Retirement and Retireness
It seems, when we talk about retirement, the word implies two aspects – engaging with the fact that we are no longer working, and then, what we will do with the time retirement has created in our lives.
Most of our focus is on the latter, how we will fill that abundant amount of time we have now freed up since our days are no longer filled with job, career, work, profession, etc. And, that’s appropriate. All of a sudden, we encounter change in our schedules, social networks, sources of accomplishment, and how we relate and interact with our families. These changes touch our core – our definition of self.
A lot of change, a lot of gaps to fill, replace, create and define. We address the change – this transition - by looking for stuff to do.
The thing is, though, something else plays into this transition. We once again get to choose how we want to be, along with “the what” we want to do. For me, that “being” part, falls into a bucket called “Retireness”. Retireness is our essence of being in post-retirement. It is how we want ourselves to be defined.
As I prepared for the retirement I wanted, I went through a very helpful exercise, and I want to share it with you. The point of the exercise is to help define, in a personal way, what I have called Retireness. This is done in part to identify, in more meaningful and clearer ways, the activities that will fill the time retirement creates in life. Here’s how the exercise goes:
Draw a large circle on a sheet of paper, and label it – Current: My Job and Life. Then, take a moment to create a list of things that define you. These should be broad character traits, or roles within your life that provide meaning. Some examples from my work included: Achiever/Driver, Fun Loving, Friend, Worrier, Task Master, Enjoyer, Adventurer, Father, Husband, etc.
Now enter the items from your list into the circle. Use font or writing size of the word to differentiate these words in terms of how much attention, or “oxygen”, they get from you regularly; the larger they are written, the more attention they are getting from you. And center the items within the circle to determine how important they are to you in your pre-retirement life. In doing this, you might discover that those roles or parts of you that are important, aren’t getting the attention to bring that importance to proper portion. For example, I placed Achiever/Driver toward the center and printed largely. (In my management role, I needed to achieve results – that was important to me and I was always aware of it, reminded by on-going performance metrics.) I placed Fun Lover toward the center because it was something that was important and I wanted for myself, but it was printed small because I didn’t pay as much attention to it or give it the oxygen that I wanted.
Once you have completed the first circle, grab a new sheet of paper, and draw another circle. This sheet will be labeled – New: My Retired Life. This is where you get to make some important choices. From your list of descriptive words, place them again into the circle; except this time, size and center the words based on how you want to be in retirement – this is your Retireness.
Like me, you might find things like “Worrier” and “Driver”, while serving you well in your pre-retirement life, might not hold the same place in your vision for yourself in retirement. (For me, Achiever stayed large toward the center of the circle, and Driver went very small to the very outside edge of the circle.) The items from your list will complete - and maybe compete - in different ways. While considering your second circle, you might also find that there are new words that you want to bring into the fold. New ways to define yourself.
When I completed my work on this exercise, as you can imagine, that second circle looked a lot different. It was like a different constellation in the night sky than the first circle.
For me, that second circle has become my ongoing roadmap for how I want to be, and leading into what I want to do, during my retired life. Some weeks, I tweak it because I might want to give a little more oxygen and attention to different parts of myself. And that works just fine.
Just like the constellations that guided sailors throughout history, this exercise serves the same purpose for helping guide our retired lifestyle. Just like any navigation or guidance system, it’s about creating awareness and offering choice. As we set the table for what we want for our retired life, it’s an opportunity to unbraid the being from the doing. It will create a much richer, more robust retired experience. Give it a try.
- Jerry Brimeyer 9/12/2016