How To Revolutionize Your Retirement Thinking

As you think about your retirement life, acknowledge that “who you are” is much more important than “what you do”. This one shift in your belief structure will enhance your chances of having a happier, healthier retirement.

Hate change? If so, you’re in for a rude retirement awakening. Why? Because not since adolescence have you experienced as much change as you will in retirement. Retirement is all about change. Major change. Now before you run screaming from the room, consider this. Change can be a really good thing. And, if you’re going to have the rocking retirement of your dreams, then you will need to embrace change even if you can’t learn to love it.

You hear the word “retirement” and you imagine the room full of admiring colleagues, the gentle retelling of the famous time you messed up, the president’s toast and, finally, the gold watch. Maybe retirement will be the end of your work life. If so, this is the biggest change you’ll experience since birth. Your life will no longer be about “What do you do?” And, that’s actually a gift. Retirement gives you the opportunity to grow into the best possible YOU. “Who you are” is so much more important than “what you do.”

Of course, even if you do have the gold-watch experience, it may not be the end of work as you know it. A 2003 survey conducted for AARP found that many Americans between the ages of 50 and 70 plan to work far into what has traditionally been viewed as their “retirement years.” Nearly half of all pre-retirees (45%) expect to continue working into their 70s or later. Of this group, 27% said they would work until they were in the 70s and 18% said “80 or older,” “never stop work,” or “as long as I am able to work.”

But if you’re done with work, you will need to fill all those hours with something. And the search for how you will spend your time is a change unto itself. Wilma was an executive secretary for over 40 years. She so dreaded the day she would stop working that she did no planning for the inevitable. Always attentive to her appearance, after retirement she devoted her life to resisting the aging process. She primped and shopped and beauty-parlored her days away. She tried Botox and had a face-lift. She was exploring a breast enhancement when her life radically changed. She was diagnosed with breast cancer!

Ironically, her excursion into cosmetic surgery led to early detection and she was back on her feet in no time. But she took life a lot more seriously and was soon the local coordinator for Y-ME, the national breast cancer organization. Her involvement with the group and other women with the disease became a passion that filled her life with purpose and meaning far beyond that of even her working years.

Another other major retirement change is location. If you’re going to move from the four-bedroom house where you raised your children to an apartment in town, then everything is going to be different. Will you be relocating to a warmer climate or moving closer to the grandkids? Even more radical change. And if you’re headed for a retirement community, the biggest change of all, because you’ll no longer have the healthy advantage of being surrounded by people of all ages.

So how do you embrace change? Begin by changing your attitude from one of hostility to one of acceptance. Delight comes later. Consider your daily routine. If you always take the same route to the grocery store, go a different way. If you put both socks on before your shoes, try a sock, a shoe, a sock, a shoe. Add variety to your favorite activities. Try a new hiking trail or even a new restaurant. Learn to go with the flow. Everything is changing around you all the time. Stop fighting it.

If you really want a change, get a new relationship. If you’re single, this might be the perfect time to seek a new mate. But if you’re happily married or in partnership, you can still expand your circle of relationships by seeking out new friends. Take the initiative and make the call to the woman you really liked at the last garden club meeting. Or attend that interesting lecture at the club and see who else turns up. Go out of your way to say hello to someone you don’t know.

And, by the way, if you’re happily married, this retirement thing is going to change everything. There’s more than enough truth to the old adage, “I married you for life, but not for lunch.” Take a lot of time to talk over the future of your marriage once you’re retired long before the golden-watch day arrives. Plan activities you’ll do together or make a deal that you’ll spend some days apart. But whatever you do, don’t let that change sneak up on you.

If you’re heading for retirement, remember what Bob Dylan said, “The times they are a changin’.” But since there’s not much you can do about it, you might as well put a smile on your face, open your arms wide, and welcome newness into your life.

To get started, consider the biggest change you expect in retirement and identify three action steps you can take to help you embrace that change instead of resisting it.

Copyright (c) 2007 Lin Schreiber

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