Never Retire. Reinvent.
I have worked with people optimizing their lives for the last 28 years. One of the lessons I have learned is that many people who plan to retire and relax and luxuriate in having nothing much on their schedules instead find themselves anxious and at loose ends. Some experience depressed mood and low energy and lack of concentration. Why? Because human beings are creatures of purpose. We do best when we have a meaningful plan to continue developing personally or contributing to others or both.
The pain that can befall those who retire needs to be flipped into power. That entails reinventing oneself and pursuing a path—perhaps an extension of one’s career or an entirely new journey—that holds the promise of enriching one’s life.
Reinventing oneself can include deepening one’s knowledge of a specific field—from literature to history to science to politics to economics. It can mean actually getting another degree. It can involve training in anything from painting to martial arts. It might involve consulting to others who can benefit from one’s experience during a successful career. Sitting on corporate boards or volunteering for non-profits sometimes offer a solution.
There may be a “best” solution. That is especially the case when someone shares with me a “dream deferred”—an abiding interest in something that he or she shelved because it seemed impractical. I worked with a CEO of a large manufacturing company who retired and ran into despondency, until we uncovered her early desire to breed dogs, all the way back as a kid. She decided to pursue it, in her late 60s. It became a source of tremendous gratification for her.
I have worked with other “retirees” who reinvented themselves by getting law degrees, by starting charities or foundations, by mentoring younger entrepreneurs or by writing novels or works of non-fiction. The list goes on and on.
Reinvent, don’t retire. Retiring is a risk factor for physical and psychological trouble. Ideally, follow the divining rod of your dreams back to a dream deferred, reawaken it and begin your next adventure.
Dr. Keith Ablow