CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- "To wake up every morning and decide for yourself what to do with the day." That's one definition I've heard of freedom. It's also been used to describe retirement.
Some of you may be experiencing this right now. Others may be contemplating it. And, for many, it may seem like a long way off.
The whole concept has certainly changed over the years. These days lots of folks are opting for an "Act Two," or a type of semiretirement, rather than taking the full plunge. There's the whole issue of timing, of course. And the economic landscape.
What I want to focus on, though, is the sense of purpose or mission in life, which is important at any age but more so during retirement, when there is more discretionary time. It can be a rewarding time when you're able to devote more energy to your passions -- a phase I've coined as the Self-Discovery Channel.
On the other hand, it can be a time of uncertainty. Consider the case of Sue, as described by author and professor Nancy Schlossberg. As Sue thinks about retirement, she reports, "I know I'll be a retirement failure. I've been struggling with the 'afterlife' for about five years."
Sue mirrors a number of Baby Boomers who have often found meaning in their work, as reflected in a Psychology Today article. She's had a full life, working in a career she loves, raising two children and being part of a 35-year marriage. Missing from her life -- until now -- is that she's had no time to devote to her passions. She doesn't even know what those are. So, her fears revolve around losing her identity and having no purpose for this well-deserved period in her life. Schlossberg offers some advice.
Rename it: Retirement is shifting gears -- leaving one major set of activities and moving toward new adventures -- with a little more rest along the way! How about "re-engagement"?
Prepare for surprise: Retirement is not one transition; it's a series of transitions. No matter how well you plan, there will be unexpected twists and turns. A business executive was surprised at having to have emergency heart surgery a week after he retired. A woman, never married, met someone at the senior center and fell in love.
Discover your retirement path: Are you or do you want to be a:
- Continuer -- Doing more of the same, but differently?
- Adventurer -- Engaging in something new?
- Searcher -- Looking for your niche?
- Easy glider -- Going with the flow?
- Involved spectator -- Caring and learning but no longer a key player?
- Retreater -- Giving up?