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The Art of Retirement

Jul 12, 2008
Why do we call "retirement" an art? After all, as many believe, you simply stop working. The answer is that, for many of us, this period of life is the first time we actually have the opportunity to create the life we want! There is no model for this period, no Uncle George or Aunt Josie to tell you which is the best school to go to or what is the best place to work with the best benefits. It is only you and your imagination. And that's why we call it an art form.

In coming to terms with such a vast, even awesome, opportunity, we have to back up and rethink the elements of our personality which are unique to us and give us pleasure. For many of us, this aspect of re-imagining ourselves, including who we are, what we love, what we wish to leave behind is an almost overwhelming opportunity. We therefore present two different ways of starting our personal self-analysis, one intuitive and one based on collected data. Interestingly, the information gathered from each is frequently quite similar but the appeal is to the right or left brain orbs. Therefore, depending on whether you are left brain or right brain dominant, one or the other may appeal more to you.

Left brain people (logical and sequential thinkers) are likely to favor gathering this information from personality profiles, like the Birkman. The other method, which appeals to more intuitive thinkers, asks you to recall events from your past where you were in a state of "flow." When you are in a state of flow, you lose all track of clock time because you are so engaged in an experience that ordinary time disappeared. These analytic exercises offer opportunities to understand the deeper core passions which may direct you as you consider "what else" your life has to offer.

However, once this information is available, what do we do with it? If your interests include, for example, helping others through volunteer work, how do you go about finding the right organization and the right training? In the past, our resumes trailed us, organizing our histories. But now, we are our histories, and learning how to convey this information in our meetings with others is part of the art form.

Earlier in life we learned to recount our skills. Now we develop the capacity to connect with others and to gain first order information (which is information derived directly from people) which will be the basis for our decisions. This can be a crucial time to explore and investigate various nonprofits where you might be interested in volunteering your services. Some of the questions you might ask are: (1) How clear is the organization's mission and is it something I deeply believe in? (2) How could my skills and experience contribute to this cause? (3) Is the organization open to integrating new people? (4) Is there an orientation program for new volunteers and/or Board members? (5) How does the organization propose to utilize my talents, or do I run the risk of getting stuck licking stamps while others make decisions?

Think of yourself as an interviewer using your emotional and intellectual skills to make sure that the personal qualities you imagined in your analytic exercises will be the ones you will actually get to use.

This may require new emotional strengths, such as clarifying how and where your experience connects with the organization's mission. Remember, being an "artist" is largely explaining the world as you see it. The clearer you are in understanding your interests, your working style and your needs, the more likely it is that your audience will value you.

Luck favors the prepared mind!
About the Author
John Trauth is co-author of "Your Retirement, Your Way" (McGraw-Hill, 2007), a step-by-step curriculum which explains the secrets for happiness in retirement and helps readers prepare for the psychological, strategic and financial aspects of this major life transition. Learn more about this book and take the free "retirement readiness quiz" at http://www.YourRetirementYourWay.com.
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