Your life after retirement can become stressful and psychologically paralyzing, and according to researchers on aging it’s becoming prevalent throughout the retiree population regardless of age.
Deciding what to do from day-to-day can be overwhelming for many retirees coming from decades of fast paced careers. Nearly every retiree is asked early on, “What do you plan to do with the rest of your life?” A few believe they have the answer, but many become silent after giving the question some serious thought.
One particularly effective way for handling this often unseen dilemma is taking the approach that retirement is, in effect, a new career. However, there’s one notable difference, you can enjoy it without agonizing over the daily thinking and planning part of it. You’ve arrived; you’re in it, so try a relatively new strategy called planned happenstance. This assumes, of course, that you took appropriate steps, financial and otherwise, allowing you to reach this pinnacle in life. The strategy is simply a matter of taking small initiatives that may or may not lead to further interests, insights and opportunities in that particular endeavor, and then paying attention to where you’re headed in the pursuit of them. This approach offers time to think and plan, but not to the point of creating anxiety and eventual procrastination; you’re merely experimenting while having fun at your own pace.
Your exploration may involve activities such as exploring a variety of fitness options, becoming a volunteer, tutoring or mentoring in an area of expertise or joining a new club to learn about something entirely new and unrelated to your former career. The more options you try the more you’re likely to learn about what may hold your interest. And the best part of all, you can opt out at of any of them at any time without guilt or pressure; you decide because you’re in control.
Another form of connecting during retirement is meeting and talking with people who are typically not in your routine circle of friends or associates. At first glance this notion may sound counter intuitive since friends and acquaintances are an excellent resource of information and insight. Nevertheless, they can unintentionally limit your perspective and scope of options. If these folks happen to be avid hikers, for example, the people around them are probably involved in comparable activities and share similar mindsets on what’s fun and what’s not. Initiate some social interaction on your own for a while and evaluate how it goes with the new faces and places you discover. Sometimes a change of perspective is only possible through contact with those who have it. You’re not likely to learn much that’s new from those you know too well and hang out with routinely.
Pay attention to activities and forget about the snob appeal of the venture. Getting involved in something after retirement because it’s the “in” thing to do is foolish, eventually frustrating, and will ultimately be terminated. You’ll gain only two things; wasted time and being stuck in an activity without a comfortable exit strategy.
Finally, be aware that you’re becoming overly involved in one activity and avoiding test driving other alternatives. This can be the direct path to rapid burnout. The urge to proclaim a single retirement goal can create tunnel vision and prevent you from viewing and testing alternatives that may be of interest to you. Focus on the activities and conditions you’re looking for rather than attempting to settle in on a specific activity or group as you only source of daily pleasure.
Keep in mind that thinking and planning after retirement have their place in the progression, but guard against becoming entangled in them. You don’t need to over think and definitively plan every step before taking it. Have fun brainstorming ideas while relaxing alone and with others. In doing so you’ll create a new career called retirement. The best part of this adventure is that you have the luxury of not having to know exactly where you’re going before you get there. Enjoy the journey, and don’t be in a particular rush, there’s a lot to see and experience along the way.