Don’t Retire, Re-Invent!
By Karla Freeman
As recent as a generation ago, the
concept of “retirement” made sense. After working hard for 40+
years, it only seemed right for yesterday’s seniors to spend their
“golden years” relaxing and slowing down. Today, however, life is
different. People live longer, have more energy, and yearn to live
fully well into their 80s, 90s, and sometimes beyond.
So rather than view the post-career
years as retirement, a new trend is emerging. Baby Boomers are
starting to think in terms of reinventing themselves and living
several new life cycles. They realize that thanks to longer life
spans, “retirement-age” may very well last more than thirty years.
And instead of slowing down and taking it easy, Boomers want to use
this added time to explore, experiment, learn, travel, and in many
cases, contribute. In other words, it’s a time for them to re-invent
However, when most people stop working,
they lose their daily trip to a place they feel connected to
others—a place they “belong.” Now they don’t have a particular place
to go to anymore—no more Monday morning meetings or afternoon chats
at the water cooler. But work is really a habit. So as people near
retirement age, they need to consider the new trend of
Re-invention is a process. Unfortunately, many people fall into what
is most comfortable rather than expand and find what interests them.
But if you think in terms of making this second half of your life a
gift of time, then you can invent yourself as a more joyful person
and uncover new endeavors that can make you happy.
Some possible ways you can re-invent
Being a social entrepreneur
Focusing on art or writing
Going back to school
Moving to a new place
Spending a year abroad
Starting a business
Creating a community of people with shared interests
Working part-time or on projects
Becoming a consultant or mentor
Teaching what you love to do
Challenges with Re-Invention:
So why doesn’t everyone naturally think of re-invention rather than
retirement? Because change is like being a new person, and that’s
what re-invention is all about—changing what you do, changing your
routines, and sometimes even changing who you are. For most people,
their major identity is that of their job. That’s why some people
will limit their choices and stay at their job well into their 60s
and 70s. They think that’s all there is and don’t know what else to
Additionally, work is the main avenue
for meaning and purpose. That’s why in order to re-invent yourself
you need to consider other avenues for meaning and purpose. Could
grandparenting or traveling bring meaning and purpose to your life
in lieu of work? Most people are usually so busy working that they
don’t take time to think of other options for themselves. To them,
retirement seems boring or too slow, especially if they are used to
being where the action is. If that sounds like you, then you might
experiment with new challenges outside of work and explore finding
joy in quieter activities. In other words, re-invent balance between
being and doing in order to feel good with your new meaning and
purpose in life.
Finally, re-invention requires a time
of adjustment. At the beginning you might have a lot of discomfort
as you no longer go to work and instead try something new. That’s
okay and normal. All beginners feel awkward initially. When you
understand that you’ll have to give yourself time to adjust to this
new life cycle, you’ll have a much better chance of seeing it
through and even enjoying the process.
The Keys to Re-Invention:
In order to make your re-invention successful and stress-free,
consider the following guidelines:
Be okay with change: When you’re comfortable and like what
you’re doing, you feel good about yourself. Likewise, when you’re
uncomfortable and don’t like what you’re doing, you tend to be hard
on yourself. Therefore, you need to realize that this life cycle is
new, so yes, you’ll be uncomfortable at first. Be okay with that.
Leave room to tolerate the discomfort.
Take time to research: Rather than think in big steps, think
small. Start by doing some research into your new endeavor. This can
mean doing anything from talking to people to sampling something.
For example, if you want to pursue some artistic goals in your new
life cycle, you can start by reading art magazines. Once you’re
comfortable with that, go to art stores or art galleries. You don’t
have to buy or do anything at this point; you’re just looking and
researching. Then maybe you can take a class that meets for a short
amount of time, or you can just get some brushes and paper and start
doodling. The research phase is what gets people over that initial
hump of thinking too black and white—of thinking that they’re either
an artist or they’re not.
3. Make re-invention a game:
Think of re-inventing yourself like being a kid again. Children
grasp onto whatever makes them happy, and they pursue it with gusto.
They get the erector set and they start creating buildings, knocking
them down, and then building again. They don’t say that they’re
being architects and make everything seem serious and grim. When
you’re at the second half of life, it is like being a child again
because you have accomplished so many things and have achieved a
level of success. Now you can embark on the re-invention process,
which is about finding what gives you joy, meaning, and purpose.
This is the playful part of you—the time to try new things and
4. Practice makes perfect: In
order to erase any fears you have about your new undertaking, do
some practice runs. For example, if you’ve decided that you want to
spend the next life cycle traveling the globe, don’t start with an
“around the world” extravagant trip. Do a short day trip to start.
If traveling still seems like the thing you want to do, then plan a
weekend trip. Gradually increase your trip duration until it feels
like second nature to you. Or if you want to open a Bed and
Breakfast, start by volunteering at a local B&B to get a feel for
the work and the environment. By starting with practice runs, you
can be sure you’re making the right choice—one that makes you happy.
5. Separate your dreams from feeling of fear:
Your dreams are what can keep you
going. Don’t confuse your feelings of fear with the excitement of a
dream. Whenever we take on something new, feelings of fear are
normal. The key is to overcome those feelings. That’s why you need
to have a way to keep yourself going when you feel afraid or
encounter challenges. Some people opt to journal every day, while
others prefer doing visualization. Do whatever works for you. And
remember that everyone gets afraid and feels uncomfortable from time
to time. Let your dreams guide you during those moments.
6. Make your top 10 lists:
If you’re unsure exactly what you want to do during your next life
cycle, make a few Top 10 Lists to spur your thinking. These lists
10 things I want to do
10 trips I want to make
10 ways I can contribute to healing of others or the planet
10 ways I stop myself
10 things I can enjoy without spending money
10 ways I can make more money
10 ways I can spend less money
10 things I have done in the past that have made me happy
10 people I admire
10 ideas for new businesses, projects, activities
10 ways I can talk to myself that are encouraging
10 people who could or who do love and support me
Examine your answers for themes or
common threads. That’s when you’ll uncover areas for experimentation
and further research.
Start Re-Inventing Yourself Today:
In recently released research by AARP, of the 76 million Baby
Boomers, the majority either can’t or don’t want to retire. People
want to be involved in life, no matter what their age. And that’s
exactly what re-invention provides. So no matter where you are today
or what you’re doing in life, begin thinking about your next life
cycle. Consider how you’ll use your years of experience, well-earned
wisdom, and awareness of the value of patience to create a new and
joyful life for yourself—one filled with limitless opportunities and
creative outlets for change.
Read other articles and learn more
about Karla Freeman.
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