There are said to be four ages of life, each spanning some 20-25 years. By the third age most people are retiring, or at least thinking of retiring, but that can still leave a lot of life to live.
Which is where retirement coaching comes in.
In days gone by things were much simpler of course. You reached a certain age and retired. These days people are living longer and expecting more and that’s leading to a growing trend in un-retirement. People who retire, discover they have lost their purpose, and go back to work in a quest to find new meaning in their day.
So, my question is, can retirement coaching help smooth this transition?
I would argue, that yes, it can.
Working with a skilled coach can help you make decisions that will lead to renewed meaning, passion and purpose in the last decades of your life. But to a large extent, you can be your own coach too.
Retirement is both a time of closure and of new openings. A time for grieving over the loss of old routines whilst at the same time looking forward to revisiting former passions and discovering new ones.
As you are reading this you may still be in the working phase of your life. Or perhaps you are already in official retirement and are beginning to feel the need for greater fulfilment. Whatever stage you’re in it’s likely that you will be far more ‘youthful’ in both mind and body than your counterparts of even a generation ago. Expectations have changed, standards of health have improved and for many people retirement isn’t so much an end, but actually the start of a new beginning.
Think back to the people you knew who were retiring only a generation ago. For them, retirement literally meant retiring from many aspects of life but for today’s retirees those days are long gone. Most people entering retirement today can expect to stay fit and active well into their 70’s. This can mean at least a further 10 or more years which need to be guided in a new direction with a new focus and purpose.
Whether you are just starting to think about planning your retirement, or you are already there, the fact remains that a great retirement also needs a great retirement strategy. It’s not only about financial planning important though that is. It’s about personal planning too. It’s about taking a step back and asking ‘how can I create an enjoyable and enriching lifestyle in the years ahead’.
Key to all of this is to take some quiet time to reassess your life values. This might sound like a strange thing to do but as you get older some of your core values may have changed their priority, or even changed completely. Knowing what drives you and why will help you to create an inspiring vision for the years ahead. It will also help guide you towards activities that will lead you in the direction of greater happiness and fulfilment.
It’s generally considered that there are five important phases of retirement that each come with their own rewards and challenges.
If you’re coming up to the third age in your own life, you may well be able to recognise yourself in one of these phases.
The five phases of retirement
These are the years leading up to your retirement whilst you are still at work.
Pre-retirement is characterised by anticipation, dreaming and planning. It’s often a time coloured by strong emotions ranging from anxieties about financial concerns, to euphoria at the thought of your forthcoming freedom.
This is a truly precious time to step back and give careful thought to what most enlivens you. To reassess your core life values and to put them in order of importance for you.
Doing this gives you a strong foundation on which to daydream and build a realistic action plan. It gives you protection from drifting aimlessly, or becoming distracted by superficial interests that aren’t truly satisfying, or emotionally sustainable over time.
To be employed one day and retired the next needs especially careful preparation. No matter how much you are looking forward to a rest, it’s still important to be able to bounce out of bed in the morning and have something positive to look forward to in the day.
2. Retirement day
Then there is the big day itself, your day of retirement. A day of excitement and celebration. But it can also be a time of loss as you say goodbye to old working relationships, familiar environments and professional responsibilities. Then as the shock of that subsides there often follows what is known as the honeymoon phase.
3. The honeymoon
This phase is characterised by feelings of freedom and happiness as though you were on permanent holiday, and it can feel wonderful. Yet without some structure and some goals to inspire you there can be dangers ahead. For example, chilling out for too long can lead to disillusionment and lack of motivation. If you live alone then isolation can become a problem. If you live with others and begin to rely on them to entertain you that can also place strains on your key relationships.
These are just a few of the many ways that staying in the honeymoon phase of retirement for too long can lead to unhealthy imbalances and it’s why creating some structure to lead you forward through the next phases is so very important.
If you don’t have enough vibrancy, interest and challenge in your day then you may well find yourself in the disenchantment stage. A stage characterised by feelings of disappointment, sadness and wondering if there can be more to life than this. Finding creative ways to replace boredom and disenchantment with engagement and interest is essential in this phase.
A question coaches often ask is, ‘what will give you a sense of pride in yourself, or a feeling of real achievement if you did it?’. ‘What qualities did your old role at work give you that you would still like to retain?’
Being able to think creatively about what is missing in your life and how you might fill those gaps will eventually lead you to what is known as the reorientation stage. It’s about taking whatever practical steps are necessary to make retirement work well for you.
For example, you might choose to get a part-time job to add structure and a sense of purpose to your days. Perhaps take on some voluntary work to give you a sense of feeling useful. Or perhaps there may be some personal goals that are calling for your attention.
This is not a time to put up with second best. This is your time to ask for the very best for yourself. It’s a time to be clear about what you want to get out of your retirement and to drive that experience forward rather than passively riding out time.
It has been estimated that retirement frees up between 2,000 and 3,000 hours a year. Think about this for a moment, do you think you will have enough hobbies, interests and activities to keep you occupied for all that time?
Do you have a healthy mix of activities that you can do both alone and with other people? And how might you and your partner define a ‘healthy togetherness’ that meets both your needs?
These are all questions that a retirement coach might put to you to help you make the most of your retirement years. Of course, there is nothing stopping you being your own coach too. The important thing is to stay out of any potential ruts or downward spirals by focusing on what will bring you the most fun, passion and fulfilment.
Keep asking yourself those thought-provoking questions. Questions that will keep your enthusiasm for life thriving and strong.
As a new order of life finally becomes established you may well wonder how you ever found time to go to work. Yet still there are challenges to watch out for. Becoming too set in your ways is one, or forgetting to carry out ‘how’s it going?’ reviews, either alone or with your partner.
I think of it this way, retirement is not a time give away your power, or to give up on your passions. Far from it. It can be a time to renew old enthusiasms and to discover new and more rewarding directions to take.