Six Ideas For Finding Your Retirement Life

Part of my retirement identity

Part of my retirement identity

Research in several western countries tells us that people who enjoy the most success in reaching retirement happiness are also those who enjoyed a work/life balance. In other words their entire identity did not hinge on their work or work title. They were deeply and passionately involved in their off time with hobbies and interests. When they retired, they had a safety net of activities to continue full-time in retirement.

In our “what do you do” society, someone who hitched their identity to their work title may have a tough time kissing that title goodbye because with it goes their sense of purpose and worth. I’ve written about the importance of finding a new purpose and meaning in your retirement life. Some of us can be totally happy doing whatever life dishes up each day. Most of us need a sense of purpose. Something we care about deeply and passionately.

For example, wherever I lived I built and left a beautiful garden. Even after putting in a ten-hour day at the office, there were times when you could find me at work in the summer garden when darkness fell. Martin would teasingly ask if he should bring me a flashlight or was I coming in for the night. Decades later, I still feel the same passion for gardening.

I’ve talked to many, many retirees who have a full calendar. Yet, they are still not happy. That’s because busy work doesn’t cut it for them. They may be the ones who, if asked “what do you do?”, will surely tell you all about what they USED to do. They will trot out their old work identity like a trick pony, bragging about all their accomplishments, living in the past. These folks need to get a life! A retirement life.

There’s a part of me that wants to say, “If you haven’t found your passion yet, you probably never will.” However, there’s another part of me that believes people who were workaholic probably focused so much on their work they never saw, or perhaps ignored, their cues for passionate work. Now, they are stuck. Stuck in retirement with no place to go.

If you are stuck not knowing how to go about finding your retirement life, here are a few ideas to get you unstuck.

1. Most people have a bucket list of activities they wanted to do in retirement. These are usually the things they always wanted to do, but never took the time to do, because they were too busy working. Then, they retire and still don’t make the time for these activities. I’ve listened to several people who tell me chores gets in the way!!! What!? You have time to do the dishes but none to smell life’s roses? Be brave, macho, you go girl or guy, pretend you’re Nike — Just do it! The dishes can wait.

2. Learn to recognize self-imposed limitations and send them packing. If you find yourself saying things like, “I don’t think I’d like that” or “I know I’m not good at _________ (you fill in the blank)” or “my friends and family would think I was crazy to try that” or any one of many other forms of self-imposed limitations, stop the negative talk in your head. Kill off the “yeah buts”. Replace them with “YES I CAN!”

3. Go back to your childhood. You spent the first eighteen years of your life trying something new and learning all the time. Learning and experiencing was a full-time job. What did you like doing as a young person? What got you excited? What got your heart pumping and put a smile on your face? It’s no secret I loved writing. That’s the passion I reignited in my second childhood also known as retirement. Revisit your early years for clues about what might rev your engine now.

4. Realize it’s never too late. There are people out there in their eighties and nineties who are living their dreams. You, too can become one of them if you follow your heart instead of your head. Change your attitude to one of seeking your passion. Then, invoke numbers 1, 2, and 3 above.

5. Stop trying to fill up the calendar with busy, busy. Sometimes, the most important activity we can do is nothing. All stop. And listen. If you are constantly creating white noise in your life, how can you possibly hear your own heart beat? Sometimes I just be. No reading, no writing, no gardening, no classes, no working in the woods, no lunches or dinners with friends, no visits with family, just nothing. Nothingness. Just sitting with myself, me, my real self and letting whatever comes in, come.

6. Get yourself some business cards and put your new title on it. I got cards when I started this blog shortly after retiring. I listed myself as a Writer/Blogger. Be inventive. You could be World Traveler or Life Adventurer or Seeker of Fun or RV Road Warrior or Golfer Extraordinaire or Textile Artist or History Buff or Second Childhood Experiencer or whatever you fancy yourself.

Ultimately, you are the only person responsible for your happy retirement. You can do this by living with purpose to find purpose. Research has also shown us the happiest retirees are self-directed, self-motivated. No one has to tell them what to do with their day or their life. I like that. Retirement is a gift. Unwrap it. You might be surprised by what you find.

17 comments on “Six Ideas For Finding Your Retirement Life

  1. Hi Kathy, I love your blog. June 3rd is the day I say goodbye to my old self. There will be a party. June 4th I say hello to my knew self. No I didn’t misspell the word. I’m going to rediscover the self I always knew I was. Funny you suggested to have business cards made. As strange as it may seem I’m a Medium…always have been. So, it is time to own it and share myself in a larger way. I’m also going to learn the violin. My sister told me not to try because I wouldn’t be good at it! Well…guess what, I don’t have much time on this beautiful Earth, but what is left is mine to live. Saturday, June 4th is my KNEW life!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Love this blog Kathy. I find myself feeling the same way and when I say forget this nonsense (like doing dishes or helping do some other chore that in reality could wait) and go about doing that which I truly want to do (like write a blog post or something connected to writing, I am a much happier person at the end of the day. At the moment I am having difficulties in finding the time to write a blog post a week (no Internet recently sort of put a damper on that goal) but what I am doing is writing them anyways so that when I can get back on the Internet such as I am now, I can get some of my writings posted. I love following your blog as you have so much helpful information for newbies to the blogging world like me. Thank you so much for sharing. Keep on posting.


  3. Hello Kathy
    I found this article the most reverting – “you in my head” Thank you for putting words to the electric pulses floating around in MY HEAD .
    BAIE BAIE DANKIE / enkosi kakulu
    From an ardent follower of your blog
    Cape Town
    South Africa


  4. Thoughtful and many good ideas to ponder- the idea of getting businesses cards really tickled me- good idea- and might make a cute retirement present for someone , too!!


  5. Kathy,

    I love, love, love your blog. I enjoy reading every single one of them and am in the process of going back to read the older ones when I have the time. I am still working, two years away from retirement, and you have given me advice that no books or websites could ever give. Whenever I am looking for answers to any little thing in my life, I find that the best advice is from people who have been there or are currently ‘there’, wherever that ‘there’ might be.

    My job is very stressful, I look forward every day to just coming home and getting away from the office. I am looking forward to retirement, but unsure what I will do to fill in the time. Your blogs have made me look forward to retirement even more than before.

    Your faithful reader from Chicago, IL,



  6. Bravo Kathy. I loved this entry. A reiteration of one of your earlier ones but better. I am just starting my second year of retirement and am loving it. It took awhile l admit. I did feel I lost my purpose. But so many new purposes are springing up now. All the things I used to say when people asked me what I was going to do when I retired, I am doing. It took me awhile to re-find them but I did.

    You are so right. If you can’t allow yourself to become a child again and explore and discover things you may miss out on the best time of your life. Find your passions. Revel in them. My passions are my life and my purpose now and I love it. I am finally writing(like you), backpacking, traveling, and enjoying being unattached to a 9-5. I’m enjoying being me. I’m enjoying being retired. Thanks for being a small part of what helped me get here. Jo Ann


  7. I just started my 20 year early retirement plan, so hopefully I can avoid some of the errors many others have along the way. When I get there, I hope to have the drive and purpose that you do.


  8. Kathy, your points are exactly right! I’m especially finding the point about being “busy” to be particularly true. My friends and I often comment, “When did we find time to work!” But on closer examination, some of us are filling up the calendar with stuff – is it just to be “busy?” – Perhaps! Thanks for the eye-opener!


  9. I feel like I need to go to an AA-like event – Hi I’m Pat and I’m a workaholic. I was one of those tied to their title. It’s been a challenge to find new purpose/passion but I am actively working on it. (no pun on work intended!) I try not to be busy for the sake of being busy. But I’ve learned to play and am doing a lot of the “someday things” – from going to a cooking school, trying pottery throwing, taking classes, starting a foodie club, and planning (and executing) travel. (not all at once, over the last year). I saw on another blog the “title” Lifestyle Manager. I also am contemplating Vision Concierge. I’ve tried Blogger but then folks think I’m trying to monetize it.

    I have 3 sets of business cards since I retired (VistaPrint coupons makes it so easy) – from nothing to Innovation Consultant to Retirement Life Coach (yeah, got certified for that one!). I think I’m a work-in-progress and wish I could find a great term for that – one that feels authentic to me. (Recovering Workaholic feels too snarky for those truly in recovery.)


  10. Ouch Kathy. “If you haven’t found you passion you probably never will.” Grandma Moses didn’t start painting until she was 75, Laura Ingalls Wilder published her first book at 65 and Harlan Sanders founded KFC in his 60’s. Some of us are late bloomers. We are learning and exploring . It may take us a bit longer to figure out what we want to do for the rest of our life.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Kathy,
    Great suggestions for retirees who may be feeling stuck. It’s hard for some of us to retool and revise not only our daily schedules but also our goals.


  12. Kathy,
    Great ideas. I like that it is just as important to do nothing sometimes as it is to be busy. Like hike for several hours then relax in the shade and enjoy a beer. You mentioned the first 18 years. That had me thinking. It seems that some of the things we want to do in retirement are those things we did as kids. I liked to ride my bike when I was a kid and I now have time for biking. I love it just as much – even better.


  13. Your thought about not filling life with white noise helps to hear your heart beating. What scares me about retiring (July 1) is sense of life being over for the most part and sense of regrets (not pity party,just the way I feel).


    • Maria, Your sense of life being over for the most part is, in my experience, normal. I felt great sadness the night my husband and I left his retirement party…that part of our lives was over. It took me a while to change my outlook and realize that I had 20-30 years to do whatever I wanted. That’s when I started looking for renewed purpose and meaning in life. I also realized we never really retire. Then, my entire attitude changed. Your feelings may be more of sadness at saying goodbye to your working life. Your new life is just beginning! Best wishes. K


  14. I just wanted to thank you for these different retirement ideas. I’m glad that you mentioned that this could be a great opportunity to pursue your dreams and to try out some different passions you may have. Honestly, this seems like it could be a great way to make sure that you are living every day to the fullest that you want, especially if you find a place where you can experiment in a comfortable environment.


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