Retirement – The opportunity to reinvent yourself (unless you’re already perfect)

The period when you leave your full time job for some form of retirement is a time of major change. Think about it for a minute – You’ve been going to work every week day for 40 or more years and now, all of a sudden, you’re not doing it any more.
Some people adapt easily, others struggle and many go back to work within the first year of their “retirement”. A lot depends on whether you’re retiring when you want to and how much retirement planning you have done. We offer a range of 5 books which makes this planning process a lot easier.
While the major changes retirement brings can be a challenge, they can also offer great opportunities. One of these is the chance to reinvent yourself.
For many of us, our identity is bound up in our job – the title on our business card, the character traits that helped in our career, the size of the salary we earned, the decision making power we had. Most people don’t realise how much their identity is defined by their job until they leave work. When that happens we may find that being a workaholic, or being a regarded as an aggressive competitor or a demanding perfectionist may not be the character traits that will help make new friends in this next stage of our lives.
Retirement gives us the opportunity to redefine our identity and to make some changes that can make us a happier and better person to be around. It’s not too late to become “the person you could have been”. Our true identity is more about qualities like – honesty, compassion, empathy, creativity, love, humour, spontaneity rather than the job based characteristics that we thought was us.
If we accept the fact that we’re not perfect, now’s the ideal time to make some improvements. If you think there’s not much room for improvement, ask your partner if he or she could make some suggestions.
Another major benefit that life after work offers us is the opportunity to consider how to bring more lasting happiness into our lives. For the last 40 – 50 years, we’ve been told by our materialistic society that we’ll be happy if we acquire a wide range of things like a big house, expensive car, attractive partner, well-paying job, fashion clothing etc. The list is endless.
It’s true that all these things will make us happy – but only for a relatively short time before you get used to them and start looking for something “new”. There’s a lot of truth in the old cliché “Money can’t buy happiness”. The reality is that all of these things that are supposed to make us happy are external and can never give us long term happiness. They are also generally difficult to control and often expensive.
Lasting happiness can only come from within us. It’s based on our attitude, how we view the world around us and how we respond to the people and events that we come in contact with. The good news is that we have some control over how we respond to people and events. Why? Because we have some control over our minds. Once we understand that simple fact, long term happiness is a skill that can be learned. Like most skills, it requires practice and commitment. There’s not enough space available in this article to go into details, but a good starting point is a chapter on finding happiness written by Prof. Tim Sharp in our book titled “ A holistic guide to a happy retirement”. You can buy it from this website.
I should add that the above comments apply to people living in first world economies and who are not struggling below the poverty line. For many people in poverty, having enough money to afford the necessities of life has a great deal to do with finding happiness.

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