In spring, an old man’s fancy turns to thoughts of retirement
SPRING is a wonderful time of rejuvenation; trees take on their green shimmer and a world of colour reaches out from the flower beds. There even seems to be more activity as people take time to get outside and enjoy the weather.
It’s definitely a time for new beginnings.
Then, as we move from spring, Easter celebrations and into our summer season, people also start to solidify their vacation plans. Some eagerly await the day when they can open the cottage. Others are solidifying their campground rentals or scheduling that longed for travel to a faraway country. Finally, many others are busy planning for a family reunion or scheduling their engagement in larger scale community summer events and celebrations.
The spring season as well will see a large number of our baby boomers struggle with the challenge of defining their own beginnings and endings as they seek opportunities for personal rejuvenation. The image that comes to mind is of a person walking along a pathway slowly plucking the petals from a daisy, all the while whispering, “do I retire or don’t I, do I or don’t I?”
This conversation is a true challenge. After all, our baby boomers are well educated, they’ve been high achievers throughout their career and they gain a lot of meaning from their work. Most continue to be healthy and want to remain active in one way or another. However, although they’ve continually dealt with problems and challenges at work throughout their career, they may find that managing change in their own life pattern will be one of their most difficult challenges.
Part of the reason for this challenge is that while many people have their financial retirement plans well in hand, they rarely take a good look at the emotional aspects of their life, nor do they develop a plan to replace the benefits of work in their new lifestyle.
The issue of lack of lifestyle planning is often made fun of and is echoed in statements such as “the challenge of retirement is how to spend time without spending money” or “the trouble with retirement is that you never get a day off.”
While we may laugh at these concepts, the truth is right there, staring us in the face: Work creates emotional benefits that need to be replaced. For instance, our time management is related to work as is our sense of personal utility. Work also gives us status, it facilitates our socialization and it creates that overall sense of accomplishment and achievement.
These work-related benefits must be replaced at the next stage of life or your transition into retirement will be rocky and unsatisfactory. With this in mind, there are a number of powerful questions that potential retirees should be examining with respect to their emotional well-being. How do you define work ethic and how important was this during your working life?
The reason this is an important question is that your perception of work in general determines the level of satisfaction you received from work and what depth of meaning work had for you. Getting a grip on understanding your work ethic will help you determine how to engage in activities that help you to feel a sense of value and utility in the next stage of your career. What personal and professional identity did you gain from your work and occupation and what did this mean to you?
Most people gain a great sense of personal satisfaction from the identity they achieve at work. This is typically accomplished through their work title. When you transition into retirement, the title is left behind, it’s lost. So, you need to think about how important this title was to your identity. What will replace this satisfaction? Those individuals who have a stronger attachment to their job title will have more difficulty with this issue. What does a high level of wellness mean for you? What are your specific ideas about living vitally?
While many people focus only on the physical and mental well-being, it is also important at this stage of life to find personal meaning in your life. How will you learn to live a relaxed lifestyle? What gives you vitality? How strong are your self-care skills and how will these carry you forward so that you have zest, energy and that you enjoy life? How would you define your ability to make and keep friends, to develop, nurture and maintain intimate relationships?
Relationships in our lives are important in that they help us to feel that we belong and that we are safe. Our personal self-esteem is affected by the affirmation of others. Relationships will be important as they will provide support as you make changes in your life. How important has leisure been in your life so far? How can you create personally satisfying activities that stimulate your mind, enrich your spirit and rejuvenate your body in retirement?
No matter what, leisure is a fundamental need, without it we will eventually become ill. Yet, many people do not see leisure as a valuable endeavour, but rather they focus on achievement. I’m sure you have often heard the lament, “I haven’t accomplished anything today.” Now is the time to reflect on the meaning of living and learn to appreciate the beauty around us. You may have engaged in personal and professional development during your work years. How will you continue to stimulate your personal development in retirement?
Retirement is an opportunity to take on more, not less personal development. While personal development in the past centred on work, this is a chance to ensure that you and you alone are the focus of any new learning. Don’t let a sense of emptiness overcome you; get out there and find a new meaning in life. Learn a new skill, develop a new and enriching hobby.
As the change of season progresses, it’s important for all of us, no matter what age, to not just plan for the beachside vacation or the new home or car, but to begin building a complete plan for retirement. The plan must include much more than securing financial stability. Rather, your plan needs to include specific strategies for replacing the benefits of work. This includes how you will spend your time, how you will replace your job title with a new identity, how you will maintain and create new social relationships and how you will continue to stimulate your thinking and intelligence.
Thankfully there are trained counsellors and focused transition programs that can help to map your path to an exciting future. After all, there is indeed a silver lining within those grey clouds.
Source: New Horizons: Mapping Your Path to Retirement, Career Partners International, 2009.