Easing Into Your Retirement Role

Getting good at being retired is a process. Only a lucky few are able to flip the switch from work to retirement and smoothly make the transition. New members to this growing club rejoice in the freedom to do as they want and explore a new world without limitations foisted upon them by demanding careers. But the new lifestyle they are about to commence is just that: brand new. Never before has what happens during each day resided solely in their control.

New retirees must assume responsibility for replacing what was until now an organized schedule of daily activities. Duties on the job dictated how you spent your hours. Once you leave that behind, no one but you will populate your calendar with worthwhile activities and commitments. The freedom to occupy yourself as you see fit also comes with the challenge of selecting meaningful ways to spend your time for the foreseeable future. It is not just about next month, but rather next year and many years after that.

It is not uncommon to feel a hint of guilt about your sudden freedom and newfound ability to choose how you spend it. Most of us lived through hectic careers and lifestyles where spare time was an elusive commodity. Over scheduled working people have little time to waste and constantly search for ways to boost productivity. Now in retirement, that burden is lifted. You get to do what you want. But it can take time to accept that it is now OK to pursue something just for the fun of it. Imagine doing nothing at all without remorse. I still sometimes find myself at the end of the day tabulating where I “productively” spent my Cool seniortime, hoping to identify something worthwhile. I am beginning to realize I now define what is worthwhile, and somewhere near the top of the list is being happy.

One on one time with your spouse is about to get top billing as the two of you become a retired couple. You will no longer be separated by individual careers, and will now be able to spend as much time together as you want to. But don’t think that long weekends alone or occasional vacation travel is an accurate representation of life spent together every day. You and your spouse could potentially be together 24/7. It can be truly wonderful to have quality time to share, but maintaining harmony over the long term takes effort. Your journey will be smoother if you allow for alone time to pursue individual interests. If you do not have a lot of shared hobbies you may want to search for a new activity you can do together. Allowing for a little space and a willingness to try new things together can help the transition into this new phase of marriage to go more smoothly.

One of the best aspects of retired living is the incredible variety of activities and interests we are free to explore. I have discovered a renewed interest in learning about history and art, something I glossed over in my youth and never had time for until now. By watching courses on the Internet, reading books I now find interesting and traveling where my heart desires I continue to broaden my knowledge. You may decide to explore new ways to maintain physical fitness, learn a new language, upgrade your house, garden or express your artistic side. Retirement can be the perfect time to be as curious and creative as you want.

Making the transition from the working world into retirement is not as easy as it may sound. Some people find it difficult to step away from the need to be constantly productive. It’s important to have a plan for how you will spend your days once you leave your job.

From my article for US News & World

Retirement is About Learning as You Go

Chances are you will not be fortunate enough to predict with great accuracy where life will take you once you retire. More likely you will live through twists and turns, adventures and mishaps, ups and downs as you navigate the retirement jungle. You may think you have it all figured out, that you are more than ready to jump into your second act. After all how difficult can it be? Just leave the stresses of the job behind and focus on doing what you really want. Step up to submerge yourself in some serious rest and relaxation. Now that you have arrived, just let the fun begin.

For the first year or so as you begin to chart your retirement course, it can seem pretty easy to engage and enjoy yourself just as you hoped. Who doesn’t enter retired life without a list of important to-dos, a conglomeration of everything you have never had time for until now. Long neglected hobbies crying out for attention can now be rejuvenated. You are finally able to explore those trips to places that until now you have only read of. And simple relaxation that a busy career stubbornly refused to allow can be enjoyed. What a life!

Then as your second act progresses and you start living your day to day retired lifestyle, you may discover you overlooked a little something here or did not count on a bit of that there. Perhaps you realize those numerous hobbies you planned to revisit are not quite as interesting as you remember. Maybe all that freedom to do whatever you want leaves you a bit at odds. After all, 20 years is a long time to entertain yourself. And since we are such a diverse bunch of retirement travelers, there is no one roadmap to direct us exactly where to go.

I have found over my brief retirement that not everything I expected turns out as I thought. But I have also discovered that I can adapt. I am beginning to understand retirement is an ongoing education and I am learning something new all the time.

Rediscover what you really enjoy

A demanding career can easily take control of our lives. The intense focus and constant demands can have the unfortunate effect of numbing us to having a good time. With nothing but work on our minds, we forget what it is that we really enjoy doing. Who has time for fun when there are only so many hours in the day? Retirement can be our chance to take another look at what really lights our individual fires. We no longer have to only img_2151.jpgdream of the ever illusive free time – it is now ours for the taking.

As a retiree I uncovered a previously unknown interest in history. Now if you knew me as a student you would understand what a major shift this is. I wanted nothing to do with things of yore. History and geography had no place in my busy life. But this is different. Perhaps it is the fact that this time around I can study what I want rather than being force fed an inflexible diet of core requirements. I discovered a passion for French Impressionist Art as well as all things Parisian. I love the variety of the unique neighborhoods inhabited by novel worthy characters scattered throughout the snail shell configuration of her 20 arrondissements. While visiting, I became the flaneur I had read of, wandering the streets with no particular destination in mind, enjoying what I found around each new corner. Back home I attend on online courses introducing the cast of characters and social environment that made up the ever so interesting eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in France. A key attraction for me is the freedom to pursue whatever avenue I find most interesting for as long as I want. If I get bored or distracted at any point, I simply exit with no exam required to justify my existence.

Accept it is okay to slow down a bit

I have always been active working out, hiking, trying new things, pursuing various hobbies and just generally not sitting still for long. Even as a youngster as soon as my homework was done I was out the door to play whatever chosen sport du jour with the neighborhood kids. Now in retirement I am learning it is okay to remain stationary for more than ten minutes. I appreciate my newfound freedom to read a book during the middle of the day. Should I feel a bit sleepy after lunch I feel no guilt reclining on the couch next to the cats happily emulating their napping prowess. I am learning – reluctantly – to hand over the heavy grocery bag to younger family members (even though I could still carry it just fine…really…). When we travel, rather than tear up the town scurrying to see every site imaginable we appreciate a quite break at a café or park bench. And you know what? By slowing down I am actually able to better appreciate all that is going on around me.

Learn you do not have to stay perpetually busy

When I first retired I felt guilty if I was not doing something “worthwhile” every spare moment. Totally accustomed to performing at 110 percent all the time, the thought of doing nothing took some getting used to. I am learning that doing nothing hold its own wonder. Without every moment laid out ahead of time I can follow my own natural rhythms. I am a morning person and so look forward to getting out of bed and on with the day. But should I feel the urge to spend an additional hour in bed that is exactly what I do. And I do it without feeling guilty. It may sound easy but until you accept that you have real control of how you choose to spend your time, that gnawing guilt can hang out on the periphery.

The journey continues as does my ongoing education. I am realizing that I did not learn it all in school and there is really no age at which learning is over. With so many interesting avenues to explore and the freedom to engage, it appears that much of my education is just beginning.