Planning for Fulfillment After 60

Anticipating Fulfillment After 60 - Analyzing What Attracts Us

awesome at any age emotional intelligence - self actualization joy and the power of awe Feb 24, 2023

Throughout our working lives, we have received those subtle and not-so-subtle messages through advertising and media about what our lives could, should, or will look like after the age of 60. Ageism and the double-whammy of gender and ageism draws a murky picture with many cliches perpetuated by stereotypes.

  • At best, we imagine ourselves free to do whatever we want when we want
    • "Freedom 55" continues to promise financial freedom ahead of our peers and colleagues
    • While financial institutions have toned down advertising that depicts life on the beach, a yacht, or cruise ship, their methods of advertising still sell "financial freedom" and perhaps unrealistic expectations.
  • At worst, we fear becoming a "bag lady" or passively sitting in a rocking chair, alone and frail.

Before judging where you are in your life, consider where these messages come from. Many people experience personal disappointment in their choices because they have received messages that traditional retirement is the expected end goal.

In this blog, we will explore what is attractive about this phase of life with a pinch of reality-testing. 

Traditional Retirement

It's no wonder that we hold onto a vision of "traditional retirement" as a reward for decades of hard work and building the perfect (not-so-perfect) professional and personal life. Along the way, we have been exposed to mixed messages about what retirement should look like, when we should be ready, and what we need to be ready. Most messages focus on our success in accumulating financial resources.

As mentioned in a previous blog retirement is often viewed in terms of withdrawal or what we will be leaving behind. Our views on this topic are grounded on our working world because that is what we know and experience today. Our work life affects many aspects our of life - both positively and negatively.

While being stuck in this mental framing of work-life status is understandable, we need to move away from that mindset and think more about our new life in a new time - realistically. Perhaps this new life is what we dared to dream about, but we were too busy working. 

Frankly, the novelty of No More Work - No More Hassle, does wear off quickly. Statistics have shown that there is a "honeymoon" period of about 18 months after which many "fully-retired" people are anxious to return to work. They celebrated their withdrawal from work, but did not plan for what's next after the initial high! These people often experience the feeling of deep loss - sometimes an unexplainable disconnect and a need for belonging.

On average, as we move away from work, we gain approximately 2,000 more hours. This gain might initially feel like "free time" or "freedom", but it is time that needs to be planned and managed in order to provide positive experiences of fulfillment.

As you anticipate fulfillment after 60, let's take the first step to explore what would be attractive to you. When clients list what they would find appealing in this new phase of life, many respond with the following to which I respond with a few inquiries for reality-testing. 

What's Attractive About Our Next Phase of Life  

  1. More "me" time
    • I'm all for more "me" time. How will you make the most of this valuable time? Self-care? Personal Development? How will you be intentional about experiencing joy?
  2. Travel
    • Travel is almost always high on this list. Age is not considered a constraint and 99% of Boomers plan to take at least one trip this year. BUT, travel in this phase of life IS very different. A study prior to the pandemic revealed that only 35% of those who ranked travel high on their attraction list continued to travel after 5 years. The reasons are numerous. 
  3. Less work drama. No office politics
    • For many, work drama and office politics is an energy drain. However, those water-cooler chats and catch-ups might be missed and make some people feel left behind or out-of-touch. Remember, work does offer us a social network.
  4. Less stress from workplace expectations and demands
    • Workplace expectations and demands add significantly to our stress levels. However, stress continues in other forms after we leave work. All that unstructured time can be a big stressor. We must still monitor stress and develop stress tolerance.
  5. No commute
    • Yes! I'm all for no commute and avoiding rush-hour. However, I know some people who love their commute time for reading, listening, and day-dreaming.
  6. No alarm clock. No structure.
    • Work does provide structure which many of us need and appreciate. We will still have deadlines and we will still need to manage our time.

This above list contains several responses that are related to withdrawal and leaving something behind. While expressed as positive aspects (attractive), several are a reaction to work. Here are other responses that focus on looking forward. Do you notice the difference?

  1. More time for reading, listening and daydreaming
  2. Increased flexibility in managing your own time 
  3. More control over daily life decisions 
  4. Greater creativity in problem solving and innovation 
  5. An opportunity to explore other interests or career paths  
  6. Improved mental health due to reduced stress levels

What's On Your List? Analyze What Motivates You

  • Create your list and then review for what aspects are reaction to work. Ensure that you add what is attractive in the way that you have something to look forward to; something to keep you engaged in life. Something that with provide fulfillment in such a way that you do not need an alarm clock to wake you up in the morning and to greet your day. 
  • Read next week's blog in which we will explore common fears and concerns. It's normal to have both attractions and fears when we anticipate transition to any new phase of life. Awareness will provide an opportunity to take action to minimize our fears and concerns and address stereotypes that undermine our joy.

 Your Next Steps

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