The Question That Makes Retirees Squirm

The Question That Makes Retirees Squirm

It’s a seemingly innocent inquiry but one that seems to trigger groans from retirees everywhere.

It’s not the question itself – it’s the unspoken subtext, a hint of judgment that can leave you feeling a little…well, awkward.

And with no job title defining you, crafting the perfect answer to this question can feel surprisingly tricky. 

The question? “What do you DO these days?”

Redefining 'what we do'

For most of our working lives, our identity gets interwoven into our careers. We answer the “What do you do?” question with “I’m a teacher” or “I’m a hairdresser” – using our job title as a neat shorthand answer.

But for retirees, this question can feel loaded. Suddenly, the answer isn’t quite clear-cut anymore. The comfortable title we’ve used for years no longer seems to fit and while the word ‘retired’ may be technically accurate it’s about as exciting as a beige cardigan. “Is that all I am? Retired?”


Time to shed those old clothes and step into something that truly fits

Now, I bet you “used to” be a host of different things before retirement. You probably wore many hats, tackled many challenges, and aced many a team meeting! But you are so much more than just the sum of your past accomplishments.

The question is: how long can you hold onto those past titles and identities? 

Clinging on to who you used to be and what you used to do is like stubbornly continuing to wear your old work clothes even though they now feel uncomfortable, restrictive and no longer fit!

Retirement is the perfect time to shed those old ‘clothes’ – not your favourite jacket necessarily (though a wardrobe refresh never hurts!), but the outdated expectations and titles that no longer define you. It’s a chance to step into something more comfortable that truly reflects the new, authentic you.

So, how do YOU react to this question? 

Is it a conversation starter, a chance to share the vibrant life you’re actively creating, or does it trigger anxiety and a mini-existential crisis?

The discomfort triggered by the question often reflects a deeper struggle. Retirement throws us headfirst into redefining our identity and purpose. Gone are the days when our value and activities were neatly summarized by a job title. Now, we have the freedom – and perhaps the burden – to create a new answer, one that reflects the multifaceted beings we’ve become… an intrepid traveller, volunteer extraordinaire, or a first-time entrepreneur. Or maybe a unique blend of all three!

As for me, I proudly embrace the new label of “semi-retired.” 

Work is still a source of immense fulfilment. Coaching, speaking, and training are more than just jobs – they’re passions that allow me to share my experience and make a positive impact. I focus on guiding individuals through this dynamic and sometimes challenging transition to retirement. If that’s you, consider me your guide! 

The best part for me is having more freedom, which is SUCH a joy and privilege. I answer to no employer, so my time and energy are mine to manage. This allows me to delve deeper into the activities that truly bring me joy – family and friends, creative pursuits, learning (…always learning!), finding peace on the yoga mat and long country walks – to name but a few! 

Choice, flexibility, and balance are the guiding principles of this new chapter for me – a constant challenge, I admit, but one I relish every single day.

What is your discomfort trying to tell you?

The next time the “What do you DO?” question throws you a curveball, pause and reflect.

Could it be, that unexpected twinge of discomfort is trying to tell you something? Perhaps it’s urging you to ditch the old threads and step into something that truly fits – something that reflects the multifaceted YOU.

Ditch the tired “I used to be…” Let your answer be a bold declaration of your present self! This isn’t about what’s now behind you; it’s about the vibrant life you’re actively creating in this exciting new chapter.

Remember, it’s YOUR life. You get to call the shots, make your own choices, and chart your own path. This is your retirement, your way. Embrace it, own it, and live it to the fullest!

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Retirement: Existential Crisis or a Unique Personal Opportunity?

Retirement: Existential Crisis or a Unique Personal Opportunity?

The champagne’s been popped, the goodbyes have been said, and you’ve officially hung up your work hat. The moment of retirement has finally arrived and an exhilarating vista of freedom stretches out in front of you!

But hold up, what’s that weird, uneasy feeling creeping in… a disconcerting vibe that seems to revolve around a handful of pressing questions:  What now? Who am I outside the professional box I’ve inhabited for so long?  What exactly am I going to DO with all this time? 

And suddenly, wham, instead of feeling free, relaxed, and optimistic, you feel lost, aimless, and stressed!  But fear not – although it may have the hallmarks of an existential crisis, it’s actually something far less unsettling and far more promising: it‘s a unique, personal opportunity.

Time for some experimental adventures!

It’s a unique opportunity to define yourself anew:

  • To think about what you want to do, be, and have
  • To respond to the inner callings that beckon you
  • To define and shape the future you wish to create
  • To experience change, growth, and reinvention

Your head’s brimming with ideas and your heart’s overflowing with dreams and a new chapter beckons! Now is your chance to shed the “shoulds” and embrace the “coulds” and the “what ifs” and step into the glorious unknown – a place ripe for exploration!

Think about it: you have the time, the (hopefully) financial security, and most importantly, the freedom to experiment. and indulge in the experimental joy that retirement offers!

No more squeezing hobbies into spare moments or daydreaming about adventures that have been put on hold. 

Retirement is your very own ‘permission slip’ to follow your curiosity:

  • Dust off a passion you were unable to pursue while working full-time. Remember that pottery class you always wanted to take? The travel blog you dreamt of starting? Now’s your chance! 
  • Embrace the “never too late” mentality: Learning a new language? Mastering the piano (…finally!)? Don’t let age hold you back. Your brain is still a magnificent learning machine, so feed it new experiences!
  • Step outside your comfort zone: Join a hiking group, sign up for that improv class, or volunteer for a cause you care about. The world is full of surprises waiting for the curious soul.
  • Embrace the power of “yes”: Say yes to invitations you might have declined before. Say yes to spontaneity. Say yes to the unexpected detours that life throws your way.
  • Use your workplace skills in a new way – try mentoring, or maybe give serious attention to the online business idea that’s been quietly incubating in your head.

Time to turn the "what now?" into "what next?"

Ditch the pressure to get it “right” the first time. Embrace the stumbles and the unexpected detours – they might well be the stepping stones to something very special.

Think of these ‘experimental adventures’ like an Artist’s Date – a concept popularised by creativity guru Julia Cameron. An Artist’s Date is simply regular time dedicated to nurturing your creativity, free from judgment or pressure. Maybe it’s a solo trip to the cinema (an ‘Artist’s Date that became a regular personal favourite of mine!), a silversmithing class you’ve always been curious about, or simply trying a new recipe. The point is to follow your curiosity and let your playful spirit roam free. 

Entering retirement can feel like you’ve been plunged into uncharted waters. But what may seem like a crisis is simply an invitation to surf the waves of change. So, explore new opportunities and create a chapter in your life story that’s just as amazing, if not more so, than those that came before.  

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The Vital Role of Letting Go in Retirement

The Vital Role of 'Letting Go' in Retirement

Letting Go2

It’s a mistake – or maybe wishful thinking – to think we can just coast our way out of one closing chapter, and straight into retirement with barely a backward glance.

Unfortunately, as we often discover to our cost, it’s rarely that simple! 

There’s a much-underestimated, and vital step that needs to be taken first: letting go of what’s ending.

Retirement, like ANY transition, is a process and that process starts with letting go. It’s where we acknowledge what’s ending, name our losses, and let them go. With gratitude… and probably a few tears!

Easy to say, not so easy to DO! 

But without addressing this part of the process many stay stuck in limbo – unable to go back and unable to move on.

The 'Letting Go' Limbo

Take Laura, for instance. 

As a doctor on the cusp of retirement, Laura willingly postponed her plans when COVID hit. But when I met up with her recently she still hadn’t “made the big decision” to retire and after a bit of gentle digging, it became clear that Laura was stuck in the ‘letting go limbo’ and consequently kept deferring the decision.

There were SO many things she was finding challenging to give up, including her status, expertise, colleagues, and her professional identity, to name a few!

‘Who am I going to be if I’m not a doctor?’ she confided, echoing a common fear of many approaching retirement.

The transitional space between who you were and who you are becoming can without doubt feel like an unsettling limbo, leaving you hesitant and like Laura, prone to procrastination. 

Whilst it FEELS like a limbo, there’s work to be done here!  It’s an important space – a mental, emotional, and physical space – where you release the emotional attachments to the people, places and things that might have served you well in the past, but no longer align with the person you’re becoming. 

Letting Go1

The thing to remember here is that these ‘endings’ aren’t finalities; they’re simply preludes to new beginnings.

So, where are YOU in your 'letting go' journey?

Are you holding on for dear life, like Laura? 

Transitioning between who you were and who you’re becoming is certainly NOT without its challenges!  It involves letting go of roles, routines, and social connections we’ve held onto for years. Whether adjusting to changing family dynamics or facing the physical reminders of time’s passage, it’s only natural to feel a sense of loss. Acknowledging this sadness is not only okay but also an essential and beneficial part of the process.

Here are a few additional tips to help you navigate this transition and embrace the limbo as you step into your new life:

  1. Embrace Stillness: Instead of filling your days with endless tasks and commitments, allow yourself moments of stillness. Take time to reflect, meditate, or simply be present. In this quiet space, you may discover what truly brings you joy and passion.

  2. Embrace the Process: Don’t try to ignore or bypass this stage of transition. It’s a fertile ground for growth and self-discovery. Embrace the uncertainty, knowing that it holds the potential for exciting opportunities to unfold.

  3. Embrace the Possibilities: Don’t forget to also acknowledge and release the things that no longer serve you or have run their course. Turn your attention to the possibilities to be found as a result of letting go. More time? More freedom? More autonomy?
  4. Embrace Forward Momentum: While it’s important to cherish the memories of the past, don’t let them hinder your future. Retirement signifies a new chapter in your life, full of potential and possibility. Keep your focus on the present moment and the opportunities that lie ahead. Your retirement journey is just beginning, and many new adventures await!

  5. Embrace Support: Don’t hesitate to lean on your support network during this transition. Whether it’s friends, family, or a professional coach, having someone to talk to can provide valuable perspective and encouragement. Share your thoughts and feelings with those you trust, and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.

  6. Embrace Self-Care: Take time to engage in activities that nourish mind, body and soul. Whether it’s practising yoga, going for walks in nature, or indulging in your favourite hobbies, make time for activities that bring you joy and relaxation. Taking care of yourself is essential as you embark on this new chapter of your life.

Remember, things change, life changes, and WE change. Staying the same is not on the menu – growth and evolution are! 

And “letting go” is where it all starts. It’s not about who you used to be or what you used to do; it’s about who you are becoming and what excites you now. So, take a deep breath, release your grip on the past, ready to step boldly into your next chapter. 

Retirement is not the end…. it’s just the beginning!

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