By: Meredith Masse
Your financial situation is mapped. Your first road trip booked. You’ve planned for this for years, and you think nothing will be sweeter than not having to set an alarm on Monday for the first time in… how many years? You are genuinely looking forward to retirement. But… what will no longer having to report to a job and a boss really look and feel like?
At ICC, we work with individuals on making this transition to retirement a smooth reality. The one characteristic that is always similar, from our experience, is that no two people make the transition in exactly the same way. And, those who are truly ready understand the emotional and mental shift that needs to happen to make transitioning into retirement enjoyable.
Based on our experience coaching those entering this new phase, here a few suggestions:
Expect an Emotional Reaction
As with other major life changes, even positive ones, leaving a job and the formal workplace “for good” can be stressful. I mean, you’ve probably spent the last 20-30+ years going to work in some capacity. The interruption in this routine and the habit of going to work can, and very often does illicit a grief response. When we think about it, even though it’s often accompanied by a joyous celebration, retirement is a “loss event.” Many people we support during this time experience a sense of grief. Know that this is normal. Allow yourself time to experience those feelings and acknowledge you’ve ended one chapter.
Now that you recognize that you have closed that door…
Create Your New Sense of Purpose
The next step after an ending is realizing this time also presents itself as a new beginning. What intentions will you set for yourself as you start the next phase? What will you work toward now? What have you always wanted to do or try? Maybe it’s to achieve the golf handicap you’ve only dreamed of accomplishing. Or to parachute out of a plane on every continent. Or to support your children in raising their children. Regardless of what you want to set out to do, set specific goals for your new accomplishments by asking yourself questions like these:
- What impact do I want to make in my next phase?
- What do I want to improve about myself, my family, my community?
- What would make me happy?
- What do I want to be known for now?
And don’t feel like you have to go at it alone.
Develop New Social Networks
When you retire and your coworkers don’t, you won’t see the same people every day that you’ve seen for years. As social creatures, humans need to be in connection with other humans. Where can you spend time now with other like-minded individuals to get your daily does of Vitamin R (relationship)? A book club? A hiking group? Teaching at your local place of worship? Doing a new “job” as a volunteer? Some tips in this post from LoveBeingRetired.com: “Research shows that the circuits in the adult brain are continuously modified by experience. Social interaction is
one thing that keeps our brains from becoming stagnant.” Now that you have some freedom of choice of where you go Monday through Friday, with whom do you want to spend your time?
And what else can you do?
Be Physically Active
There are too many benefits to physical activity and exercise to ignore its importance. In this USA Today article, the writer highlights, “There’s a laundry list of reasons for people to exercise regularly for their health’s sake. Studies show that exercise reduces the risk of early death, helps control weight and lowers the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, depression, some types of cancer, anxiety disorders, cognitive decline and hip fractures. It can help improve sleep, memory, concentration and mood. Recent research showed physical activity may be as effective as medication in preventing early death in people who’ve had heart attacks or strokes.”
Remember, too, the most important muscle to exercise is the one between your ears.
Engage Your Brain
We hear from some clients that they worry over becoming bored, knowing they likely won’t be using the brains in the same way they did at work. We say use it or lose it! Two ideas:
- Retirement may be the perfect time to apply your experience and skills in a volunteer or consulting capacity. What skills do you have that a local organization needs? What experience can you share and teach others to be successful doing? Don’t let all that knowledge go to waste!
- Perhaps it’s the best time to learn something new. We coached a gentleman through his transition to retirement and supported him when he decided to learn to speak Spanish. With his new language skills on his “volunteer resume,” he was instantly an attractive candidate as a volunteer at his local community center. What have you always wanted to learn to do?
You can do this! Just remember, you don’t have to do it all within the first month of your exciting new adventure!
What additional tips do you have for looking forward to your next phase? We’d love your ideas in the comments section below.