In Part 1: Retirement. What actually happens when we retire?, I contemplated the fact that so many people aren’t really prepared for retirement. I wrote about how many people do not plan the more fulfilling aspects of retirement such as where they will get their mental challenges and their social life, and commented that retirement is often a time to re-evaluate one’s identity and at times, our intimate relationships. In Part 2, I hope to point you toward some helpful avenues to finding what’s fulfilling to you.

For years, our work has provided us with a structure to our days, a community, and a source of challenge/meaning/purpose, even if that meaning is simply providing for ourselves and our families. Many of us have found an outlet for our creativity in our work, too, be it more conventional creation of something tangible, or problem solving creatively at any level of our employment. Others have made room for staying active, eating well and/or maintaining some kind of spiritual life, jamming them into the interstitial spaces between work, family and socialising. With the moment of retirement upon us, a world of time and choice opens… with little external motivation or pressure. Where do we start to create the next part of a thriving and full life? Something important to consider is that we do not have to view is solely as retiring from work. We can also withdraw to something, to a new place, a new part of our life.

If you could imagine the spokes of the wheel that are the fulfilling aspects of our lives, and thus, those of a fulfilling retirement, I imagine you could see similar categories to the ones I see: Physical Health, Mental Health, Family, Intimacy, Social Network, Creativity, Intellectual Challenge/Learning/Growth, Meaning/Purpose/Usefulness, Spiritual Life, Adventure/Novelty, Financial Stability. Imagine one spoke for each of these aspects and a scale from 1-10, with 1 on the inside near the “hub” (Fulfilling Retirement) and standing for not at all satisfied, and 10 being on the far end from the hub and meaning fully satisfied. For instance, if you are not in shape, you might score yourself a 5 on the Physical Health spoke. If you have no spiritual life but you’re perfectly happy with that, you might score a 10 on that spoke. The values are yours alone to determine – you are the sole judge. The ideal is to end up with the roundest wheel possible. The spokes that are short are your guides for where you might want to put your attention and action.

Try this exercise: Make a hub (Fulfilling Retirement) and extend a line for each aspect of retiring well. You can use the ones I named, above, or add/subtract some to make it your own. Score yourself on each aspect from 1 (not satisfied) to 10 (fully satisfied) and see what your wheel looks like.

Who are you now that you have left behind your job title? Are you an active member of a community (spiritual or otherwise)? Do you help others? Are you reinvesting in your family as a partner, brother/sister, parent/grandparent? Do you want to spend more time with your grandchildren, or would you prefer to set clear boundaries about how much time you’d like to be with them and in what context? Are you being more present with your friends, finding more time for spending time together that is not rushed, so you can reweave any gaps that have opened up in the fabric of your friendship over time?

Is your score on the Meaning spoke lower than you would like? Detaching satisfaction from monetary gain (if you can afford it) allows for a wider selection of possibilities. What would you enjoy doing that would be meaningful to you? Mentoring? Returning part-time to work in your field or in a different one? Volunteering in a domain or apprenticing in work that intrigues you might be interesting avenues to explore, while providing a boost on several of the aspect-spokes (Learning/Growth, Challenge, Social Network Building, Finding Meaning).

Need a wider social network? Think about taking courses where you’ll meet people with similar interests and learn new things, raising your score on several of the aspect-spokes with one activity (Growth/Learning, Social Network, Challenge)! Think about other places where you might meet people with similar interests, if that’s what’s lacking. Think about where your particular expertise or skill set could be useful; are you someone who might enjoy getting involved in a municipal committee or joining Engineers Without Borders?

How is your level of Intimacy? Is it time to reinvest in your primary relationship, change it or end it? Would you like to find a partner for this next part of your life? Is it time to consult a therapist, either to help repair your relationship or end it civilly?

Have you been taking good care of your body? Do you need to do more? It may be time to join a gym, find a hiking group, take up yoga, eat more vegetables (take a cooking or gardening course?).

Possibly most importantly, what if you consider a shift from Objectives (so popular in workplaces!) to Intentions. Objectives get completed and that may feel satisfying in the short term, but once completed, you may feel that you have no sense of direction for the next steps. Rather than thinking about home renovations (Objectives) for instance, what about giving yourself an Intention of creating and maintaining a comfortable living space in all the ways that that might be done – not simply redecorating or putting in a new sink – but thinking about making it more welcoming, and inviting your friends, if that is something you would enjoy, now that you have more time to devote to that kind of activity. The aspects that have been named are all basically infinite Intentions; they can always be enriched and grown.

The idea of retirement is, for me, going toward something. Something new, of my own design, that rounds out my wheel as much as possible, with ongoing maintenance to keep it in true so I can continue to roll through my life joyfully engaged! Where will your retirement wheel take you?

Categories: Blog, Self-reflection