Last year, I wrote three articles for Sixty and Me about living a happy retired life, including how retirement takes a lot of us by surprise.

After traveling a couple of years down the path of my own retirement – and having many conversations with other women – I’m more convinced than ever that retirement holds a lot of unknowns.

There’s no formula for a perfect retirement either.

However, there are some general tendencies that most of us lean into as we navigate life after our careers. These don’t come with tidy parameters and can blend together and overlap – but they’re easy to identify.

And since ‘retirement’ is not my favorite R-word to use for this life transition, I came up with four other Rs that describe how we embrace this time of life.

Most of Us Want to Relax

Everyone, who exits the life of demanding full-time work, dives into this R, Relaxing. Some of us do it with gusto, others with exhaustion.

We may stay in that relaxed mode for a month – or years. It’s been called the honeymoon phase of retirement.

Like all honeymoons, most of us want to maintain this blissful state forever. With fewer time constraints, we devote ourselves to travel, hobbies, friends and family. We excitedly check off the boxes of the things we’ve always wanted to do, the things we love to do and the people we love doing them with.

The upside of this R is that, if we can identify at least some of the things that make our life easier, Relaxing isn’t just about taking a break. We can learn to incorporate it into our retired lives on an ongoing basis.

Some of Us Choose to Retool

Retirement gurus are in a never-ending search for new ways to discuss this R, Retooling. It’s been called reinvention, redefining or re-emerging.

Whatever term we use, Retooling implies that we’re starting anew. We don’t want to quit working entirely – or we can’t afford to do so. We have gifts and talents still to share with the world. We just want to do that in new ways. There’s a greater purpose pulling at us, urging us to somehow give back.

When we Retool, we start fresh. We shape our lives differently, without the constraints of our former jobs. We give ourselves permission to think outside the box.

It Might Feel Right to Re-Engage

Some of us retire from a career only to discover that was a mistake. So, with this R we Re-engage in our former job.

We do this for various reasons. Our circumstances may have changed. We might miss the income we had or the camaraderie of our associates.

We may feel at loose ends and long for the structure our work life brought us.

Re-engaging after we retire doesn’t mean we’re regressing or that we’ve given up on having a happy retired life. It may just mean that our timing was wrong or that we miscalculated the benefits of leaving our careers behind.

We Feel the Pull to Reconnect

This R, Reconnecting, is one that we experience at many levels in retirement. It implies connecting more deeply with the important people in our lives, immersing ourselves in the activities that give our lives joy and meaning and developing into the person we’re becoming in this season of life.

With the demands of our work and a young family life behind us, we can delight in Me-Time without feeling like we’re borrowing it from somewhere (or someone) else.

We can awaken our creative selves and remember what makes us lose track of time.

We can devote our energy to the people we love most or to our community at large. We can forge new friendships.

Reconnecting with others wards off isolation. Reconnecting with those lost parts of ourselves – or discovering them for the first time – is life affirming.

Wherever we are with the concepts of Relaxing, Retooling, Re-engaging and Reconnecting, the retirement stage of life holds a lot of promise.

It’s comforting to know there’s no wrong way to do it. And no formula we have to follow.

What does retirement mean to you? How has the concept of retirement changed your life? What do you think you gain or lose with retirement? Please share your thoughts in the comment box below.

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