April 12th, 2013 12:17 EST
Retired: Now What?
It`s never too late to be who you truly are, and bring your best to your world. This is what we find working with today`s retirees in redefining life after retirement. For those of us who have yet to retire, we anticipate retirement as the time to relax, kick back and do more of the fun things of life. But many of those who are in retirement find it more of a sentence than a vacation. They are bored, feel undervalued and have lost a sense of purpose.
The reality is that the largest cohort in American history is aging. More than 12,500 boomers are turning 50 every day; that`s about one every 7 seconds. By 2030, the 65-and-over population will be around 71.5 million; by 2050 that same group will grow to 86.7 million. As this group enters retirement, they`re discovering that they`re not ready for the conventional definition of retirement " golf, watching softball and baseball, spending time with grandkids, watching television and going for early-bird dinner specials. In fact, they don`t know what to do with retirement since they are still healthy, have resources and want to be active. The biggest challenge is not that they`re sitting idle; it`s that they have little knowledge of how to create meaningful late-in-life possibilities that activate them physically, mentally and emotionally.
They need to learn what most teens need to learn " how to know themselves, know their world and find where they fit to feel valuable, relevant and vibrant.
Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, make up one of the most dedicated and work-focused generations, growing up in the post-war industrial age. They became one of the most educated and innovative cohorts, realizing that work could drive results, which, in return, drove success. The commitment to work as a means to achieve, earn and increase the quality of tangible life " houses, cars, vacations " had a negative impact on the subsequent Gen X generation (their kids) who became the first generation of latchkey kids " to come home to empty houses as both parents worked jobs to provide for an elevated life style.
The Boomer habit of intense work, long hours, compensation for extra effort had many of them married to their jobs. As many doctors, CEOs and other professionals now share, their work was all consuming; they had little time for hobbies, interests or passions " they worked and raised families. With their families now grown, and since they`re no longer in the workplace, they find themselves with little or no interests, hobbies or meaningful ways to spend their time and feel productive, valuable or important.
Work was not only their identity, but also how they defined their sense of self-worth. And with it gone, many are lost on how to replace it. This impact now shows in greater Boomer depression at the very time life was anticipated to be great.
Additionally, this well-educated generation has critical knowledge that is starting to be taken from the workplace. Smart organizations encouraged mentoring arrangements between its retiring and older employees with its younger employees to accelerate learning and to pass on critical skills and knowledge. But many organizations don`t do this. They applauded as their older employees retired, unaware that the retirees were taking what they knew with them.
A similar situation exists for society as Boomers move to slower and less focused roles in retirement. Their collective experience, wisdom and training now becomes a lost treasure " one that is not connected to today`s world to improve it and benefit from it. The more boomers fade out of the picture instead of learn how to stay strong, vibrant, healthy and valuable, more of what they know leaves with them.
Though it may seem odd that such a smart generation would be unable to determine how to use their well-deserved and coveted leisure time, consider that their habit of intense work is a difficult habit to overcome. Learning to relax is not the solution. Instead, it rests with learning how to redefine value and purpose.
What To Do
Though we almost expect high school and college students to not know what to study or what direction to go in life, we don`t expect this from our seniors. We imagine that just being on the planet for 50 or more years would give them the critical information about their core abilities " their hardwired talents, strengths and passions. These frame our dreams, direction and desires, according to Mike Dooley, author of Infinite Possibilities.
Our dreams, direction and desires provide an internal GPS " guiding us to choose some things over others " identifying that we love some things and not others " that we are great at some things and not others. Without this information, we do not know how to evaluate the world to determine our place in it " to determine our fit. And feeling like we fit is a critical component of feeling valuable, vibrant and relevant and living a great life at any age.
To build a great life after retirement requires information first about yourself, then about your world. The process of self-discovery is not age-dependent. At any age, we should be constantly learning more about our responses to be able to identify our unique interests, abilities, values and talents. The more present we are, the more we tune in to these critical responses and become more informed about what it is that makes us unique and different. These can be translated into our greatness attributes " those that bring our best to what we do. This process is critical in helping Boomers know themselves well enough to find opportunities to connect their best abilities in a meaningful way each day.
The most common ways to discover our unique abilities are the following:
- Talent/Personality/Performance assessments. These assessments summarize repetitive thinking to provide language and definitions to our strongest or recurring thinking, personality and performance attributes. Having language around our abilities enables us to understand them, to start to find applications in today`s world to use them.
- Journal. Many people start and end their days with journaling. Journaling is the process of recording daily thoughts, perspectives and other observations as they happen in life. A review of what is written shares critical information about the thinking, feeling and attitudes of the writer. Many times, our core abilities, passions and interests will show in our journal writing.
- Check in with others. Many times our best abilities are unremarkable to us because we don`t see them a special " they are just part of who we are. By asking others about our strengths, passions and talents, we start to see another perspective of what makes us different and unique.
- Remember back to our youth. When we were younger, we focused on the things we were both good at and liked. We didn`t subject our desires, interest and passions to what was popular or not " we just did what came naturally to us or made us feel great. Consider when you were younger, what did you love or hate? Where did you spend your time? What did you play? What did you dream about?
- Be the spectator in our own lives. Step outside yourself and ask the you who is here right now the following questions: What do others applaud you for? When you feel confident, what are you doing? Which of your strengths or abilities do you seem to always use? What are your values; what do you value? When you tell people you love doing something, what is that something?
Know Your World
It has been said that we didn`t arrive on the planet with an owner`s manual that provides a complete list of our abilities. Instead, we discover this information over time and by paying attention to our daily responses. Though these are learned gradually over our lives, using the methods above can, coupled with extensive lifetime experiences, they can provide the necessary information Boomers need to increase their self-awareness in the moment.
By expanding what we read, follow and participate in, we expand our perspectives. Though we may have a habit of watching specific shows or reading specific papers, varying these to include other perspectives, including opposite perspectives, expands the view of the world and offers greater possibilities.
Questions to consider are: What are the hot jobs and fields? What is important in the local community? What are the new social trends " what is popular, current and valuable? What are people buying and why? What is important in your home, church, organization or social network? What is affecting your town, neighborhood or county?
Find Your Fit
Clarity about our world provides the context to be able to search for those areas and events that need what we do best. Finding value in our later years is the way we find value in our younger years " we get to know ourselves and our unique abilities, we get to know the needs, challenges and opportunities of our world, then we find ways to connect one to the other.
American writer and theologian Frederick Buechner states, Your vocation in life is where your greatest joy meets the world`s greatest need. " This is the process of discovering where we fit, how we find our greatness zone and how we feel relevant, vibrant and valuable at all points in out lives.
Consider this list those who discovered and realized their dreams, opportunities, abilities or greatness later in life: chef Julia Childs, author Frank McCort, painter Grandma Moses, peace activist, Mahatma Gandhi, sex therapist Dr Ruth Westheimer, McDonald`s founder Ray Kroc, writer Laura Ingalls Wilder, President Ronald Regan, political reformer Nelson Mandela, industrialist Henry Ford and scientist Charles Darwin. It is therefore possible to stay active, connected and fully participating in life " on our terms. This isn`t about fame; it`s about finding our own particular definition of greatness and contribution. Age as no correlation to value, purpose or relevancy.
For example, let`s say that the retired doctor, CEO or other employee rediscovers, through this process, her passion for writing. And scanning the world, " she finds opportunities to blog, write short stories, participate in poetry slams, earn a degree in writing, or start a company that writes newsletters for companies or provides marketing/PR materials. She rediscovers what she is good at and passionate about, and identifies meaningful opportunities that allow her to do what she does best " she finds her thing, she is in her zone.
Awareness is the first step to liberation and a life purpose and value. To break through boredom and reconnect to purpose, passion and personal power requires that we become aware of what we are good at, passionate about and what matters to us " we know ourselves. We also must know our world by a review of its needs, opportunities and challenges. Only then can we find or create possibilities that fit us by connecting our best to our world. We can do this at any age.
With Boomers, on average, living well into their 70s and 80s, there`s a large population of talented people still wonderfully alive and ready to contribute their best to their worlds. Retirement no longer means slowing down, eating at 5 p.m. and spending evenings in front of the television. But it also doesn`t mean just staying busy. Retirement today means shifting from the things you have to do to the things you want to do, to know how to assess yourself and your world to find the things that create lives that are relevant, vibrant and valuable.
Jay Forte, a former financial executive and corporate educator, now business and motivational speaker, greatness coach, and author, is a nationally ranked Thought Leader. He is the President and Founder of The Greatness Zone, a personal development and business performance improvement company. The Greatness Zone provides practical tools to help people discover their unique abilities and to connect them to opportunities to live and work with purpose, passion and power.
Jay is the author of Fire Up! Your Employees and Smoke Your Competition and The Greatness Zone - Know Yourself, Find Your Fit, Transform The World. The Greatness Zone tools, programs, books, resources and coaching can be found at TheGreatnessZone.com and FireUpYourEmployees.com.