The Joy of Retirement

Finding Happiness, Freedom, and the Life You've Always Wanted

The Joy of Retirement

Authors: David C. Borchard, Patricia A. Donohoe
Pub Date: May 2008
Print Edition: $16.95
Print ISBN: 9780814480564
Page Count: 288
Format: Paper or Softback
e-Book ISBN: 9780814412831

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Reinventing Your Life at Fifty-Plus

“I knew who I was during my career in this organization, but I have no idea of who I’m going to be when I leave here.”


“I’ve worked hard for the past 27 years doing the company’s work, and

now I am desperate to discover what I really want to do in the next chapter of my life.”


“Retirement for me has been the gateway to freedom.”



If you’re in the fifty-plus years, retirement no doubt has been on your mind, unless you’ve already made the transition to life beyond full-time employment. As I write this, I am 70 years old—chronologically, that is. I’d put my functional age at fifty-something, and I dislike the word retirement.

Have you ever checked out the definition of retirement? My dictionary defines it as “to withdraw oneself from business, active service or public life; to disappear, to take out of circulation; withdrawn or secluded; difficult to be seen, known, or discovered.” With that definition, why would anyone ever want to be retired?

I don’t want or intend to work full-time for any one organization ever again. But I do want more balance and diversity in my life than was possible when I was fully employed. That sentiment is one I often hear echoed from the hundreds of retirement-bound clients I have worked with over the years. How about you? Where do you stand on the question of how you want to be spending your time in the next chapter of your life?

As a freelance professional counselor and career management coach, I work with individuals transitioning to pension-supported lifestyles. The great majority of these folks are far more interested in life and work change than traditional retirement. My clients seldom mention the topic of retirement. Instead, they think about how to rejuvenate their lives by recreating, reinventing or redesigning the way they live. Retirement has a passive connotation. It sounds like something that happens to you because you have gotten old—through no particular fault of your own. Life recreation, by contrast, suggests a self-initiated action—one that originates from free will and intentionality rather than from an imposed condition. Maybe it’s time to retire the word retirement in favor of a more positive term. I invite you to coin a new term for your exciting new chapter in life!

Exciting? Yes! But not without some work. The big challenge facing most of us in our fifty-plus years is how to recreate a fulfilling and meaningful life appropriate to who we are now, taking advantage of the life, work, and learning possibilities now available. There are at least three compelling reasons to pay attention to your new challenge:

1. At this life juncture, you may now have the opportunity for greater freedom by way of a pension-supported lifestyle.

2. Never before have you been this old, which also means you have less time remaining in this earthbound experience. This sobering reality makes the time we do have a valuable commodity, a potentially rich but limited resource.

3. At this point in our lives, we have more life-enriched experience, along with deeper self-knowledge from which to make more fulfilling life choices than we did in our younger years. This hard-won wisdom provides a reference from which to discern what is going to make us richer or poorer in body, mind, and spirit.

The process of life reinventing often begins around fifty-plus, when we find ourselves mulling over questions about life meaning, personal identity, and our core values. Here are some of the kinds of questions that typically arise in this self-questioning process (check any of these that resonate with you):

* What will I do when I am no longer committed to the structure of full-time work?

* Who am I now, and who am I becoming?

* What is it time to leave behind?

* What do I call myself when I no longer have a job title or organizational affiliation?

* What do I care deeply about?

* Where would I/we want to live if I/we could live anywhere?

* How much time do I have remaining in this lifetime?

* Why am I here?

* Will I become an old couch potato when I don’t have to go to work?

* How will I know if I’m being successful when I am no longer being evaluated by my performance at work?

* Are my best days behind me?

* So, what’s next?

We shall address these issues in depth in later chapters. For now, let’s just acknowledge the reality of our aging selves. At fifty-plus, we have entered the ranks of what traditionally has been thought of as elderhood or seniordom. As we enter a new life era, it’s time to let go of that which no longer serves us well or that which we can no longer sustain for some reason. This includes youthful vigor, self-esteem based on career success, or beauty based on unlined faces. At fifty-plus, it’s time to fit into the skin of fully matured adulthood and create new reasons for being and thinking about ourselves. It also may be time to develop underutilized talents and interests, and possibly even engage in some new kinds of work, paid or unpaid.

Change, Rejuvenate, or Hang On

Are you in a quandary of whether the time has come for a change in life, a change in yourself, or an unchanging hold on what you have? You may not want to jump prematurely into an uncertain path, but you also may not want to stay stuck in a current rut simply because you fear change. If you have reached a plateau in your current situation and are running on the low side of motivation, you are probably facing the choice of whether to get rejuvenated through a big life-changing leap or to undertake a few small adjustments here and there. Big life leaps might include choices such as retiring from work, getting a divorce, taking on an entrepreneurial venture, moving to a totally new culture, or undertaking a major career shift. Smaller, life-rejuvenating adjustments might include engaging in some new interests like joining a meditation group, volunteering as a Big Brother or Sister, leading a Boy or Girl Scout troop, joining a church choir, initiating a new project at work, starting a new assignment within your organization, or enrolling in courses of personal interest at the local community college.

Of course, no one ever knows for sure what outcome will result from a decision to go forward with a major life change, and only you can determine whether you are prepared to take that leap. The following Life Vitality Assessment can help you determine whether the time has come to undertake a major transition, to make some small alterations in your life, or to remain a while longer in your current situation.

Life Vitality Assessment

Use the following rating scale to assess your current attitude in response to each of the 20 statements below. Record the number that best describes your response to each statement in the left-hand spaces. When you have recorded your response to all 20 items, tally the sum of all responses in the box provided.

Your Describes me Occasionally I never feel

rating perfectly I feel this way this way

scores I_____I_____I_____I_____I_____I_____I_____I_____I_____I

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

1. I would be completely content if my life were to continue pretty much as is over the next 10 years or more.

2. I have a rewarding work life and enjoyable leisure activities.

3. I would continue with my work and life exactly as it is even if I suddenly came into great wealth.

4. I continue to have as much or more energy and enthusiasm for my work and/or life situation as I have always had.

5. I never experience boredom or self-doubts about what I’m doing in my daily activities.

6. I feel personally empowered and am a creative force in continuing to make my life and work rich and rewarding.

7. I seem to be running on a full tank of energy and vitality pretty much all the time.

8. I am definitely not ready for retirement because there is much I still want to do professionally.

9. My love life is at least as full, rich, and rewarding now and for the foreseeable future as it has ever been.

10. I have a clear sense of what my core values are and believe they are fully congruent with my current life situation.

11. If I lost my work situation tomorrow for any reason, I am confident I could move onto an excellent new situation in short order.

12. I feel great about who I am and am taking excellent care of myself physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually.

13. I find my current life situation highly challenging and feel good about what I’m learning and how I’m growing.

14. Those individuals who know me beyond casual acquaintance hold me in high esteem.

15. I am optimistic that I can continue on pretty much as I am now and for the foreseeable future.

16. I have a great family life and enjoy rich relationships with good friends and associates.

17. I am happy where I/we live and have hobbies and interests outside of work that enrich my life.

18. I am clear about my criteria for personal success and am on the right track with my life and work.

19. I believe that my current life and/or work situation enables me to contribute and develop my full potential.

20. My current life and work situation fully uses my best talents and top interests.

Record your total score from all 20 responses: ______

Interpreting Your Assessment Results

If your score falls

within this range: It suggests that:

175 or above Your high score suggests you are comfortable with who

Fully Vitalized you are and energized by the life you are currently living.

Whatever you are doing seems to be working well for

you, so keep it up. If you need to make some changes

for any reason, do so carefully. You will either want to

make small adjustments or recreate a similar type

of situation.

150–175 You seem to be sustaining a fairly positive attitude and

Sustained Energy energy level in the quality and meaning of your work and

life. A question to consider is whether your energy level

is generally on an upswing, a downswing, or at a fairly

even keel. You will probably want to sustain most of the

activities and associations that bring out your best. It may

be time, however, for some new dimension in your life,

work, learning, or leisure that could boost your energy

score above the 175 mark.

100–150 Your score suggests that you have just enough vitality to

Half Empty see you through the week—but very little in reserve.

Your life and work are lacking full-bodied vitality. It may

be important to make changes in some aspect of your

life, such as your work, physical condition, mindset,

hobby, or relationships. Make an investment of some

time and effort to refill your life-vitality tank.

Less than 100 Your score suggests the need for change. The closer

Taking Stock your score comes to the zero mark, the more urgent

the need. Find ways to get your battery recharged.

Determine what you need to do, what you want to

change, what you need to let go of, and what you need

to bring forth or revisit to get revitalized. This book

should be a valuable resource in helping to determine

your real potential, reenergize your outlook and refill

your life-energy tank.

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