Phase 3

Looks like it’s time for another pep talk. I’ve received some questions recently about retirement disillusionment. It’s what gerontology professor Robert Atchley called Phase 3 or the Disillusionment Phase of retirement way back in the 1970’s when retirement was the last thing on my mind. I was in my twenties then. Settling in, or so I thought, to a nice predictable life. You know what I mean — nice husband, kids, house, mortgage, a steady job with a career path. Yet, I was restless. I was bored. I was even depressed. I was in the very same frame of mind Atchley describes as the Disillusionment Phase in retirement!

How did I change the dynamic back then? I took some risks. Actually, Martin made the first move, deciding to go back to college. We ended up in Michigan, where my order of the day was to make enough money to support our young family while he finished school, working only part-time. After receiving two job offers where I would continue as a bank loan officer at a salary that wouldn’t support us, I decided to turn them down and cast a wider net. The fish I hauled in didn’t look like much at first, but it paid more than I had made on my last job. Within three years after taking this risk I was making nearly three times what I made in banking. After accepting a job transfer, we were living in Seattle. I was jetting around the country, which turned out not to be so good for my family. But, all in all taking a risk changed the trajectory of our lives.

It also changed my mindset about life and living. For example, no risk, no reward. Failure can be a catalyst for success. When opportunity knocks, for goodness sake, answer the door! Recognize your personal outliers. And, of course, my favorite — put your dent in the universe.

Retirement is no different, than any other time of your life. If you want to move beyond disillusionment, take some risk. As Charles Darwin said in another favorite reminder of mine, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”

Remember, retirement is a big change! You don’t just wake up and find yourself adjusted to a new lifestyle after living thirty, forty, fifty years in a work routine. And, cut yourself a break. Don’t be so hard on yourself. If you feel some disillusionment with retirement, you are not alone. Atchley believed most retirees would experience some disillusionment, if only for a short period of time. I agree with him. And, so what if you do feel some disillusionment? If you take action to get yourself out of that quandary, the action you take could change your life for the better.

The only place to go is forward. Going backwards, as in going back to the same old grind, is not the answer. If you are uncomfortable meeting new people, go find some new people to meet. If you don’t think you are a hobby person or a craft person or an artist, go find a hobby, a craft or an art class to take. If you don’t think you would like volunteering, go find a charitable organization or hospital and sign up for a day of volunteering each week. If you are not physically fit, find a park to start walking in every day, feed the ducks in the pond or try fishing. Take some risk. Cast a wider net. You never know what type of fish you’ll haul in unless you try.

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