‘Thinking’ About Retirement

Many of my clients are facing a mass exodus of boomers who are preparing to retire in the next few years. I regularly meet many of those soon-to-be-retired people in the workplaces I visit and at workshops and at conferences in which I take part. I love to engage in a conversation about how people are feeling about retirement, and about what their plans are for this next phase of their life. Having spent the early part of my career in human resources, I spent a great deal of my time coaching and counselling people who were preparing for that next phase of their life. Through both my professional and personal experiences, I have discovered some key principles to keep in mind as you ‘think’ about your retirement:


You are in far more control over your life experience than you imagine. Ask yourself: What am I focusing on?

I recall a short story by Carl Sandberg  that appeared in one of my university textbooks on the topic of ‘perception’. It went something like this:

Drove up a newcomer in a covered wagon: “What kind of folks live around here?”

“Well, stranger, what kind of folks was there in the country you come from?”

“Well, they was mostly a lowdown, lying, gossiping, backbiting lot of people.”

“Well, I guess, stranger, that’s about the kind of folks you’ll find around here.”

And the dusty grey stranger had just about blended into the dusty grey cotton-woods in a clump on the horizon when another newcomer drove up.? “What kind of folks live around here?”

“Well, stranger, what kind of folks was there in the country you come from?”

“Well, they was mostly a decent, hardworking, law abiding, friendly lot of people.”

“Well, I guess, stranger, that’s about the kind of people you’ll find around here.” And the second wagon moved off and blended with the dusty grey…

This short story beautifully illustrates a key principle in thinking about retirement. What you experience will depend on what you are looking for, and on what you believe is true about your possibilities in retirement.


Spend some time thinking about what sorts of things will get you ‘springing’ out of bed every morning in your retirement. If you know anyone who is retired, they’ll tell you they are busy. However, many will also report that they are busy ‘being busy’; the busy-ness is not necessarily energy-inducing!Take a few moments to answer questions like:

  • What gives you energy? What are your passions?
  • What are your strengths? What are you doing when you are at your best?
  • Who are your heroes? Whose life is an inspiration to you?
  • What do you want to discover or learn? What piques your interest?


Think about the key factors in the Wellness Wheel: Financial, Spiritual, Physical, Intellectual, Social, Family. How are you doing in each area? Are you balanced? If are are not balanced, add more activities in the neglected areasso that you can experience a more ’rounded’ life. More balance will give you more freedom to ‘roll’ with life.

Here are some indications that you are ‘out of balance’:
  • You experience frequent headaches, tension, ‘stress’
  • Your main interest in this job is the pension you’ll collect at the end of it
  • You describe your life as ‘all work and no play’
  • You feel like you are just ‘going through the motions’ in your life
  • You long to be back in university or school, even though you didn’t like attending either one
  • You might be heard saying “life sucks and then you die”
  • Sunday nights are slightly depressing, thinking about Monday morning


There is strong evidence suggesting that the habits you develop pre-retirement will be the ones that follow you post-retirement. So, think about your current habits and make changes or adjustments now rather than waiting until your retire.

Do you: Work long hours and go home exhausted OR Work regular hours and enjoy time with family and friends?

Do you: Have no defined goals at work or at home OR Works toward personal and work objectives regularly?

Do you: Have few interests outside of work OR Have many interests outside of work?

Do you: Miss vacation to work OR Take and enjoy vacation?

Do you: Have friendship that are mostly at work OR Have deep friendships that are outside of work?

Do you: View life as difficult OR View life as a celebration?


Throughout your life, you might have been living other people’s scripts – your parent’s, your teacher’s, your spouse’s, your children’s, your employer’s….etc. Now it is time to write your own script. What do you really want for your life?

As you plan your script, you might consider the following: What is the storyline? Who are the characters? Where does the story take place? When do certain events happen? Why does the story progress in a certain way? How will the story unfold?


You have likely been blessed by being able to develop some core skills throughout your life. These skills will serve you well in retirement:

Time Management: All those time management principles that you learned at work are just as useful in retirement.? Two very important points to keep in mind are: 1) you can learn to say ‘no’, without feeling guilty (a critical retirement skill); and 2) if you do not schedule your own time, someone else will!

Communication Skills: Communication strategies such as active listening, questioning, and empathizing are life skills that will serve you well throughout your life.

Conflict Resolution Skills: The transition to a new life phase can cause tension in relationships as you navigate a new was of being with a partner or spouse. Use your communication skills to diagnose the conflict, generate ideas for resolution, implement the solution, and follow-up to ensure the solution is working.

Fun Skills: Having fun at work is important and it remains so in retirement. Remember that ‘fun’ is a state of mind, as well as an individual experience.

In closing, remember the basics, like those illustrated in the poem (adapted here) by Robert Fulghum ‘Everything I Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten’:

All I really need to know, about how to live and what to do and how to be, I learned in Kindergarten. These are the things I learned:

Share everything. Play fair. Don’t hit people. Put things back where you found them. Clean up your own mess. Don’t take things that aren’t yours. Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody. Wash your hands before you eat. Flush. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you. Life a balanced life. Learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some. Take a nap every afternoon.

When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together. Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: the roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that. And then remember the first word you learned; the biggest word of all – LOOK.

Everything you need to know is there somewhere. The golden rule and love and basic sanitation, ecology, politics, and equality. Think of what a better world it would be if we all, the whole world, had cookies and mild about 3 o’clock every afternoon and then lay down with our blankets for a nap. Or we had a basic policy in our nation and other nations to always put things back where we found them and clean up our own messes.

And it is still true, no matter how old you are, when you out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.

Deri Latimer, B Mgt, CSP, is an expert in possibilities for people! She is one of fewer than 10% of speakers globally who hold the designation of Certified Speaking Professional, the speaking profession?s measure of excellence in professional platform skill. Deri combines a Business degree in Human Resources with experience from business sectors including health care, manufacturing, education, agriculture, government, mining, transportation, tourism, and professional services. Deri helps individuals and organizations optimize their performance by managing their energy; applying the latest research and practice in positive psychology, appreciative inquiry, emotional intelligence, and employee engagement.? www.derilatimer.com


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