In his four years as a retirement coach, Jon Glass has been helping older Australians navigate the emotional facets of retirement. He offers guidance on how to recall all those things you wanted to do in retirement – before you arrived there.
Novelists are frequently asked where they get their ideas and, as I will explain, it turns out that we should all be asked the same question because we are all authors of our own lives. You may be thinking that this can’t possibly apply to you, as you have never written a novel. Moreover, you may think that your life is a series of events as they happened, which have nothing to do with authorship.
That’s okay, but that is not where I’m heading. In the retirement phase of life, you should at last have time to reflect and that can lead to a new sense of your self.
Let’s begin with something simple. Imagine you want to create a business card on the first day of your retirement. What title will you give yourself? Retired person? Maybe not.
You could say that a title is a cliche, a phrase to aid understanding, just as a sensationalist headline in a newspaper might tag a woman as “a mother of four”. Psychologists would term this a “thin description” as it doesn’t dive to the depths of complexities, variability and contradictions of a real person.
So for a deeper investigation of your retirement narrative, you can reflect on how you described yourself while you were working, If someone politely asked you at a dinner party to tell them about yourself, you might have replied, “I am so busy working and providing for my family, that there are many things I would like to do, but will have to put off until I retire.”
Now let’s turn that to a productive self-description in retirement: “With all the free time that I now have in retirement, I really want to help people to develop their careers, or with their challenges as parents, using all the skills and knowledge that I’ve developed over the years.”
This ready-made response may not even be close to who you think you are or want others to think about you. In that case, you should take off on a voyage of self-discovery, and for this it’s good to carry a reliable compass, for that will help you locate your ‘needs’. Here is an example.
Do you have a strong desire to make social connections? Perhaps during your working life you never had the time to do that and, voila, now in retirement you do. This is an example of a ‘need’. An understanding of your needs can help you to locate your meaning and purpose in retired life. Remember, everyone is different, so don’t expect to find a formula to help you.
You could also mine your own life, in order to dig up the personal treasures that may have been buried for years. Think about your talents that are crying out for development. You can make the choice of talents to develop, but of course you will need to be careful to integrate them into your overall lifestyle. Playing the piano 22 hours a day may not fit with the wishes of other people in your life!
But let’s not make it too hard. As a simple first step, come up with one sentence of your narrative as a retired person? Here are three ways to start:
I want to help …
I would like others to …
I want to know …
Of course your responses can be short and you don’t have to write them down, but you could share your thoughts in the comments section of this article to assist others on their journey.
Jon Glass is a retirement coach with 64Plus.
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