Don't Retire, Reinvent!

As recently as a generation ago, the concept of retirement made sense. After working hard for 40 years or more, it only seemed right for seniors to spend their golden years relaxing and slowing down. Today, however, people live longer, have more energy and yearn to live fully well into their 80s, 90s and maybe beyond.

So rather than viewing the post-career years as retirement, baby boomers are starting to think in terms of reinventing themselves. They realize that thanks to longer life spans, retirement age may very well last more than 30 years. And instead of slowing down and taking it easy, boomers want to use this time to explore, experiment, learn, travel and contribute.

When most people stop working, they lose their daily trip to a place they feel connected to others - a place they belong. Now, they don't have a particular place to go to anymore - no more Monday morning meetings or afternoon chats at the water cooler. But work is really a habit, and while retirement may seem a long way off, start thinking now about how you will reinvent yourself and maintain that sense of purpose and belonging.


Reinvention is a process. Unfortunately, many people fall into what is most comfortable rather than expanding and finding what interests them. But if you think in terms of making this next part of your life a gift of time, you can uncover new endeavors that can make you happy.

Some possible ways you can reinvent yourself include: traveling, volunteering, being a social entrepreneur, focusing on art or writing, grandparenting, going back to school, moving to a new place, spending a year abroad, starting a new business, joining a community of people with shared interests, working part-time or on projects that interest you, becoming a consultant or mentor or teaching.


So why doesn't everyone naturally think of reinvention rather than retirement? Most people define themselves primarily with their jobs. The line between what you do and who you are becomes blurry or nonexistent. That's why some people will limit their choices and stay at their jobs well into their 60s and 70s. They have a hard time conceiving of themselves apart from their jobs. That's why in order to reinvent yourself you need to consider other avenues for meaning and purpose. Most people are so busy working that they don't take time to think of other options for themselves. If that sounds like you, then you might experiment with new challenges outside of work and explore finding joy in quieter activities. In other words, reinvent the balance between being and doing in order to feel good about your meaning and purpose in life.

Finally, reinvention requires time for adjustment. At the beginning, you might have a lot of discomfort. That's OK and normal. All beginners feel awkward initially. When you give yourself time to adjust to this new way of living, you'll have a much better chance of seeing it through and enjoying the process.

The Keys to Reinvention

In order to make your reinvention successful and stress-free, consider the following guidelines:

BE OK WITH CHANGE. When you like what you're doing, you feel good about yourself. Likewise, when you don't like what you're doing, you tend to be hard on yourself. Therefore, you need to realize that this is new, so you'll be uncomfortable at first. Leave room to tolerate the discomfort.

TAKE TIME TO RESEARCH. Start with small steps. Do some research into your new endeavor whether it's simply talking to people or sampling a new activity. For example, if you want to pursue some artistic goals, you can start by reading art magazines. Once you're comfortable with that, go to art stores or art galleries. You don't have to buy or do anything at this point; you're just looking and researching. Then maybe you can take a class that meets for a short amount of time, or you can just get some brushes and paper and start doodling. The research phase is what gets people over that initial hump of thinking too black and white; of thinking that they're either artists or they're not.

MAKE REINVENTION A GAME. Think of reinventing yourself like being a kid again. Children grab onto whatever makes them happy, and they pursue it with gusto. They get the erector set and they start building things, knocking them down and then building again. They don't think they're being architects, they think they are having fun. Tap into the playful part of you - this is a time to try new things and explore.

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT. In order to erase any fears you have about your new undertaking, do some practice runs. For example, if you think that you want to travel the globe, don't start with an extravagant around-theworld trip, start with a short trip. If traveling still seems like the thing you want to do, then take a longer trip. Gradually increase your trip duration until it feels like second nature to you. Or, if you think you want to open a bed and breakfast, start by volunteering at a local B&B to get a feel for the work and the environment. By starting with practice runs, you can be sure you're making the right choice - one that makes you happy.

SEPARATE DREAMS FROM FEARS. Your dreams are what can keep you going. Don't confuse feelings of fear with the excitement of a dream. Whenever we take on something new, feelings of fear are normal. The key is to overcome those feelings. That's why you need to have a way to keep yourself going when you feel afraid or encounter challenges. Some people journal every day, while others prefer using visualization. Do whatever works for you. And remember that everyone gets afraid and feels uncomfortable from time to time. Let your dreams guide you during those moments.

MAKE LISTS. If you're unsure exactly what you want to do next, make a few top 10 lists to spur your thinking. These lists might include the top 10:

  • things I want to do
  • trips I want to make
  • ways I can contribute to healing others or the planet
  • ways I stop myself
  • things I can enjoy without spending money
  • ways I can make more money
  • ways I can spend less money
  • things I have done in the past that have made me happy
  • people I admire
  • ideas for new businesses, projects, activities
  • ways I can talk to myself that are encouraging, or
  • people who could or who do love and support me.
Examine your answers to find themes or common threads. That's when you'll uncover areas for experimentation and further research.

START TODAY. According to recently released research from the AARP, a majority of the 76 million baby boomers either can't or don't want to retire. People want to be involved in life, no matter their age. And that's exactly what reinvention provides. So wherever you are today or whatever you're doing in life, begin thinking now about your reinvention. Consider how you'll use your years of experience and well-earned wisdom to create a new and joyful life for yourself - one filled with limitless opportunities and creative outlets for change.

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