I recently read an article, written by Victoria Tomlinson CEO of Next-Up, talking about shaping the future after work. I was immediately caught up and interested in sharing in the discussion about what comes after an established work life, and to offer my own perspectives on how people experience this period of life, aka retirement.
At this point I have to come clean and say that hearing the ‘R’ word usually elicits a strong reaction in me as it often seems to be followed by statements about having more time to pursue leisure/family/hobbies and more ‘free’ time. It's at this point that I dread hearing the words golf or bridge and yes, I can see that this reflects my personal response. When we talk about retirement of course we may assume that we are referring to coming to the end of our working life. A life in which we maybe started at the bottom and worked our way up to dizzying heights. So, there we are at the top and ready to launch ourselves off…to what?
It would be quite natural at this point to be asking yourself some questions. Launching into retirement can be an anxious time. You could just close your eyes and jump, or cling on for a bit longer, but taking a planned approach with some supporting tools and a parachute may be a better way and there are some important points to consider. In my workshops and coaching sessions it is often revelatory when we look at what gets in the way and there are three themes which often arise.
- Change, and its challenges
- How to let go
Mindset maybe that – a set mind. Over time we tend to go onto automatic pilot and get used to whatever groove we find ourselves in. The fascinating thing is that this may not even be a comfortable place, but we are so used to it and don’t question it. If your mind is set then you may believe you know what’s what, but this can lead to getting a shock when change comes. Experiencing change like retirement positively by taking a position of not knowing and learning how to stand back with interest and curiosity is the answer. In other words losing our attachment to whatever we are facing. This is where building our self-awareness comes in and the practice of mindfulness can be a starting point.
Change is different for everyone. Some people say they love change and others hate it. However, I would suggest that even those who say they love it can be faced with some level of anxiety if they feel out of control. This may not just be anxiety but may even be stress. Gaining a clear understanding of ourselves, both physically and emotionally, provides a starting point in building resilience and becoming enabled to go through the change. Learning the real difference between pressure and stress with tools/practices to draw upon changes the whole experience in addressing retirement, and therefore the outcomes.
Leaving your working life for retirement inevitably requires us to be able to let go of the past. Easy to say and not always so easy to do. It's easier to let go of things we don’t hold so closely however, what if you see yourself as your job? Many people can relate to this and here you are, having to let go. Whatever you are leaving, moving to the next part with grace and ease would be preferable and this becomes easier when we can stand back from the situation, get a bigger perspective and see what choices are available.
An analogy for this can be found in imagining you are in fact taking part in a play. You are on stage, in the appropriate costume. You know your lines and are familiar with the play, the other players, the scene etc. If the play has had a long run, then it may feel so familiar that it is the same old same old and we ‘know’ it. So, what if today you are asked to take another part – understandably you may have a range of feelings and thoughts.
Imagine if you could step off the stage and become the Director? From here we have a completely new view with more freedom and choice. Using all your experience you start to construct a new play and discover things you had not been aware of. This may seem challenging at first but with support to redefine yourself with a broader perspective and accepting your new position, you can transform with ease into this new stage of life.
Retirement may feel like an end but in truth it can be a wonderful beginning and as a professional coach I love meeting people who have the desire to transform and develop a new mindset. It may take courage to embrace this change, but it can be exciting and rewarding in discovering your new purpose.