Retirement. What does retirement have to do with courage, communication and connection.
More than you might think actually.
I have worked with some clients who were at that crossroad in their life. They were approaching retirement or were just on the other side of it. That golden place we are all rushing towards, that place of freedom and choice. Sadly for many when they get there they have no idea what to do with themselves.
“Now what do I do?”, is often the thought running through their heads as they lay in bed at night trying to sleep.
This is the place that courage comes in. If you started working in your late teens you have been on a certain path for possibly almost 40 years. Society often dictated what the next step was. Then, suddenly the whole routine is gone. The reason we got up in the morning, our purpose, our worth, for some seems to have vanished right after that retirement party. This is the place where courage will be needed in order to begin a new phase. You’ll need courage to discover that new purpose and a new reason to get out of bed every day.
That courage is going to look like trying something new. Maybe a new sport, hobby, class, volunteering. But it’s going to mean you will be out of your comfort zone. Damn, you say. You thought that would end when you weren’t in the work world anymore. Nope here it is again. If you didn’t work on that courage muscle before retirement, it’s still waiting there for you to exercise it some more after retirement.
The struggle I am seeing for those nearing or in this stage of life is also one of communication. “How do I find the right words to express what I am experiencing. If I reach out and share what’s going on for me, (courage), others will probably laugh at or judge me. Here I am supposedly at the brass ring part of life and I feel lost and alone. What’s my value, my purpose.” You will find that if you’re simply able to share this experience with others, you will be helping to create connections in your life. (connection, that thing that may been missing since you haven’t been going to work anymore.) This will be a time for having conversations with friends and family about what’s going on for you and asking for support as you transition through yet another big change in your life.
You’ve heard me speak about connection often in my writing. I believe it is essential to a happy healthy life. So much so that Dr. Vivek Murthy, the 19th Surgeon General of the US recently released his new book called Together. The focus of the book is loneliness in the world and how the issue is growing into an epidemic that needs to be addressed. When we are lonely we are craving connection. It is essential to human survival.
In “Together” Dr. Murthy shared conversations with Dr. John Cacioppo who due to his research on loneliness became known as Dr. Loneliness. His comments on connection are worth noting.
“All this means that our social evolution is deeply intertwined with our physical evolution. All this whole process is still baked into our collective psyche today, Bill told me. “If I’m not sharing knowledge and emotions, then I feel lonely.”
The reason for that, according to Dr. John Cacioppo, is that loneliness “serves as a signal to attend to and take care of the social connections that define us as a species.” We know we are attending to those connections when we feel “at home” with a closely knit group or family. We’re wired to associate belonging with the sharing of stories, feelings, memories and concerns. That’s why our bodies relax and our spirits lift when we connect in genuine friendship and love.
Strong personal relationships not only add joy and meaning to our lives, but they have positive effects on our health, mood and performance. They buffer stress and make it more likely that we’ll have the help and support we need to weather life’s inevitable challenges, be they illness, job change, the loss of a loved one, or other major life transitions. The stronger our connections with each other, the richer our culture and the stronger society become. “
When we no longer have that work environment to go to every day and we never took the time to cultivate close, deep, relationships while we were working, we soon begin to realize that something is missing.
“So,” you say, “I’m nowhere near retirement, why should I be thinking about this?” Because now is the time to begin setting the stage for what the second chapter of your life is going to look like when you get there.
Now is the time to nurture relationships you have, be they friends or family. And if you don’t have them in your life it is never too soon to begin cultivating them. This will require all 3 of the life skills I speak so often about, courage, communication and connection.
When we have these support systems in place, and in our North American culture of individualism we need them even more, then we will have an easier time dealing with the major life transitions that await us on the journey.
Too many of us never give this any thought. We only focus on the final day of work and not having to get up the next morning to go there. Ah heaven. In my day job working with a financial advisor, part of what we have begun to ask clients about their retirement is, what do you dream of doing when you are no longer working? Many have vague plans such as travel but you aren’t going to be doing that 7 days a week 12 months of the year.
I am almost 53 and I have begun to think about what do I want my retirement to look like so that I ensure I am mentally happy and healthy.
I know I will probably become a Toastmasters member again. Toastmasters gave me community, it allowed me to interact with different types of people and cultures on a weekly basis. It allowed me to become a mentor, and as Dr. Murthy says in his book, “with kids, as with adults, one of the most empowering ways they can cure their loneliness is through service to others.”
I know I will also continue to coach. It ticks all 3 of my boxes of courage, communication and connection. It also gives me a sense of purpose and has me being in service to others. Hence it fulfills me.
Travel is a big part of my retirement plan. I want to take 1 trip per year for at least 2 weeks. I want to feel the energy of another culture, be immersed in another time and place, hear a different language. Meet new people.
I also know I want to continue to learn. I will continue to take courses around coaching and human nature and connection. Because that learning will keep my mind active and healthy and again give me a sense of purpose.
And I want to find more time to dedicate to my physical health. Something I can’t seem to find the time or energy to do now. I love to swim and would like to see myself commit to that twice a week.
So whether you’re 45, 55 or 65, think about actually creating a plan for when you finally say goodbye to that day job. Think about what lights you up, what gives you joy and how you can ensure you stave off loneliness and feel a sense of purpose by either being of service to others or becoming a part of a new group/community. Retirement, just like the rest of your life will also take courage, communication and connection.
If you have absolutely no idea and want to have a plan of action, think about reaching out to a coach. It’s the perfect place to explore your ideas and feelings, create a plan and be accountable for putting it into action.
And if you already have your detailed plan, I’d love to hear it! It may give me an idea to incorporate into my own!
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