Diane Ramsey’s two-part series titled “Reinventing yourself without losing your mind” was timely because many older workers are adventuring into uncharted territory. According to the Pew Research Center, every day for the next 19 years, about 10,000 baby boomers will turn 65. As these people exit the workplace and many feel a sense of emptiness, the question becomes “What’s next?” What will I do with my time, talents, and energy?
Diane described the journey she and her husband have encountered in navigating this territory and what she learned in the process. Her anecdotal stories and examples are helpful in stimulating thinking and providing ideas. Since this is an area of focus for my leadership practice, I want to ground Diane’s articles in research from the positive aging movement. As a certified Sage-ing Leader through Sage-ing International (www.Sage-ing.org), I have been immersed in learning how to become a Sage rather than age. In fact, I have a podcast series titled: “Becoming a Sage.” Since a Sage is a wise person who is still engaged and relevant in society, I interview monthly some of the top thought leaders in the field of positive aging. My passion is to make the rest of life –the best of life.
As Diane shared in her articles, it is important we devote time, thought, and effort into making this transition. It is possible we will live as many years after our main career as during it. Research indicates after people have the financial part of retirement figured out, it is everything else that preoccupies their thinking. This is preparation beyond the money. Some of the main themes I have learned are in the list below.
Plan for this transition. Start early enough. It takes about five years to “let go,” make some connections, do some exploring in order to make the leap. Speaking from experience, it took me five years to feel ready to move on from my tenured teaching position and endowed chair in leadership and character development.
Do not retire. I am out to retire the word “retirement.” We are not retiring, but moving on. The question becomes: Moving on to what? Where? We are going to be doing something.
Push back on society’s focus on anti-aging. Messages of anti-aging bombard us continually. Push back by embracing life experience. When we learn from life experience, transform the lessons into wisdom and pass it on.
Explore and discover. We don’t have to have all of the answers. Try some things out. Take a gap year and give yourself permission to pursue your bucket list. Work part-time. Volunteer. Start an encore career. That is what I am doing now. I can attest that the challenges and opportunities keep me growing, engaged, relevant, and alive.
Find meaning and purpose. Research is consistent in stressing that life is about meaning and purpose at any age. But this becomes more critical in the absence of a career.
Engage in legacy work. We all leave a legacy every day. But what is it? Are you living your life in ways you want to be remembered? The legacy you leave is the life you live.
Seek out role models. Who is living a life that looks attractive to you? How can you live such a life? I believe role models are essential at every age. Look for people who inspire you whether you know them or not.
NOTE: I would add this point to my article: If you are in a significant relationship, it is important for both people to have conversations around these issues. It is easier to grow apart if one person is sage-ing and the other person is aging.
As one of my role models likes to say: “What is going to get you up in the morning?” Thinking about that question is a start for what’s next for you.
What is next for you?
Who are your role models?
Who is living a life that looks attractive to you?
What is going to get you up in the morning?
The answers to these questions will likely change as you go through life. That is OK. Keep asking the questions and seeking the answers.