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Thinking About Retirement? Here’s How to Find Your Own North Star and Get More from Life

By Paula Usrey March 04, 2018 Lifestyle

Last year, I met with two of my retired friends for a Saturday afternoon glass of wine. Both had retired within the previous two years.

As I was anticipating retirement at the end of 2018, I was eager to glean some advice from these women. Not surprisingly, each talked about how they’d carefully planned what they wanted their lives to ‘look like’ after retirement.

Confessions of Personal Struggles After Retirement

One of my friends, Karen, had always wanted time to be an active volunteer in her community. Shortly after retirement, she started volunteering once a week and pursued other interests such as dusting off her violin after over 40 years of only wishing she had time to enjoy it.

My other dinner companion, Kathy, shared that she was swimming every day at the YMCA and had developed a part-time business.

Then Karen shared something that I hadn’t expected. She confessed to being lonelier than she had anticipated and was also feeling unsettled. Kathy listened, had another glass of Pinot Noir, and then told us that she wasn’t sure who she was anymore.

She had discovered that being in business meant doing a lot more networking and sales work than she had ever anticipated. These activities, she confessed, just weren’t that comfortable for her.

Transition Experiences Are Similar yet Different

I’ve read several books and articles over the last couple of years about transitions and retirement. As a result, I recognized that Karen’s loneliness and Kathy’s sense of lost identity were common experiences after retiring from long-term careers.

Many of us associate our identities with our titles or positions, and we develop relationships with those whom we spend most of our time interacting.

At first, I assumed what Karen and Kathy were experiencing was common for almost all individuals after retirement. Then I thought about a few other retiree friends who were unwavering in their post-career enthusiasm.

Even though most of us go through definite stages during life transitions, I wondered why some were more comfortable with this process than others. Could temperament be a factor in retirement transition experiences?

Introvert-Leaning Women Without Limits in Ret

Karen and Kathy are both self-professed introverts. They can be outgoing, but both need solitude to recharge.

I do understand this need because I am also an introvert. Although I teach public speaking and other communication courses, I try to take time during the day to be by myself long enough to feel refreshed. Even a five-minute walk by myself can pick me up again.

Last year, Douglas Winslow Cooper wrote a blog article for Sixty and Me about ways introverts can thrive in an extrovert-dominated world.

He suggested that introverts can push themselves to be more outgoing and can recognize their strengths such as listening and empathizing with others. I think both of these points are important.

Being True to Ourselves in Retirement

For those of us who’ve leaned toward introversion in the workplace, we’ve had ‘built-in’ opportunities to connect with other people and develop more meaningful relationships. We may think that these meaningful workplace relationships will last after we retire, but often that is not the case.

Like my friend Karen, I know that having meaningful connections with others after I retire will be important to me. I also know this means I’ll need to push myself to be a bit more outgoing.

I’ve started thinking about ways I could intentionally develop new relationships such as joining a writers’ group or getting involved in The League of Women Voters.

Finding Your Own North Star

Martha Beck, life coach and author of Finding Your Own North Star and Claiming the Life You Were Meant to Live suggests it’s important to know our ‘essential’ or true selves if we want to live our best lives. To me, this includes recognizing my natural temperament and associated strengths.

Like my friend Kathy, I also plan to operate a small business. Because I now recognize it would be exhausting to constantly be promoting my business at networking events (yuck) and cold-calling on customers (double-yuck), I will be developing a web-based business.

Yes, I intend to collaborate with others and facilitate workshops, but these will be thoughtfully planned activities. I believe my best hand is to play to my strengths.

Some retirement literature suggests that planning for the end of work should start at least two years before that last day in the office. When planning, I believe it is essential to be open and honest with ourselves. We can only be selves when we are true to ourselves.

What are your thoughts on temperament playing a role in how we plan for retirement? Has it been a factor in your own retirement planning and /or retirement experiences? As I’m retiring at the end of this calendar year, I would value your insights and experiences. Thank you in advance for sharing!

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The Author

In 2004, after becoming a grandmother, Paula Usrey started an encore career as an associate professor of communication. She is also a speaker and workshop facilitator. Her topics include communication and personal life planning. In July 2017, she gave her first TEDx Talk: Your Best Life at Any Age. Please visit her website here

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