The jobs we do for 40 hours every week – and the life that job provides for our families over decades – has a significant influence on how we view ourselves. That’s why many new retirees struggle with a loss of identity. Without familiar work routines, responsibilities, accomplishments, financial rewards, and social networks, some retirees feel lost. Suddenly, a vigorous professional go-getter is sunk in front of the TV, wondering how to fill the next thirty years.
Even if you’re really looking forward to retirement, you might find this adjustment more difficult than you’re anticipating. Here are 4 ways to craft a new retirement identity that will be much more fulfilling than Semi-Pro Couch Potato.
Do what you do best differently.
The professional expertise and skill set that you developed are still valuable assets in retirement. Think about new ways that you can apply those gifts.
You could start your own part-time consulting business, working on your schedule while earning a little extra income. Your local community college or rec center might give you an opportunity to teach classes or seminars. Start a blog, video channel, or podcast where you share your lifetime of professional insights and comment on the latest trends in your old business space.
Follow your interests.
You worked hard to get to your retirement. But you didn’t work ALL the time. Even if you loved your job, you took vacation days. You might even have faked one or two bad colds so that you could sneak off and … do what?
Catch an afternoon baseball game? Split a season tickets package with friends and family and you’ll have a few dozen dates to look forward to on your calendar.
Do you love weekends on the tennis court or golf course? Add some weekdays to the mix and set some personal goals. How low can you get your handicap? Could you and a friend get in shape for the senior doubles tournament at your local club?
Maybe your after-work runs on the treadmill could become long jogs with your spouse. Or, have you always wanted to train for a half-marathon? Now you have time.
Writing, painting, photography, woodworking, cooking, gardening – retirement is your chance to turn your part-time hobby into a full-time passion.
Make new connections with people.
A big challenge for folks who are struggling to let go of their work identity is replacing their workplace social circle. Without daily team meetings and friendly banter at the coffee station, seniors can start to feel lonely and isolated – especially if many of their friends and family haven’t retired yet.
Working part time or volunteering for a favorite charity is a great way to make a new circle. You’ll also regain that sense of responsibility and accomplishment you’ve been missing.
Your interests can also help you make new connections. The jump from weekend amateur to dedicated craftsman will be less daunting and more fun if you take a painting class, join a writers’ workshop, or book a group travel package to eat your way through France.
A retirement identity that appeals to many seniors is grandma or grandpa. Put all those soccer games and dance recitals on your calendar. Schedule a monthly family dinner or brunch.
Give yourself time to reflect and permission to make mistakes.
In our experience, the most successful retirees approach retirement as an ART: using the Activities they love and the Relationships that matter the most to make Time worthwhile. Like any art, there will be periods of trial and error. Designing your ideal retirement schedule should be an enjoyable experience for you and your spouse. Don’t let a few grumpy days or a class you don’t take to get in the way of living your best possible life.
Afterall, you’ve never retired before! This is a new experience for you and your spouse. No one gets their retirement right immediately.