By Marianne Oehser
Your mindset affects every part of your life. That is especially true about retirement. Your attitudes and beliefs about this time of your life will determine whether you see endless possibilities or whether you buy into some of the negative myths. It will affect your health and your happiness.
Most people choose one of two mindsets about retirement: The Euphoric Mindset or the Gloom-and-Doom Mindset
The Euphoric Mindset
As we approach retirement, most of us are ready to say goodbye to the hectic pace and all the stress that goes with most careers. We are ready to downshift a bit and are excited about enjoying our much earned ‘vacation.’
The retirement picture we create in our minds is often the Hollywood version with lots of excitement but not much clarity. It’s filled with images of things we want to do — travel, golf, tennis, boating, or anything else we have dreamed of doing. And, probably the new toys you want, like a boat. For many of us, that is just how retirement starts and it feels pretty euphoric. Enjoy it while it lasts.
Just like any outstanding vacation, it is not a permanent state. It is simply not realistic to expect the euphoria and the newness to last forever – but somehow, we do it anyway. We think that being on vacation for 20 years will continue to have the same excitement that it had in the beginning. But, it doesn’t – it fades.
The problem with a Euphoric Mindset is that it leads to disappointment. The day will come when all the play is not as much fun as it was in the beginning.
This can create a new kind of stress. Retirement no longer fits your Hollywood image and you don’t know what to do about it. You are no longer sure what you want your days and weeks to be like. You probably feel like you are a bit adrift.
That is when it’s time to get serious about building your Happiness Portfolio®. That means designing your new life so that it is balanced and diversified just like your financial portfolio. Research shows that the people who are the happiest in retirement are those who invest time and energy in all aspects of their life — having fulfilling relationships, enjoying social connections, making a contribution in some way, maintaining your health, enjoying leisure activities, growing as a human being in some way, and incorporating spirituality – whatever that means to you.
If you are looking at retirement with a Euphoric Mindset, by all means keep the mindset that this will be the best time of your life but be realistic about the fact that the honeymoon will end and figure out what you want your life to be like when it does.
The Gloom-and-Doom Mindset
The opposite of the euphoric mindset is the gloom-and-doom mindset. The gloom-and-doom mindset looks at retirement as the end of the line. The story it tells you is that all the good things in your life are over and there is nothing more to look forward to. It tells you that you are being put out to pasture because you are useless. It says that everything is downhill from here and focuses on your own mortality.
One of the big problems with such a negative outlook on this act of your life is that it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. When you are focused on all of the things that are potentially bad about this new phase, you are not likely to see the endless possibilities for how great your life can be now. This kind of thinking can negatively impact your health and lots of research studies have shown that it probably will. It will definitely turn you into a grumpy person and can lead to serious depression.
Of course, there are some legitimate things that are not so wonderful about this phase of your life. You probably don’t have the boundless energy of your youth. You might fear that you will become ‘irrelevant’ and may not keep up with all of the information and technology changes that will certainly evolve. A whole segment of your social life will disappear including the people you interacted with as part of your career. These things are real but you don’t have to let them take you down a rabbit hole you can’t get out of.
Shifting your mindset to a more positive perspective will allow you to look at things differently. Choosing a story that includes the possibility that there are more positive things ahead will shift your mindset and allow you to see ways to deal with the downsides of life after your career.
Staying stuck in either the euphoric or the gloom-and-doom way of looking at retirement will not serve you very well in the long run.
A Third Option
Carl Jung, Ph.D. was a Swiss psychiatrist and founder of Analytical Psychology who had a profound impact on how we see a wide range of areas today. Dr. Jung offers us another way of looking at this stage of life. He talks about the “afternoon of life.” The morning of our life is focused on achieving things – getting an education, building a career, raising a family, acquiring things, becoming someone. Dr. Jung says the “afternoon of life” is not just a “pitiful appendage to life’s morning” and rather than seeing our afternoon as a process of reduction, he says it is a process of expansion.“The afternoon of life is just as full of meaning as the morning; only, its meaning and purpose are different.”
This way of looking at the new chapter of your life suggests that there is much to be savored about it. The afternoon just has a different rhythm than the morning. It may be a time for slowing down a bit but it can still be filled with enthusiasm and activity. It is an opportunity to focus on different things than you did in the morning of your life. It is an opportunity to see new and different possibilities for how you invest your time and energy. It is a time to discover the meaning and purpose of your own afternoon.
It’s time to bask in your afternoon sun.