Half our life is spent trying to find something to do with the time we have rushed through life trying to save. – Will Rogers
One of the things that resonated with me the most while conducting my research on retirement and transitioning into secondary careers, has been the shift between the perception of it from the “end of something” to the “beginning of something new”. Back when Otto Von Bismarck introduced the first pension for workers over 70 in 1889, life expectancy of a Prussian was 45. In 1908, Lloyd George “granted” a payment of five weeks for “blue collar” and low income individuals who had reached 70, knowing very well that the life expectancy for low income people at the time was way lower than 50. For many years, retirement could have been described as “brief sunset to life, for a few hardy souls”.
The entire concept of retirement has now changed, it’s something that is “allowed” to everyone. On average, Americans now retire at the age of 64, two years before the actual “American pension age” – 66, with an average life expectancy of 80+. With this said, for years, retirement has been seen as the “end of something”, and the unknown aspect of it has represented a threat for many for several decades – centuries, to be more specific. So what’s different today? What caused the change? Are people actually looking forward to retirement nowadays?
At first, this may seem like a rhetorical question. After all, you won’t have to work anymore. As it turns out, many people now see retirement as an opportunity to explore new opportunities – maybe something you have never had the chance (or blessing) to explore throughout your first career. Sounds easier than it is – I know, don’t worry. The point is, there needs to be a shift in each individual’s mentality from the “I am done” – stereotypical vision of retirement – to the “what now” – new approach to it. How do we do that? The first step is creating awareness within the third age community. My transition program – based on my published research targeting individuals 50+ and their experience with retirement and secondary employment’s success – allows individuals to take the needed steps to find their true passion and enables a shift in mindset.
You might be wondering: this is all sweet, but how do we make this change happen? I believe there are a few simple steps we should keep in mind when approaching your next chapter. First and foremost, begin with the true understanding of who you are. Have you ever heard of the Johari Window? It’s a simple and straightforward psychological tool created by Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham in 1955, which allows individuals to explore their known/unknown side, training self awareness and mindfulness. In the “third age chapter” of your life, you get the chance to explore who you really are – your skills and passions- while uncovering blind spots. In addition, you can begin the process of seeing through traditional images of aging and retirement – an image from the end of something to the start of something new.
Second, what options do you have? Secondary careers exist in a major variety of alternatives, from encore, secondary, full/part time options, to volunteer work and international relocation. The challenge is not finding something to so after retirement, but finding the best fit for you. The key is to remain flexible and open to new challenges. The more your step outside your comfort zone, the larger your comfort zone becomes because the unfamiliar becomes familiar. As a result, fears tend to dissipate and you can then take additional steps to push your comfort zone even further. This definitely changes the cards on the table; things that used to be terrifying become routine.
I used to loathe speaking in front of a large crowd of people, and, as a result, I was very self conscious and mindful when it came to put my thoughts and opinions out there. As you can imagine, this has definitely changed now. I am not perfect by any means, but stepping out my comfort zone allowed me to become more familiar with things I have never through I would experience. I became more aware of myself, my passions and talents, and I figured out what actually empowers me. This is not something limited to public speaking or my professional career. This is something that allowed me to better myself in my work, personal life, professional life, hobbies and much more.
When was the last time you made the unfamiliar familiar? And why wait any longer? Your next chapter is the perfect opportunity for you to challenge yourself and re-discover your true 5Ws (what, where, when, how, why, who). My transition program enables people transitioning and finding their best path after exiting their primary career. This is my passion. If it is something that’s relevant to you, I invite you to contact me. Let’s explore your next stage together.
Dr. Ylenia Ossola