Retirement is defined as the time when someone stops working. Of course, this seems to be a simple and obvious true statement but it oversimplifies a more complex situation.
When students end their studies and graduate from school, it’s called “commencement” an appropriate word, since there are so many choices, challenges and opportunities ahead.
When someone ceases to work it is called “retirement” but it is also a time of choices, challenges and opportunities for perhaps the next 30-50 years. It really is another “commencement”.
Your occupation is not who you are, it is what you have chosen to do to obtain the resources to lead the life you have chosen. So, your occupation does not define you.
When you cease working, the “rules of the road” are cast aside and you have an opportunity to discover your true self and passion. A helpful article presents three questions for retirees.
- What have I done that didn’t seem like work?
- What have I done that I’ve never grown tired of doing?
- What have I done that energized me, either intellectually or emotionally?
The answer to these three questions can help lead you to your passion and a choice of new direction.
Anticipating retirement or having retired, you also have time to slowly tap into your heart, through meditation, quiet contemplation or spending time in nature. This time can provide the chance to discover or confirm your authentic self and make choices. Taking time to do this can be rewarding.
In existentialism, authenticity is the degree to which one is true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character, despite external pressures.
Searching for your passion is a way to embrace your authenticity, something often put aside because of the external pressures of obligations and responsibilities related to work and family.
I found an interesting short paper on authenticity that includes a summary of the thoughts of Abraham Maslow American psychologist, best known for his concept of “self-actualization
“Instead of spending our lives trying to satisfy our deficiency needs, we can become more self-actualizing by creating and pursuing meaningful life-purposes. We become self-actualizing if we pursue meanings and values beyond ourselves and our families. We transcend our earlier concern for what other people think and focus instead on being the persons we choose to be. We grow away from conformity toward autonomy.”
You might choose to continue to focus on the habits, rules and constraints present during your working years and continue to pursue the approved ways of being. This can seem friendly and familiar and perhaps comfortable.
Alternatively, you might choose to re-create yourself by answering Maslow’s challenge:
Are you making the safe choices or the growth choices?
Retirement is indeed a time of opportunity and choices. Choose well and enjoy.