What happens when you turn the page on your work life to a new chapter can be a blessing or a curse. It all depends on your mindset and your willingness to engage in new, open-minded thinking.
Our mindset covers a wide span that includes how we see ourselves and the limiting beliefs we carry. Most importantly, it can bring us to new awareness or keep us locked in loop-thinking.
Here’s a story to better explain my point:
Meet Harry, a successful surgeon, who was contractually required to sell his interest in his practice after reaching a specified age. This was no surprise and we spent years talking about the challenges of his next step. First, we looked at Harry’s financial picture. It was stable and successful, from the standpoint of meeting his needs and desires for the rest of his life. He was an avid fisherman with several grandchildren that he and his wife wished to spend time with at his country getaway.
Together they had laid out the important aspects of life after work. It included exercise, travel, fishing, theater, live music, and time with family. The day finally arrived when Harry and his work parted ways and seemingly, he was ready.
Three months later, he was back in my office. Harry proceeded to tell me that he had started working for other doctors, filling in whenever they were away. I asked what had happened to shift his plans so significantly. He said, “Michael, I have been a doctor all my life, I don’t want to be a mister.”
His mindset about who he was undermined his ability to move into the next chapter with a positive and constructive attitude. Regardless of all the discussions and preparation, Harry couldn’t separate from the identity of being his profession. He was unable to open his thinking to be someone other than his title.
This resistance prevented him from turning the next chapter into a wonderful period of joyful exploration and experiences.
Who are we when we are no longer our job? The answer is self-defined and can lead to some surprising answers. I have witnessed answers like:
- Furniture makers
The list goes on and on. But the beauty is, you get to choose how you define yourself and what roles you wish to play with the time allotted.
Dying or reaching decrepitude on the job might be an alternative. Especially if it aligns with your deep-seated passions and reason for living. But for most, retirement is a time where you can re-engage with who you are and what brings joy and meaning.
The fact is, we don’t know how much time we’re allocated on this planet. For most, spending it at work is rarely the “thing” that lights their fire. At least to the degree that they want to leave feet first in a horizontal position.
Life after work can and should be a time to rediscover who you were before you had a title, a profession, and a job. It’s a time to engage your imagination to create a life filled with purpose, meaning, and dare I say, fun. This shift can be especially challenging for men. After all, we were training to be competitive, to achieve, and to climb over the person in front to get to the finish line first.
As a rule, men aren’t trained to socialize and work collaboratively. Nor are men trained to communicate feelings. This is evidently why women, generally speaking, are better at retirement than their XY counterparts.
Shifting from a “work” mindset to a “retirement” mindset takes attention and preparation. The mindset part requires a deep dive into how you feel about who you are. How will you replace the ego gratification and social connections that come with the work environment? Especially if you’ve relied heavily on your job for those important aspects of satisfaction.
You must examine the various aspects of your life: health, social connections, family, financial, spiritual, intellectual, leisure and physical (home). Consider what changes might be necessary. And understand what support you might need to help you shift into your next life stage.
Here are some aspects to consider as you move closer to your next stage:
- Focus on reclaiming your curiosity to explore, examine, and enjoy your life without the constraints of full-time work.
- Make sure your finances are in order. Do your investments align with the needs of your portfolio and your ability to withstand market conditions?
- Do a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats). Knowing the potential threats and weaknesses is especially important.
- Create a plan and make adjustments as appropriate.
- Have FUN! For goodness sake, you’ve worked your entire life, make sure this next chapter is full of joy!
Your next chapter can be wonderful, growth-oriented, and meaningful. Or it can be filled with misery if you are unable to transition to a new way of thinking. As Carol Dweck points out, a fixed mindset can be your nemesis if you’re unable to widen your vista to see other possibilities. The choice is yours.
Dweck, C. 2006. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Ballantine Books.