Accomplished professionals often struggle with adjusting to retirement because they find it hard to accept the thought of losing validation and the comfortable routines a successful job brings.
But it’s not their only concern.
I’ve noticed that people in established careers struggle with the following common roadblocks that need to be overcome to adjust to the new life faster and with better results:
1. Defining yourself by work.
Hiding behind our profession is easy, especially if it comes with prestige and social respect.
But becoming reliant on recognition is dangerous since it can be quickly lost if we get fired or fall sick.
And those events are not determined to happen, but our retirement is.
Therefore, the sooner we start noticing our value outside of work, the easier it’ll be on us in retirement.
It’s sad to observe that, after concentrating on their careers for decades, many of my clients find it tough to list anything positive about themselves that isn’t work-related. But they learn to appreciate themselves as humans, and you can also do that.
Otherwise, you may struggle not only with leaving the job but also with your relationships and mental health.
If, after long consideration, you still can’t find anything good about yourself, perhaps this moment of truth may help turn your life around. But more often than not, it signals depression, and I strongly encourage you to visit a doctor as it can save your life.
2. Fear of losing your identity.
Retiring doesn’t mean that your career never happened. Stepping down won’t delete your achievements, which can be enjoyed forever.
Better yet, you may find something new and exciting to do instead of thinking about past triumphs.
Noticing that you’re more than your work will make you less scared of becoming the “pensioner” stereotype.
It’s because it’ll guide you to many new ways to express your interests and personality.
3. Basing your value on external validation.
Fear of not being respected when we aren’t “the man” anymore is common.
It touches primarily those who were used to proving something to their loved ones, being praised only for educational or work-related achievements.
If it happened to you, realize that you no longer have to earn affection and recognition that way as a mature person.
There’s nothing to be proved anymore.
And it may turn out that, with time, you’ll stop carrying what they think and start enjoying the new-found freedom.
4. Surrounding yourself with work acquaintances only.
Having a career can leave us without an active social circle life or even a single friend, especially since bonding with individuals not interested in our passion may appear tricky.
Often, it happens because concentrating on work achievements makes us prone to judging others, and ourselves, solely by professional success.
It leads to being unintentionally blind to the beauty of life that lies in human kindness and the diversity of viewpoints and interests.
It also makes our lives more lonely than they need to be.
In that case, try looking for one intriguing characteristic of a person you’re having small talk with. It may surprise you that there’ll be quite a few people you’d like to get to know better.
5. Not allowing yourself to enjoy free time.
Used to a high-stress environment, we thrive on a challenge, and the fear of facing empty days frightens many of us.
Possibly, you’ve achieved more than your peers by following the “I’ll relax when the job is done” rule, but it won’t work anymore. There’ll be no work (unless you decide to work part-time, provide consulting services, write books, etc.) to hide behind, so there’ll be no escape from yourself.
It’s up to you to learn to enjoy your time and make peace with yourself.
If you put effort into it, you’ll work out routines that fit you in the new reality. You may even learn to appreciate it, realizing that you deserve to put your feet up without feeling guilty.
Of course, you may still fill your schedule with exciting activities, although I suggest doing it after you come to terms with your feelings about the change. Otherwise, it may unnecessarily prolong the heartache.
6. Being afraid to start anew because you genuinely appreciated your old life.
Transitions are complex, especially if we’ve spent most of our life in the office. It may feel unbearable to stay in the empty house alone or with a spouse who’s more of a stranger to us after years of growing apart.
So we try to escape it.
But rejecting it won’t allow you to prepare, and it’s the preparation that makes the change more manageable and successful.
The house can be made into a home, and estranged relatives potentially reunited.
The first step is to stop fighting reality.
7. Refusing to think about aging and health decline.
As we associate retiring with sickness and decline in every sphere of our lives, the fear of having all the time in the world to think about aging is one of the main reasons we try to do everything to continue working.
Thruth is that death is facing us all anyhow – retired or not.
We won’t cheat it, so retirement is not the problem. Denial is.
Getting old isn’t easy, but studies show that realizing our mortality may help us enjoy life more. Among others, it allows us to notice the value in simple things and look at life circumstances from another perspective.
It’s a valuable process, but if it makes you feel miserable or depressed, consider contacting a specialist.
Retired, you can still create a life you like. But it all starts with acceptance of the inevitable.
It won’t be smooth sailing, but it’s up to you to decide what you prefer to do with the next few decades of your life.