The Vital Role of 'Letting Go' in Retirement

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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. 

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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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