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Is Retirement All About Reinvention?

By Marcia Smalley February 18, 2017 Lifestyle

Our generation likes to turn things on their ears.

We’ve exerted a lot of energy reshaping the world. Women’s rights (hats off to Gloria Steinem), rock ‘n roll (thank you, Woodstock), technology (kudos to Steve Jobs) and politics (sorry).

So it’s no surprise that Baby Boomers are now rethinking The Golden Years.

Reinventing the Golden Years

Reinventing yourself is what it’s all about.

And that’s all a bit confusing.

Our culture says we’re old enough to stop working. There’s a wealth of information out there advising us how to spend our time when we do. Then some experts recommend that we keep working. We receive endless recommendations about how to ease into a second act. Or a third. An encore career. Or a passion project.

And I am completely on board with these last ideas.

There’s a lot of life still left to live at 60. My guess is we’re all hoping to live as purposefully and peacefully as possible. I’ve stocked my personal library with countless resources about how to do just that. My part-time job – while I still had my full-time job – was to research what I’d do with my life when, ultimately, I had no job.

I was reinventing. I was on a quest. And along this path of my life re-examined, something interesting happened.

I started to cringe at the word retire.

Whether through the power of suggestion or something bubbling in me at a cellular level, I’d literally shrink back when a well-meaning acquaintance asked how I was enjoying my retirement.

I’d think:

Huh? I’m not retired! I just don’t have that full-time job any more. I’m re-tooling! Re-evaluating! Re-applying what I’ve learned! Learning new ways to apply the prefix “re-“…

Questioning the Notion of Reinvention

Then I stumbled on a blog post by a fellow Boomer that rocked my world. She was questioning the whole notion of reinvention. It seems that’s her cringe-worthy word.

She explained in the post that she was going to un-invent instead of reinvent.

It sounded like she wants to fully immerse herself in the joy of whatever she’s choosing to do at any given time. Without an agenda or a mission to save the whales, the planet or last night’s leftovers. If any of those things happen, so much the better. But that’s not her intention.

My takeaway was that she wants to experiment and enjoy, then see what happens next. Decide at the time whether the spirit moves her to do more, create less or abandon an activity altogether.

I felt my shoulders relax as I read her words. I didn’t realize how much tension’s in reinvention.

Replacing Loaded Words with New Definitions

Passion. Purpose. Legacy.

These are some loaded words. Packed with a specific energy. Jammed with a sense of urgency.

I’ve used them. I’ve been trying to define them for myself. Buried inside those terms, and others like them, is a sort of mission statement – yet one more thing I need to accomplish. But life at 60 feels less urgent to me somehow, not more so. So I came up with my own term to describe this season of life.

De-tire-ment: to relax into; to welcome visitors like surprise, delight, amazement; to become better acquainted with curiosity; to rest in the comfort of now.

De-tire-ment: a gentler way of finding a path to giving back, both to myself and to others along the way.

A lighter way to live, with far less pressure and far more joy. I invite you to practice de-tiring as you’re reinventing yourself. See what you notice. My hunch is anyone can do this – at any age, in any life stage. I’d say the sooner, the better. And you certainly don’t have to wait until you (still cringing) retire.

How do you describe this season of your life? What terms are most comfortable for you? Which ones make you cringe? How would you embrace de-tiring? Please join the discussion!

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The Author

Marcia Smalley is a certified retirement coach and life coach, a writer and a teacher. She delights in helping mid-life women step confidently into their next act and design a joyous, expanded life. Marcia provides coaching support to women who are navigating retirement or other life transitions and writes a monthly e-newsletter to her entire online community. Please visit her website at

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