How to Redefine Yourself in Retirement

Without a job, we often lose a piece of our identity.

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Once you no longer have a job, you lose a piece of your identity. You need to come up with a new reason to get out of bed, and something to do with all the hours in the day.

While members of the working world, we are often defined by what we do, where we are employed, and what we accomplish on the job. Once removed from this environment, many people struggle to define who they are outside of work. Instead, we face the daunting prospect of an empty calendar that we alone are responsible for filling with meaningful events.

Don’t set yourself up for a retirement where you are just existing. Here’s how to plan for a meaningful retirement:

Plan for retirement ahead of time. Don’t expect to effortlessly roll from a busy working life into a fulfilling retirement without careful preparation. Just as you are coached to regularly save money to build your financial nest egg, you should also be building a non-financial portfolio comprised of guidelines for living a worthwhile and inspired retired life. What will you do to stay engaged with living? A retirement test run is a good way to see what lies ahead. A temporary exit from the working world can allow you to see what life looks like from a retired perspective. You can also research what to expect through books, blogs, websites, and discussions with those who are already retired. Support groups and consultants can help chart a clearer course. However you choose to get there, having an idea of what you will be doing and where you want to go is important to a happy retirement.

Discover where you find your personal fulfillment. Ask yourself what drives and inspires you, and gives your life meaning and purpose. What is it that you love to do for the pure enjoyment of doing it regardless of the end result? Take the time before you retire to better understand the person you are and where you find satisfaction. Knowing ahead of time what you truly enjoy doing can help direct you down the road that you are most likely to find fulfilling.

Just keeping busy is selling yourself short. Checking off items on a retirement to-do list can give you a feeling of accomplishment. But as your list dwindles, what comes next? Activities that merely use up time will not sustain you for 20 or 30 years of retired life. One way to help organize your time is to establish goals that are short, medium, and long-term in duration. Short-term goals are your busy work activities like mowing the lawn, cleaning the house, or finishing a jigsaw puzzle. Medium-term activities might be remodeling a room or planning for a future travel adventure. And long-term goals can be things like learning a new language, taking up a musical instrument, or writing a book. The idea is to identify a myriad of options to not only stay busy but to find meaning as well.

Dave Bernard is the author of Are You Just Existing and Calling it a Life?, which offers guidelines to discover your personal passion and live a life of purpose. Not yet retired, Dave has begun his due diligence to plan for a fulfilling retirement. With a focus on the non-financial aspects of retiring, he shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement–Only the Beginning.