Retirement is often thought of as a reward for dutifully working day-by-day, year-after-year. As you sit idling in commuter traffic thinking about your to-do list that never ends — you probably say to yourself ”I can’t wait until I’m retired and don’t have to do this anymore…”
It’s true, when you are retired you won’t have to set the alarm, wear your work clothes, commute, and finish all your myriad of tasks at work, but working is never all bad. What are the other things that you enjoy that you will lose when you leave your job?
You may be losing your personal identity. How often do you meet someone new in a social setting and quickly let them know what it is you do for work? Many people are so invested in their work, especially if they have been successful at it, that they think of themselves as their job. Are you, or were you, a doctor, a lawyer, a business owner, director, manager, or vice president? Did people jump when you made a request?
When you leave a position of power you also frequently leave your power behind. It can be very disheartening to move from a position of power and authority to being “just another person.” When you are used to being respected for your role it can come as a shock when people act dismissively toward you when they discover you’re retired.
Learning how to let go of who you were and learning how to craft a new definition of yourself is key if you want to fully engage in this next stage of life. Not letting go — trying to live in the past — is sad and when done to the extreme makes you seem boring and you might become an object of pity to those around you who are living in the present.
If possible, as you near retirement, start consciously adding more to your life than just work. Move away from defining yourself by what you do, instead try to figure out who you are as a unique person.
This is not necessarily an easy thing to do. It can take time and requires some self-introspection before you can develop and become comfortable with a new self-definition. While the “doing” part of you is important, this process is more about focusing on the “being” part of you.
Ask yourself: What do you value? What are your strengths? What do you care deeply about? And how do you reflect your uniqueness in the world? Answer these questions and you will be well on your way to being able to share who you really are with the world.