Transitioning or pivoting into a new career and lifestyle is intimidating. We are leaving the comfortable surroundings and routines we have had for many years and heading into uncharted territory. We all go through it, but we all have a unique way to approach or to avoid it as we make the move. If we do not plan and prepare for this transition, many of us will be left sitting on the sidelines of life frozen in our iPad and TV drama with life passing us by.
Retiring from a job is a unique and complex experience. Let’s look at the four questions from my last article and address ways you can help answer these questions and put things into action. According to Jack Canfield “successful people maintain a positive focus in life no matter what is going on around them. They stay focused on their past successes rather than their past failures.” In my last article, I asked you to reflect on four questions. Let’s see how we can bring clarity and action for each one in your reinvention journey.
Who am I?
For the first exercise, I need you to take a piece of paper and find a quiet place. Bring a pencil and timer. Take one minute and write down the first five things that represent who you are. Now, take one more minute and write down three more things about you. With your list of ideas, take one of them and write a goal to explore this idea about you. Put together a story of how you see yourself in five years based on this idea. Can you see yourself as this person and start to let go of your current career? Losing your career identity is very hard and can cause people pain and emotional loss. Write a goodbye eulogy to your former career and job. Sometimes we need to have a formal goodbye in order to let go and move forward. It is OK to cry and be sad, but start building on the new you! Once you let go, you will see the new you start to emerge.
What will my day look like?
Routines create high achievers and successful people. Aristotle said “we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Once you retire, your daily routine will change. When you are working, you go to your workplace, have different responsibilities, and interact with your social network of colleagues. More than likely you have done this for many years and to leave it suddenly is hard. It is difficult to have no place to go and no people to see. Ask yourself, how do I want to structure my day? Who is in my social network? Do I need to expand my social network? Start reaching out and forming new social networks and experiences that will add to your day. Try volunteering, taking a class, starting a new hobby, or anything that adds value to your day and life so you are not a couch potato.
What is my purpose?
As we leave a job and start a new life or transition into a new career, we need to think about our purpose. When we are working, we have a purpose. One exercise that I like to use with my clients in helping them find purpose and passion is from Steve Pavlina. In this exercise, you will need only a paper and pen. (No Technology Allowed) Start by writing the words “What is My Purpose?” at the top of the page and begin freely writing whatever comes to your mind. This could be “I want to be airline pilot” to “I like beer.” It doesn’t matter; just write as much as you can for 20-30 minutes. As you write down the words and phrases, if something grabs you with an emotional thump – where you go “Yes, that’s me!!” – circle it. After a while you will begin to hit a wall; breathe for a moment and keep writing even if the words are “this is dumb” or “I can’t take this anymore.” You should start to see a theme emerge from the circles which can relate to ideas like helping others, starting a new business, etc. It may be focused or a little loose, but it should allow you a chance to see a purpose emerging. Once you have this, your next step is to reflect on it and see how it fits into your life. With this exercise, you should see a calling or purpose emerging to build on.
What is my status?
Retiring from a very powerful or status-driven career can be very stressful when you leave that prestige and power. We need to take time to build and implement our psychological portfolio according to Nancy K. Schlossberg, EdD. Dr. Schlossberg stated that we need to deal with our loss of identity, friendships, and purpose in our life. Some of you will be leaving important positions with a lot of status and importance. It is hard to leave when you are in charge or the company is dependent on you. You will need to define what your life will look like after this loss. Thinking about how you can be engaged in retirement is important, but it is also important to let go of the status and power. One exercise I use with my clients is taking a piece of paper and pencil. Draw a large T on the paper. Label the right side of the T: “Pluses of my position!” and label the left side of the T: “Negatives of my position!” Write down everything that comes to mind with your job including those things that give you status and power. Take 15 minutes. Once the 15 minutes is up, take another 5 minutes and write some more. This should give you a good list. On the Plus side, circle those things that are going to be hard to let go. With these circled items, see if there is a theme like directing people, making decisions for an entire division, etc. Now, I want you to write yourself a letter expressing the sorrow and hard times you will have leaving these responsibilities and status. Put it away for a few weeks and then come back to read the letter. How do you feel? Are you still upset and not wanting to let go? Then give a eulogy for your status and power. It will be hard, but this is the first step. You need to let go and begin to build your life on the outside with a new social network like a Rotary Club membership or as a volunteer board member to ease into your retirement and new life.
No matter who you are, it is important to take time and to plan for your retirement beyond the financial considerations. Reflect and take action through the exercises I have provided to get you going and to begin a smoother transition into retirement. Retiring is a complex task that requires time and adjustment based on each individual’s needs.
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Written by: Mark Danaher, Career Retirement Coach
CEO & Founder, Career Retirement Coach at Retire to the Good Life