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by Dr. Dale V. Atkins, July 2014

Retirement is a time of change. With it comes new, unanticipated, and unexpected facets of life.

Our "normal" routine will now be replaced with a "new normal." An important question is, "Do WE define what that looks like or do OTHERS?"

It is all about change and each of us deals with change differently. Some of us embrace it. Others of us challenge it. And there are those of us who resist it.

When we anticipate our retirement, we sometimes overlook (and often this is the case for men) an important awareness that "hits" us when we retire. Some of us feel we have lost a main part of who we are (our sense of self, our identity, our platform) and along with that, our confidence. For many people they felt they "were" their work. Right or wrong, it game them a sense of purpose and meaning.

Successful retirement consists of those same two essential elements: We do better in retirement when we feel a sense of purpose and meaning.

Entering retirement can be a time of rich self-reflection and discovery. There are those who have waited a lifetime to develop a hobby, return to school, begin a new business, travel, write, paint, volunteer, tutor, learn a skill, engage philanthropically, become politically active, or something else. For each of us it is different, and we must begin where we are. We ask ourselves, "What am I meant to do NOW?"

Retirement can be about beginning a "next act." It can be exciting but it can also be devastating. Everyone needs the right support and tools to deal with retirement for oneself and with one's partner. During this time, we can be aware of how we want to engage with others; how we hope to be seen and heard. Some of us will mourn the life we retired from, and we are are not yet sure what the next phase of our life will be.

It is important to take the time we need. Perhaps we can begin an exercise regimen which will help us be healthy (release those endorphins), get up at the same time each day! Think about what we are good at, what we enjoy, the kinds of things we never did but thought about but couldn't because you were a single mom and a busy worker. We can take time to write how we are feeling and what we may wish to do and what we might like to accomplish in our lives over the next years. As we write, we do better when we silence our inner critic. We need to just write. Whatever appears on the list, sit with it for a while. Whatever we do can be based on OUR choices.

There is a lot to consider. Is our retirement with or without a partner? Are we passionate about or already engaged in something? Do we feel connected in some way that is meaningful? Is what we hope to do stimulating? Will it include friends or new colleagues of different ages? We need to ask ourselves what are our expectations of ourselves and others? What are the realities of our physical limitations, and what can we do about them? Do we need / want to move? And if so, near whom do we want to live? What would you like to do?

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