“Working” is a hard act to follow. But every day, more and more baby boomers are trying. Georgia Feiste has just tacked the challenge, along with her husband, and found some answers that might work for many of us when we ask, What Am I Going To Do With The Rest Of My Life?
My husband, Karl, retired from full-time work on September 14, 2011. Less than a week later, we headed off on a long dream vacation to Australia.
Now we’re back home, and spent the first few days sleeping off and on, unpacking, and putting the house back in order. But my sweet spouse has been very cranky and tense. Since there should be no stress in his life, I was puzzled. Finally, after about 8 hours of walking on egg shells I requested information – “What is bothering you, and how can I help?”
Having coached a few people as they readied for retirement, I should not have been surprised to hear him say, “What am I going to do for the rest of my life?” He was looking at the black hole of an additional 30 years, with no place he had to be, nothing he had to do, and for him, no sense of purpose. What surprised me was that while we had talked about this for almost a year, and he assured me he knew what he wanted, he had not really given it much thought.
This is a common occurrence for us baby boomers as we approach the age of retirement. We move into this major life transition much like we have moved through life – just “doing” without intentional and meaningful thought given to why or what it is that we are doing. We face the future with fear and worry, rather than purpose and passion.
Rather than let Karl stew in his own juices, I decided to help him out. After all, he is a perfect subject to coach – he is here 24/7 now, and we can talk, discuss, try different exercises, and see what really clicks. While I know it isn’t always wise to coach a family member, I know that I am very much a part of this equation, and we are entering this great adventure called RETIREMENT together. I have already made a transition on my own over the last three years. Now we get to move forward together and on our own.
Our first step: we sat down and did a mind-map of what he wanted his retirement to look like. We started with the words “Karl’s Retirement” in the center, and added bubbles all around it utilizing the basic life energies/wellness wheel concept: Health and Physical Well-Being; Career, Work, Volunteerism; Recreation, Leisure, Fun; Spiritual and Personal Development; Family and Friends; Money and Finances; Physical Environment; Spouse, Relationship/Significant Other. Around each of those bubbles, we added additional bubbles and even got more specific around those. We ended up with a significant picture of what he wanted out of his retirement.
Let me give you an example: under Recreation, Leisure and Fun, Karl wrote down golf, chess, bowling, movies, and travel. Under my recreation, leisure and fun category I wrote down golf, movies, sewing/knitting/crochet, reading, music, theater, and travel. So, it appears that we should pursue golf, movies, and travel together. We also allow for individual activities – for Karl that would be chess and bowling. I imagine I can twist his arm to join me at a play or two, or to go to a concert.
The easing of Karl’s anxiety was significant. What had been a black hole sucking him down into despair, frustration, and fear, was no longer visible. He could see definite options that were available to him, and choices he could make as he moved forward. Much of what he laid out will be accomplished on his own. I am blessed that he has included me in many activities, and left room for me to continue to grow on my own personal path. Now, we will begin answering questions around each of these areas to determine his priorities, how we prioritize them together, and how he will go about putting them in place.
This is not just my life, but my work, so I would love it if you would join us on our journey into this next phase of our lives. Walk with us, utilizing the exercises we embark on to help define both the short-term and long-term visions we have of the rest of our lives. Share your thoughts, your dreams, your successes, and yes, your fears and your worries. Let’s work through them together – collaborate on the solutions, and support each other as we determine our next right step.
Read more by Georgia Feiste at Collaborative Transitions.