My experience moving to retirement: perspectives from a retirement coach

I am now a part-time worker, having worked full-time for most of my adult life.

09 May 2018

I am now a part-time worker, having worked full-time for most of my adult life. The transition was not easy, and I can’t imagine why it would be easy for anyone; although some will have a much easier time of it than others.

Why do I assert this with confidence? I can’t point to any sophisticated research, although I am sure it exists, but what I can do is rehearse some of the observations I have made of myself and of my friends and colleagues.

Let me begin with these signposts, very emotional matters, which I will return to and discuss later.

Firstly, it took me some time to find my rhythm in retirement following on the heels of a working life that required me to get to the office early on each weekday. There the rhythm was constant: meetings, appointments, documents to write, clients to meet; often to the sound of the clock striking the hour.

Secondly, work gave me an office a desk and a chair to go to, with all the attendant rituals of the coffee and the water cooler and the colleagues. And I mention the colleagues because they have given me a common cause to work with (or against, I’m not saying I got on with everyone I worked with) and a sense of friendship (not necessarily carried outside work) that was a very important part of the day. By the way, it also gave me something to discuss outside work, not always to the delight of my listeners, that had the flavour of narrative, struggle and success, something like the plot of a poorly-written novel.

Now that all of that is over, at least in its most intense version, I have had to contemplate where else to find meaning, rhythm and space in my (semi) retired life. Was the transition, or as I prefer to call it the passage, easy for me? No it wasn’t. I had to think and feel and experiment until I came up with a series of formulae that work for me.

The statement “series of formulae that work for me” is critical, since everyone is different and without delving into any theory of personality types, let me pick on something very simple. I am a goal-oriented person by nature and always have been. On my bookshelf I never have one book in play at any time, I have several and sometimes absurdly many. So I have started to study Italian and play the piano to a regular pattern. This will not be the answer for everyone in retirement. You may find your own goals, or you may need some professional help.

Some people would prefer to let the world unfold for them in its own time and not bother with setting goals. In some ways I envy them, but pointlessly, as I know it’s not me.

This brings me back to my signposts at the beginning of this article. Regret is a very natural emotion in retirement, sung to the accompaniment of “why didn’t I?”. I say turn that on its head and ask “Why can’t I now”. That could apply to travel, designing a garden, playing the violin or, simply, relaxing more after a stressful life. Moreover this can all unfold under the banner of less-anxiety-in-life. After all where is the pressure coming from in retirement if it’s not self-imposed?

Finally, some of the answers to the question of “what is the meaning of my life in retirement” may be delivered without the help of a midwife but I suspect that for some people the application of some skilful coaching will lead to a better outcome. Retirement coaches exist, and will multiply over time to serve, what I see, as an emerging need in our society.

Feel free to contact me to discuss.

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