Shaping Your Retirement-- Creating Structure to Live out Your Dreams

Retirement from work isn’t at the top of everybody’s mind, but one way or another, it will happen.  But when?  Under what circumstances?  And then what?  Are you retiring from one career path in mid-life and starting another?  Or are you older and considering ending your paid career in order to live in a very different way-- one that perhaps more fully realizes the dreams you have and the person you’ve become at this stage in your life?

This month I’ve worked with two people going through the process of retirement at the traditional time in their mid-60‘s.  Both of these people-- a man, George, and a woman, Pat-- have gone through their financial and insurance planning in preparation for the next step.  They recognize, though, that more is at stake than finances.  For them, this is a major life transition encompassing life purpose questions, concerns around aging and energy, and at the most basic level, the shape of one’s social and personal lives when an outer job structure is gone.

For George, the process of giving up his secure government job became easier as he spent some months in our coaching exploring his “artist and performer” self-- the part of him that was vibrant, colorful, and alive to the beauty of painting and photography.  He developed and led walking tours to highlight the art and architecture of city neighborhoods, photographing the tours, and creating a website to advertise them.  As his calling became clearer, he envisioned a way of life and a weekly structure to his time in retirement that gave 50% of the energy he’d put into his job into being the artist and performer he’d always longed to be.

Pat, on the other hand, had developed no particular vision of how she wanted to live in retirement.  She was ready to leave her corporate management position and felt she wanted time to explore cultural and volunteer possibilities in her community.  Within three months of leaving her job, Pat felt overwhelmed with the responsibilities she’d assumed in taking on two volunteer positions.  As an experienced manager, she’d naturally gravitated towards management positions, even as a volunteer, but with them came the claims on her time from which she had just decided to retire!

Exploring her feelings of overwhelm in coaching, she began to understand that she really needed some time and space to experience what it was like to have freedom from over-scheduling her life.  In order to do that, however, Pat realized that she needed to pull back on her volunteer time commitments, even if she felt insecure for awhile without the sense of structure they provided.  Paradoxically, her new structure needed to be more flexible and more open to feeling what was important to her before she could make new choices about what to do.

At any age and stage, retirement is a process, with new considerations about the quality and direction of life.  If you’re older (or very fortunate), and making money is no longer a criteria determining your choices, what would you want to do with your life? How would you like to feel during the day?  How much time, space, and energy do you need?  How will you claim that?