An important question to ask when you are heading into the retirement phase of life is, ‘What am I going to do next?’
This question and its answer(s) are important for a number of reasons:
- It reduces the risk of slipping into no man’s time where the tendency exists to sit back and watch the days slip by into a murky puddle of dreariness and depression
- It compels you to wo/man up and consider options rather than bury your head in the sand
- It encourages reflection on your strengths and desires
- You get to choose directions instead of waiting for life to happen to you
- Having options to explore and research, give you a meaningful reason to get up in the morning
- A time of exploration, researching options and trying out ideas all lends itself to structure and strategy which sustains choosing forward.
All six points can be summed up as living with purpose.
If you need to continue earning an income in your retirement you may feel that your answers to the question of ‘what to do next?’ should be of a ‘responsible’ nature and therefore confine your choices to a safe area where you can draw on your work experiences. Something affiliated to the field that you have spent the last 40 years in and which should then say something for your credibility.
This is fine and absolutely makes perfect sense if the last 40 years saw you with a smile on your face for most of the time. In other words, you could honestly say that, by and large, you loved your working life.
However, most surveys conducted on Job Satisfaction rate the ‘the very satisfied’ group well below 50% statistically. If this reflects your sentiments regarding your work, perhaps it’s time to break out of the mould and do something completely different. It’s not only feasible, it’s eminently doable.
So where do you start?
Your area of interest or dare I say it, passion, forms the premise on which to build the castle of your dreams. Spend time reading as much as you can on related topics. If you know of anyone who is doing what you are passionate about, contact them and ask if you can spend some time with them in discussion and/or observation.
Never shy away from learning new material simply because you believe or have been told that you are too old. According to Neuroscientist Prof. Michael Merzenich (a leading pioneer in brain plasticity research) the brain is built for change – no matter your age, you can get smarter!
Play around with ideas of what you can do and how you can structure the way forward. Throw an ‘ideas’ party where you discuss your venture(s); ask your friends for suggestions and any assistance that you may need to get started. People are not mind-readers so if you need help, ask for it. And this is especially pertinent to know-how questions.
Keep a notebook with you to capture those creative ‘light-bulb’gems that pop up out of the blue when you least expect them.
If you are no longer sure where your interest or passion lies, cast your mind back to when you were a child – what did you love doing? What were you naturally drawn to? These answers give strong clues because young children generally have not yet fallen victim to social pressures and coercion.
List your strengths as you see them and ask friends and family what they consider your strengths to be.
When you are in browse mode, either in a book shop or paging through a magazine or skimming through the television channels, what do you always stop to look at or read?
The answers to these questions hold some of the clues as to where your interests lie and what would sustain and nurture your interest. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be only one subject or area that will keep the inner flame alight. Interests can be varied, yet blended together, give depth and variety to life’s canvas.
Once you have a rough idea of what you are going to do, draw up a strategy and schedule for the next week, months, and year. Even if you start with broad strokes that give a vague outline, at least you have started. The filling in of detail comprises a step-by-step process – baby steps, not ones for mankind. Each little step that you take (even drawing up the schedule) will give you a sense of accomplishment and in that way, your momentum will grow exponentially.
Think of it as a growing wave of magnificent productivity that you surf towards the shore of fulfilment.