What Am I Going To Do With The Rest Of My Life?

“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?

Georgia Feiste

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.

Georgia and Karl having a ball.

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.

6 Comments

  1. I have been writing about retirement for several years now. I have been retired for 15 years. I loved the strategy you used here. My husband, like yours, is a very visual thinker. Thank you for sharing your expertise. I will link to this and your other website. You might check out Satisfying Retirement. Bob Lowery wrote about the adjustment phase of retirement today. (http://satisfyingretirement.blogspot.com/2011/10/marriage-after-retirement-what-are-odds.html)

    b

    Retirement Grief: http://www.retireinstyleblog.com/2010/01/senior-independent-living7-stages-of.html

  2. Here’s an alternative view: Seeing as how 60 is supposedly the new 40 (truly, 60 to us is like 40 or 50 was to our parents & grandparents) … ALL boomers should work until age 70+. What else are ya gonna do for the next 30+ yrs?

    With 2 kids left to raise, retirement is not even on my radar screen. I figure I have at least 15 to 20 more years of productively working ahead of me. In fact, I do not believe I’ve even reached the peak of my career yet … I get better at my profession each year & my business just keeps growing every year. I absolutely cannot imagine retirement at age 60.

  3. Hi Georgia, LOVE this question and your strategic solution! I can’t agree with you more, and wish others would only wait 8 hours instead of weeks or months before addressing the “white elephant” in the room.

    Your words “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.” can relate to SO many people right now {a certain movement?}

    This “no place to be + nothing to do + no sense of purpose” is an equation for unhappiness..for the person suffering and for all those in their path. How do I as a “NON-baby boomer” know this? Because it used to be me, until I,too, discovered the equation to happiness – passion + purpose. EVERYONE has a place and is born with a unique gift, they just need to take personal responsibility and look inside themselves to find it :)
    Keep up the good work, and thank you for your unique wisdom.
    Power up! Kathy, The Branding Lady

    http://www.examiner.com/startup-business-in-phoenix/new-entrepreneurial-role-filled-by-baby-boomers-and-those-still-looking-for-work

  4. My husband is going to retire in about a year and for a couple of years now, we’ve been discussing what retirement will look like. Your idea of sitting down and listing what you’d like in retirement is a great solution!

    My husband’s idea of retirement is to be able to “do whatever I want, whenever I want to” but frankly, that idea doesn’t appeal to me in the least if I’m going to be involved. I’m not fond of the idea of jumping up and taking off in the RV on the spur of the moment.

    I love being a freelance writer so I will continue to do that as long as it appeals to me and we have decided to get involved in some non-profit work, such as Habitat for Humanity but it’s going to be a real adjustment with my husband at loose ends while I’m trying to maintain my old schedule.

  5. Such good advice. It truly is key to “plan” for retirement. Health, funds, dreams, hobbies are all part of the plan and it’s certainly much easier to achieve and successful retirement if all of those things are in order to the best of ones ability and that both parts of the couple communicate effectively in terms of what each wants to do.  It’s also important to engage family and friends and ensure that one has hobbies and passions.  It’s not necessary that you both share all of the same ideas and dreams but it sure is a blessing if you do.  Plan ahead.  Oh, and I really don’t like the word “retirement” as I plan to be more active than ever, if I have anything to say about it.

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