When people work at a job or
a role, they have a mission. They have responsibilities. To
serve as a parent, storekeeper, salesperson, or mechanic demands
certain actions on our part. During retirement, the scenario
changes drastically. There is no schedule, no lists of tasks
and obligations except those we create. For many, this void
is the worst part of retirement. After several months of drifting,
a sizable number leap back into the world of work to regain
a sense of balance and purpose. The comment most often heard
is “I just wasn’t ready.”
There is much to learn from these aborted
attempts at retirement. As individuals, we do find much of
our self-esteem entwined in our tasks. When those tasks disappear,
we can become despondent. Much of our social life may be
connected to the roles we’ve played. The roles vanish
and we lose our contacts with others.
We need to find new dreams in retirement.
We can step away from old patterns and establish alternatives.
We can choose meaningful paths from a vast array of possibilities.
What we cannot afford is the intention to start something
but never take any action.
First, we imagine, then we visualize what
we might do. Perhaps we want to be active grandparents, to
play golf or tennis, to travel, to volunteer, to seek more
solitary moments, to paint or write—the dreams vary
widely. What doesn’t vary is that these activities
must satisfy us. They must meet our needs of feeling of value
and of feeling alive. While it’s easy enough to become
busy, even busier than in pre-retirement years, the real
challenge is to become immersed in fulfilling activity.
The secret of a successful transition is to
follow dreams worthy of ourselves. How will we grandparent?
Can we keep golf or tennis in perspective? Can we find a
purpose for travel? Are there significant projects for our
volunteer efforts? Are we comfortable finding internal insights?
Can we experiment with a creative interest, such as our painting
or woodworking? We’re not trying to change the world,
we are in the process of changing our selves. When we establish
this “something” to retire to, our lives take
on new energy. And, we discover that there is no meaningless