For Frank, happiness is work. But retirement looms

Nervous Frank asks Dr Emmanuella how to make a happy transition into retirement.

For Frank, happiness is work. But retirement looms

The closer Frank gets to retirement, the more nervous he gets. He tells psychologist Dr Emmanuella that his sense of self-esteem is linked to his work and asks how he can best make the transition.

Q. Frank
As I get closer to possible retirement age, my sense of self-esteem is plummeting. I just can’t imagine having enough meaningful things to do to fill the day. I’m so envious of other people I know – and many YourLifeChoices members – who have never looked back. But I’m me and they’re them. Do I just work until I drop? My partner might not be happy with that but …

A. Oh Frank, you poor thing. If you base how you feel about yourself on only one criterion, work, then it makes sense your self-esteem is plummeting. Your work does not define you! Self-esteem is about how we value ourselves, and that can have an impact on how we see life, the world and life events.

I work with people and one of the main things I start with is behavioural strategies. Why? Because doing is better than not doing, and doing has a direct mood-lifting effect.

I think if you start to do things that are good for you, instead of watching others do so, you won’t feel as envious.

You mentioned you couldn’t imagine having enough meaningful things to do to fill your day, so start to have a think now. Start setting daily and weekly goals, and insert some activities that give you a sense of pleasure and mastery.

You may need to start with a list of things that you used to do, that you don’t do now, or things you’d like to try that you haven’t had time to try. That’s always a good place to start. These steps can help you feel more motivated to do more, as well as give you some good feedback on how you are spending your time now.

If your days are only filled with work, that’s not very mood enhancing.

I’m sure your partner will love seeing you feel happy and doing things, other than work, that make you happy. This may also help you see that a life without work isn’t as daunting and that there are many things you can do to fill in your time. 

Dr Emmanuella Murray is a clinical psychologist, who has been practising for more than 10 years. She works with children, adolescents, adults and couples, and presents to professionals and community groups. Go to her website for more information.

If you have a question for Dr Emmanuella, please send it to [email protected]

Have you fully retired? What was the secret to a smooth transition? What advice would you give someone who is struggling?



    To make a comment, please register or login
    4th Jun 2019
    Had a friend who supposedly retired last year at 60- I said to her- you haven't finished. Sure enough I was right. she went and got contract work. She said her super had gone down. She did find some groups she could join. So she knows she has those to go back to. She has a younger husband, so she needs to keep herself busy until he can retire early as well. She never had children so was able to build up a very substantial Superannuation fund, but still have a big overseas holiday once a year
    4th Jun 2019
    Join a club. Bowls, Probus, or anything in which you mix regularly with other people. Take a job in that Club. Most are always looking for office bearers. The more you put into it, the more you will get out of it.
    4th Jun 2019
    Surely this was the reason that transition to retirement came into being.

    It means you can reduce your hoursand claim a pension from your super to cover the drop in salary whist you continue to add to it from the days you work.

    So Jim could reduce his hours to 4 days a week and use that one extra day to start discovering what he would like to do, clubs he could join, passtimes to take up etc. 6 months to a year later maybe reduce hours again to say three work days a week, then to 2 then to a one day a week work. By that time Jim's out of work time should contain more activities he really enjoys and will finally stop work to devote more time to them. It does need the employer agreement but this would likely be forthcoming.

    On the other hand, why should he retire completely at all? If he enjoys his work and is able, why not continue?
    4th Jun 2019
    Op shops are always in need of voluntary labor eg Vinnies. or other work in the community eg. car driver, plenty of folk to talk to there. Delivering meals on wheels or library books. Just to name a few things.

    5th Jun 2019
    my jusband had a very high powered prestigious job but he had no problem with retirement at all...his job never defined him and that was the key..some men find it hard because they are used to be the top dog where they work. that part of his life is over and he has packed that part of his life away...he is just now "one of the boys"
    7th Jun 2019
    It appears to me that Frank is in a job he doesn't like, but he stays there because it fulfils an emotional need? Perhaps makes him feel useful, because he is able to pass on his knowledge and experience and help his fellow workers grow into their careers?
    Frank, understand what that job is giving you, do some self analysis, then do what ever you want to do, but do it for your reasons. Its your life. There's no point in being just another brick in the wall throughout your working life to being just another brick in the wall throughout your retirement life, if you know what I mean? Good luck mate.

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