following Mindfulness Techniques
Studies have consistently demonstrated that practicing mindful techniques such as meditation enable us to shift our mindset from a negative place to one that is hopeful. I have discovered how effective mindfulness techniques enhance the ability to think clearly. After all, our brain needs oxygen to think as well as perform other functions. Taking the time to focus on your breath will inevitably allow your negative thoughts to disappear and create space for positive thoughts and emotions. With this in mind, I recently guided a client experiencing anxiety while contemplating her next steps into a breathing exercise. This allowed her to calm her thoughts and create space for imagining a road replacing the cliff that she saw ahead of her.
Now that the emotions are under control, we can move on to the next step toward making retirement less spooky which is
Getting to Know Who You Really Are
Many who have invested significant resources and energy into establishing and pursuing their careers find that their career becomes their identity. How often do you find that you are introducing yourself as your job title such as, “Hello, my name is Jake and I am an engineer”? Who are you when you leave your career? I experimented with this concept shortly after retiring by taking a couple of the same online assessments I took before retirement and then a few months after. While my Myers Briggs remained the same, I found greater clarity on who I really am from the Enneagram. I attribute the change to the fact that I no longer needed to conform to my work environment after I retired. You may find similar results and once you acknowledge who you really are you are ready to take the next step which is to discover what you really want and need.
Figuring Out What You Want and Need
What are the most important aspects of your life that you need to pay attention to? These include your health and wellness, family and social relationships, and financial resources. Completing a Wheel of Life assessment (https://wheeloflife.noomii.com)
Another question to consider is what gives you such satisfaction and enjoyment that you find that time flies when you are doing these activities? What are you curious about? Resurrecting old hobbies and beginning new ones, volunteering, traveling, exploring your spirituality, and learning new skills will all help you realize a purposeful life. The possibilities may seem endless, and a trained retirement coach may help you refine what you want and need for you to create your road map.
Begin Creating Your Road Map
There are no rules to creating your road map and your guideposts come from your efforts leading to this point. One way to really begin this part of the process is to determine how you begin your day(s). For example, an aspect I wanted to focus on was establishing a healthy lifestyle. For me, this meant beginning each day with physical fitness activities such as walking, lifting weights, etc. My road map then incorporated other activities that I discovered I either needed or wanted such as volunteering and learning how to play the ukulele. Once you have started to create your road map, it is time to embark upon your retirement journey.
Beginning Your Journey
You need not wait to complete your road map to begin your journey! The sooner you start, the sooner you begin to experience all that this new stage your life has to offer. Are you still working in your career? So what? Begin any portion of this journey you can. Perhaps you want to explore a new skill or begin your own business. Trying this out now will prepare you for the day you replace your current career with your new one. Inevitably, life will happen that will lead you into new directions. Which is why you need to prepare for detours along the way.
Taking Detours Along the Way
The most important part of creating your retirement road map is recognizing the importance of flexibility. Life happens and priorities change. Perhaps you learn you are about to become a grandparent. Or you find you are no longer interested in pursuing the side-hustle you began several months ago. Or a black swan event (like the 2020 COVID pandemic) changes everything you know and introduces you to unexpected opportunities.
When the unexpected happens, trust in the process you just followed to help you stay balanced. Revisit the mindfulness techniques. Don’t allow retirement to spook you. After all, you have not really retired. You just ReLaunched! And you did so according to your unique needs and desires.
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