Experience as a Retirement-Transition Enabler

man-in-mirrorBaby boomers are an enormous and historically unique population. They have wide-ranging views of and aspirations for retirement. Including whether to retire at all. Given the general wealth, health, and longer life expectancies that retirement-eligible leaders may enjoy, many have new factors and options to consider as retirement “looms” or “beckons.”

As an executive coach and retirement transition coach, and a staunch believer in experience-based leader development, I work with retirement-eligible leaders to thoughtfully engage in their transition to a next phase of life. As part of the process, we sort through their career and life archives and identify key experiences (past or future) to help plan their entree to new territory when all-consuming career work is less necessary, appealing, or even allowed.

When starting to work with retirement-transitioning leaders, it’s important to help them establish foundational self-awareness and clarity. Self-awareness includes several variables. I’ll focus on three: retirement mindset, select experience identification and transferability, and alignment with significant others.

Retirement Mindset

At its most fundamental level, retirement mindset is about whether the person is looking forward to (beckons alluringly) or dreading (looms ominously) retirement. I use these extremes to query leaders, helping them determine what they’ll miss the most and the least, and what they look forward to doing. Within their answers are experiences – past, present, and future. They want to leave some types of experiences behind, while continuing to engage in others in some form. And there are new experiences that they want to have, such as long-awaited adventures, commitments, or experiments. The teachable point is that most life-enriching engagement, at and away from work, comes via experiences that can be planned.

Select Experience Identification and Transferability

A thorough, guided walk down memory lane creates a rich list of wide-ranging experiences (both vocational and avocational). From the list the leader identifies the most important to retain or perpetuate in some fashion. Embedded within each is acknowledgment of what made the experience special. It could be people, place, and quite often, purpose. The essence or purpose of what the experience produced (e.g. helping others, being part of a high performing team, launching something cool or new, competing and winning against long odds) is the sweet spot to identify and plan to replicate to the degree possible. While this may sound like Bruce Springsteen’s “glory days,” it really is a personal treasure trove to adapt for future use, meaning, and joy.

Alignment with Significant Others

Because so many experiences have a social element to them, including with a spouse or partner, engaging significant others in envisioning a future, replete with potential experiences that each might value, is important. In most conversations with transitioning retirees, they mention that life at home will require an adjustment as time with a partner will potentially be much more constant. Experiences, together and apart, are rich fodder for discussion. Because both lives will likely change significantly, the chance to test assumptions, share expectations, plan dreams, and talk about the routines that most days will likely include can create new goals and rules of engagement.

The transition to retirement is a unique experience itself. As I work with more people who are making this transition, I want to be intentional about harvesting the lessons they are learning and use their wisdom to help other retirees navigate their own course. I look forward to sharing future lessons learned from retirees with whom I’m privileged to work.

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