Monetary aspects of retirement are usually first and foremost in people’s minds. They diligently save money for their golden years. This is a fear based approach though. People worry about not having money to live after they stop working so they singularly focus on that.
I was the perfect example of that kind of singular focus. The minute I was convinced I had enough financial resources to sustain my life, I retired. The honeymoon phase of retirement is nice. Not having to wake up early every day; not sitting through endless and meaningless meetings; not having to deal with people who don’t hesitate to hurt you in order to advance their careers. Retirement was bliss, for a minute!
Some of us are intrinsically driven. Work provides more than money for us to live, it provides meaning and satisfaction. Turns out, I am one of those people. I missed the structure of waking up at a set time to start my day; I missed the camaraderie of (some) of my colleagues; I even missed some of the meetings where useful projects were discussed and accomplished.
Accomplishment is one of the dimensions of well being according to positive psychology. After retirement, a significant contributor to this dimension is no longer available. It is natural to become bored or feel useless. Statistics show that depression, alcoholism, and divorce rates go up for retirees. We need to find new ways to satisfy this part of our lives. These can include volunteering, taking on a part time job, starting a business, going back to school, etc.
A friend of mine chose volunteering and part time work. Every time we talk, I see that the spark, that she had lost after retirement, has returned to her eyes. I am so happy for her. I chose volunteering, and school, and new business. Unfortunately, the pandemic ended my volunteer opportunity, but I am grateful for the two businesses that I started. Not only do they provide additional income but also an opportunity to learn new things and a sense of accomplishment.
So, as you ponder your retirement, please take a moment to reflect and consider how you are going to address this important dimension of well being. Will you learn a new trade like wood carving or cake decorating? (Working with your hands is an important way to slow cognitive decline.) Will you start mentoring your younger former colleagues? Will you at long last start that coffee roasting business that you had been thinking about for years, like one of my former clients did? Whatever it is, even just reflecting and planning for these things will help.
Wishing you a fulfilling retirement!
I decided to retire at 55. I didn’t have a plan A or a B for what I would do once I got to Chicago. This much I knew though, I was going to move to Chicago eventually. I had purchased a condo there the year before, just a couple of weeks before my granddaughter was born. I purchased the condo thinking it would be a crash pad for when I drove up to see my daughter and her family. Living in it permanently was a long term plan. I didn’t expect my working conditions to turn to hell so quickly, but they did and I decided to take early retirement. My long term plan became a very short term reality.
Fast forward 6 years and I am flourishing, gratefully. I stumbled through these six years, bumping into many walls, most of which were my own making.
Recently, I delivered several webinars and workshops related to dealing with change in our lives. What started as an academic exercise, turned into a personal revelation. Turns out, my experience was a textbook case of transition.
The late Dr. William Bridges wrote that change is what happens and transition is how we process that change internally. His three step transition process starts with an ending. Retirement is this ending. Then comes the “neutral zone” which is one of confusion, but can also be one of creativity. The walls that I bumped against, all the shopping trips I made were a part of this confusion. My identity took a hit with retirement. If I wasn’t an Assistant VP at Ball State University, who was I? With a lot of luck and help, I finally figured this out and it has nothing to do with what I do for a living. The last stage of transition is the “new beginning.” I feel that I have finally am at this stage.
Join me in this series of posts as I try to articulate this process through both my personal experience and plenty of learning and reading. I hope you can find some useful kernels for your life.
#retirementcoaching #lifecoaching #lifetransition #managingchange
Is it just me, or does Chicken Little live in everyone’s head? Knowing that there are umpteen books on anxiety, and countless memes/words of wisdom of encouragement, I have a feeling I’m not the only one.
In their book “The Resilience Factor” psychologists Karen Reivich and Andrew Shatte call this “sky is falling” thinking process catastrophizing. We all do it. We take a mole hill and turn it into a mountain. It starts out innocently, for our protection. But, over the years, this protection turns into extreme chatter that limits our lives.
Covid certainly made things worse, especially for us members of the mature crowd. And for good reason. I wrote about my own brush with fear of Covid in an earlier blog. This time, I want to offer another possible way to overcome the “sky is falling” thoughts. Drs Reivich and Shatte suggest this technique of disputation. Let’s give it a shot:
The Chicken Little in my head tries to convince me that the worst possible outcome will come to pass. As my 4 year old grandson is running through the house, all I can think of is oh my god he’s going to go through the window, or fall down the stairs, or, or , or… As I am asked to present a webinar, all I can think of is, these people already know what I’m going to say, how can I possibly contribute? These are not the thoughts I want, nor do I like them.
How can I overcome this Chicken Little in my head? With evidence: My grandson has been running through his house ever since he has learned to run. That’s what little boys do. He knows his way around his own house and where to stop running. I can trust him. The people/organizations who have asked me to present a webinar think that I have something to contribute because they have heard me speaking at another event. I can trust myself, and them.
I dispute Chicken Little’s prediction that Cameron will hurt himself or I will fall flat on my face during the presentation with evidence that those predictions are false based on past experience. So instead of stopping Cameron from enjoying himself or stopping myself from meeting new people or earning some money, I allow myself to go past those limits. I hush Chicken Little with evidence that the sky is in fact not falling.
Just as we think we are leaving Covid 19 behind and returning to our “normal” lives, there is talk about a new variant, Deltacron (a combination of Delta and Omicron), surfacing. It is understandable to feel discouraged if not defeated. Acknowledging these emotions is really important if we are to continue our lives with hope and enthusiasm.
When I first heard about the RAIN (recognize, allow, investigate, nurture) meditation from the wonderful Tara Brach, I was still in the habit of pushing my emotions down and pushing through life. But then one day during the early days of Covid I had the unfortunate opportunity to practice it. Since then, I have not only become a believer but tell about it to everyone. Here’s my story:
One April morning in 2020, I woke up not feeling normal. I went about my routine of starting my coffee and drinking my glass of water, but something was amiss. My hands wouldn’t stop shaking and my heart was racing. At first I tried my usual “this too shall pass” attitude but it didn’t. I made my way to my couch to steady myself. I remembered RAIN and decided to give it a try.
I recognized that I was shaking with fear. Fear of this unknown disease that was causing so much pain visible every day on my TV screen. I was in fear for my life. I decided to just sit and allow that fear to wash over me instead of trying to push it away with a distraction. It was gone in a couple of minutes and I was no longer shaking. I looked around my apartment with gratitude. I was safely at home and I was healthy. I got up and went about my day.
According to researchers, emotions only last for about 90 seconds (https://www.alysonmstone.com/90-seconds-to-emotional-resilience/). But, pushing them away as a voluntary practice or a habit can lead to negative health effects.
So, the next time you are facing an emotion try this practice:
R – recognize the feeling (labeling emotions is an important first step)
A – allow yourself to feel the emotion, don’t push it away (it’ll be over in 90 seconds)
I – investigate the origin of this emotion
N – nurture or at least acknowledge yourself for this calming practice