My retirement was highly anticipated and poorly prepared. I had done due diligence on the financial side of things, but I had just vague assumptions about what life would be like if I didn’t have to work every day. I was a Type-A, critical-thinking workaholic. I had no hobbies, no exercise program, and few friend connections outside of my work relationships. I was too busy working to really figure out what I was retiring TO! I was an expert on how to work, but I wasn’t very sure about how to live a life. And I’m sure I’m not alone in this regard as many Baby Boomer women focused on productivity, climbing the corporate ladder, and possibly added to that being a mom. Who was I without work?
My post-work retirement lifestyle did not just happen. I had to “do the work” to create a new life plan. Figuring out what I wanted my life to be – daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly – took time. It was about visioning, planning, activating, and then refining – the old “rinse & repeat” approach. In that process, I started writing a blog about transitioning into my life in retirement as well as publishing a how-to book, Retirement Transition – An Innovation Approach, for an individual to work through his or her own transition.
Today, I have my own retirement lifestyle vision, based on knowing who I am and what my values truly are. Simply put: I want my life to be active, connected, creative, and contemplative. I need structure so I put plans in place – yearly goals, seasonal bucket lists, and weekly to-do lists. I try (not always successfully) to live each day mindfully, to enjoy the quiet times, and to be grateful for the abundance in my life. I’m working to change some long-held limiting beliefs and conditioned responses, also not always successfully.
Here are the top ways I created my retirement lifestyle in my post-work life:
- Figure out your life vision based on what’s important to you. Clarifying your personal values, not the ones you think you should have but the ones that are truly yours. This can take some intense self-discovery! You can use tools like on-line values surveys, vision board creation, or purpose statements to help. When you know what is really important to you, you can stop listening to everyone else’s “you really should” and engage in the right activities for you, the ones that bring you joy and fulfillment, and match your values and interests. Own your choices of where you spend your time so you’re living your life values/purpose.
- Do the “work” to replace the work. It’s important to recognize what you are losing when you leave full-time employment. Work didn’t just give you financial compensation. It gave you a sense of identity & status, a set of connections & relationships, a feeling of accomplishment & purpose, and daily structure & time management. You might need to mourn the loss of some of these; you might need to replace them! I definitely needed to replace structure (I learned I really need structure!) and connections in my retirement.
- You can think about how to replace your lost work benefits as you create a holistic life vision that covers all of life’s domains. I like the framework of seven domains (which I use in my book): Location & Lifestyle, Health & Wellbeing, Relationship & Connections, Leisure & Hobby, Work & Career, Self Development & Generativity, and Finances & Prosperity. Think through how you want your life to be in each domain, considering your values and needs. And if you are part of a couple, talk about similarities and differences in your retirement lifestyle visions – what is the you/me/we vision for different domains? If needed, keep refining that life vision as you learn new things about what works for you and what doesn’t. It’s not written in stone – it becomes your life plan.
- Think about the possibilities! Be curious. What do you want to learn? What have you always wanted to try? Think about both physically active and passive activities, so you can keep your brain moving, just like the rest of your body. Do you need to challenge some long-held beliefs? The ones that start “I could never…” or “I’ve never been able to…” When you are choosing among the possibilities, find ones that best fit your holistic life vision. Now is the time that you can choose what to do, where to go, how to spend your time.
- Recognize today is someday. After years of habitual delayed gratification, I consistently need to ask myself, “What are you waiting for?” As Nike so aptly puts it: “Just do it” – take action, create new habits, and take the opportunity when presented to say “yes”. There is no need to make a huge commitment; it’s fine to start small if needed. And if something is not working, stop doing it.
- But, be OK with being a beginner. When you try new things, give them a fair shot and don’t expect to be an expert immediately! If you like it, keep doing it. I love the “do it for a month” approach to try something new. Do you need to redefine what success means to you? Perhaps it’s not mastery, but just engaging in the activity. Be OK with less than perfection, even long-term. I might never be a great yogi or a successful blogger (defined as having many followers), but I enjoy engaging in both of these activities regularly!
- Consciously build connections with others. When I retired, I lost 80% of my daily connections. So I had to intentionally invest time and effort in building connections, including learning better relationship-building skills – both IRL and virtually. I also learned to be OK with being the designated planner. At first, it felt like I was always doing the planning, but I’ve come to realize the increased social connections are worth it to me.
- Learn to just be and not always do. It’s hard to give up a busy-ness mindset. For many of us, being busy was a sign of importance and it is definitely society’s acceptable way of life. But I have found that now is the time to not always have constant activity and checklists. This was a huge shift for this workaholic, list-making, schedule-needing planner! Stopping to watch the surf, listening to the falling rain, having a long chat, reading a new novel on a hot summer afternoon, or contemplating something I’ve read is not wasted time. Find your own balance between doing and being.
- Stop listening to the voice of comparative inferiority and feeling guilty/unworthy/less than if you’re doing life differently. I call it the Compare & Despair mode. It’s your unique life, your unique retirement lifestyle. It does not matter what others are doing or what the societal expectations for retirement are. And believe me, as a habitual meet-expectations woman, I know them! So, what is typically expected for a recent retiree? Here’s the list: More engagement with your grandkids, Start a second career, Travel extensively, Increase your hobby engagement, Volunteer more, and Work out more. And just for the record, I have no kids (hence no grandkids); I tried both the second career and volunteer things and didn’t enjoy them; I had no hobbies or exercise programs to increase, and hubby is a homebody. I was batting zero on meeting societal expectations.
- Whether you call it self-care, holistic wellness, or healthy living, plan and implement a program for your body, mind, and spirit. This could include practicing positivity, implementing daily movement, exploring personal spirituality, getting all the appropriate health check-ups, and eating healthier because you have the time to shop and cook! The practice of positivity focuses on choosing optimism and increasing your happiness. Consider making gratitude lists regularly, using affirmations, adding meditation to your daily habits, intentionally letting go of negativity, and stopping comparison or competitive thinking. Now is the time to focus on you and your wellbeing and finding a higher life satisfaction.
Most of all – be patient. For many of us, retirement transition can take time. Really knowing who you are, creating new habits, and building relationships – all take time. One of the ah-ha’s of retirement for me was enjoying the time to contemplate things, really getting to know my inner self (my own why’s and not the societal expectations I’ve learned), working on changing some long-held beliefs and conditioned responses, savoring life’s little moments, and accepting that this (my life, my retirement lifestyle) is a work in progress.