Much has been written about major life transitions yet for some of us the challenge remains one of understanding and accepting the changes as they are presented to us. For example as our children graduate from high school or college we realize that our role as parent requires us to change. We learn to step back as our young adult children test life and begin to realize their own strengths. Holding out the apron strings hoping they will latch on restricts their growth and self confidence.
At the other end of the spectrum when we are facing retirement it also brings major life changes to our table. We knew who we were as an employee or boss but who are we now? We have spent our life raising kids and advancing in our careers only to be faced with the life altering question of, ‘What next?’ ‘How do I change, adjust and create a new life?’ These changes are major life transitions that can be better understood from researchers such as psychologist, Erik Erikson.
Erikson talked about the individual life stages and labeled the 35-65 ages as the time when we are occupied with creative and meaningful work raising families and advancing in our careers. Success and advancement at work becomes crucial. We frequently find ourselves ‘in charge’ or at least more independent and confident in our roles. We are making a difference in the lives of others and feel valued from our contributions. Yet, we know the future will soon be something we will face and we may begin to fear this next stage, late adulthood, thinking of inactivity or achieving less meaning in our everyday lives. Yet, that does not have to be the case.
For those people who couldn’t wait to retire from their job this is a time when just doing what they choose to do at any given moment is the brass ring for which they have been waiting. They may not have been a boss in their jobs but worked hard regardless and their reward is one of total acceptance – celebration even for the change of pace in retirement.
For others who devoted themselves not only to family but a career and advanced through the ranks until they were the boss, the designation and recognition in itself was an ongoing reward. But the thought of retirement for these folks may not conjure up images of a more relaxed life style, allowing them to call their own shots but genuine concern and stress about exactly what they will do from this point forward. They may visualize their name taken off the door and wonder – ‘Is this really the right time to retire? What will I do with the rest of my life?’ Have faith that you will make the right decision. Remember the saying, ‘All is as it should be.’ Your track record is good – great even- and it has gotten you to this point. A whole new world is opening up to you now. Be ready.
The truth is that it is extremely hard for some to move into retirement. It involves wrestling with feelings of fear, powerlessness and loss. Like anything in life, the more you love something (or someone) the harder the loss when it goes away. Transitions are hard. They can shake our sense of identity. Recognizing these feelings as real and accepting the fact that regardless of what you have accomplished thus far, you are above all a human like everyone else will allow you to accept any insecurities you are feeling about the future as normal not a signal to retreat. It helps to know that many highly accomplished people have experienced the same concerns regarding this transition in life.
Retirement does not signal the end but challenges us to find new ways to contribute to the world. Think of the things on your mental list that you have waited to do until you had the time. Well now you have it! Now is the time to jump in and create a new you! After you have given yourself the time you need to rest and recuperate from your life’s journey thus far, you will know the right path to follow. Trust me on this, the Universe just seems to give us a gentle nudge when we slow down enough to listen.
When you allow yourself the opportunity to envision your future decades what do you see? There are so many ways to be productive and active. Continuing to do what you are good at – just doing it part time or volunteering, mentorships and other forms of philanthropy allow us the opportunity to make it a better world just at a slower pace. Interestingly, the pace matches our energy level so it’s another thing to be grateful for in life. We galloped through life and are now at an elegant trot. It’s a good place to be.
Have a great few days!