Use these strategies so you know what to expect and don’t get caught off guard.
Any significant life changing circumstance can bring on transition issues, and retirement is no different. Ideally, the best time to explore how you want to design your retirement is actually before it happens. Many times, however, retirement may come earlier than one expects. Either way, stay on top of it.
Retirement requires more than financial planning if you want to achieve meaningful happiness in this stage of life.
The first step to handling change is to understand what to expect. Then clearly identify your goals and strategies to get you there. Here is what you need to know:
Personal roles change. First of all, it isn’t going to be as easy or the nirvana you. It is common to identify yourself by your career. Perhaps you have been a financial provider or a leader in your field. When your role changes, so can your sense of identity. At any stage of our adolescent or adult development, people need to have a solid sense of identity so your roles and purpose are clear. When these are gone, it can raise significant issues in relationships and can be the source of strong emotional distress.
Relationship roles change. Many relationships can benefit from couples counseling as partners look to navigate this new terrain. Changing roles and/or loss of identity require new negotiations between couples. Often an experienced and talented therapist can provide the guidance and third party perspective that couples need.
Change occurs in your other relationships as well. For example, your relationship with your friends who are still in the workforce can shift as can your relationships with your adult children. Sometimes the adult children will seek more time and support from you when they view you as suddenly available. Having great communication and clearly defining your role or roles as well as your boundaries are particularly important.
Emotional issues. All of this change can result in difficult emotional challenges. These can include feeling a loss of purpose, usefulness, boredom — and even depression. Anxiety can enter the picture, too, because lack of certainty or consistent expectations can cause distress — that if left unchecked — can become overwhelming. Be aware of what changes are on the horizon and put yourself in the cockpit to develop strategies to minimize the challenges and maximize all this new stage of life has to offer.
Strategies for an Optimal Retirement Transition
- Don’t expect too much from yourself right away. Be kind to yourself and allow for some time to develop a new routine. You are unlikely to know what to do right out of the gate. Working with a coach to identify possible paths you want to explore can help clarify new directions you may want to experiment with as you develop your new lifestyle.
- Recognize that each phase of your life will have possibilities for multiple passions and beauty. Initially, the freedom of an unset schedule can have appeal for many new retirees and how long this freedom and sense of happiness continue will vary from person to person. Often this sense of freedom and happiness can wane and it is a good idea to have multiple directions to explore when the timing is right.
- Hone in on Your Strengths and Interests. Work with a good coach to clearly identify both your strengths and current interests. Questions to explore include: What strengths did you enjoy leveraging in your careers? How could you continue to leverage them in this new phase? What strengths do you have but were too time-crunched to explore before now? What hobbies or interests have you enjoyed? Do you want to continue with these hobbies or step them up? Are you interested to explore areas of interest that you never felt you had the time to develop before? Good coaches have tools to help you identify your strengths and interests if you aren’t sure how you feel about them right now
- Exercise, exercise, exercise. This is the single best thing anyone can do for themselves at each stage of life and is a significant predictor of healthy aging. It is never too late to start to reap the benefits of slowing the aging process and increasing not just physical health, but your emotional health as well.
- Re-Invest in your social network. The research on the importance of your social network has been reliably established to boost your well-being. Because retirement is something you will have in common with some in your network but not all, it is important to selectively hone in on which relationships you want to invest more time in strengthening. Of course, retirement can involve a move to a new location. Establishing new friend circles takes time and effort, but it is one of the most important things you can do for yourself.
- Consider volunteering or an encore career. Volunteering has several positive benefits. It can provide a sense of meaning, purpose, and value–and it can also be a tool to grow your social network of fellow retirees. You may want or need to retire from what has been your primary career, but you also may still want to work in some capacity. Consider your options for an encore career that will fit with the new lifestyle you are establishing. This is a great time to seek the outside perspective of a coach. Clarify which activities make you feel good and feed your spirit. No matter what stage of life you are in, people are constantly evolving. It’s important to be aware of your goals, who you want to become, and how you can have a sense of belonging at the same time.
Whatever changes you are undergoing, keep in mind that in order to be happy, people need a sense of purpose, meaning, and solid social networks in order to thrive. Give yourself an advantage and partner with a good coach to make the process easier to navigate.
Call to action: Check out the nobel prize winning author, Elizabeth Blackburn and her co-author, Dr. Elissa Epel’s book on the The Telomere Effect. Longer telomeres are correlated with longer, healthier lives. Get the science on how to optimize the aging process.