The jobs we do for 40 hours every week — and the life those jobs provide for our families over decades — significantly influence 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 skillset 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 to sneak off for a little break from the busyness of life.
What did you do with your free time?
- Do you enjoy sports? Check the schedule of your local sports team, 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.
- Maybe your after-work runs on the treadmill could become long jogs with your spouse.
- Have you always wanted to train for a half-marathon? Now is the time.
Whether it’s writing, painting, photography, woodworking, cooking, or 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. (The recent pandemic has given some of us a window into what it is like to lose that 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 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.
- Don’t forget the family! We know one retirement identity that appeals to many retirees 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
You’ve never retired before! This is a new experience for you and your spouse. No one gets their retirement right immediately.
Have you ever sat down and thought about how you want to approach this new chapter of life? In our experience, the most successful retirees approach retirement by knowing their vision. A vision statement is a detailed description of your best life or what you’d be happy to see happen. It is not necessarily a bucket list, but a list of relationships strengthened, experiences, accomplishments, volunteering, and more.
Here’s a real-life example!
“I lead a benevolent life by devoting my assets – financial and non-financial – to build up my church. I expand my everyday life through travel & by learning about different lifestyles, cultures, & historical places.”
Retirement is for the activities you love, the relationships that matter most, and having the time available to make both worthwhile.
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 get in the way of living your best possible life. Finding your retirement identity means readjusting your focus from what your life used to be to an exciting new vision of what your retirement can be.