Retirement Redesigned

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Monday, July 15, 2024

Retirement Redesigned

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Reinventing Yourself

It’s a universal thing, the wish to be a better self. In the most basic sense of it we wish to have a better appearance. Everyone wants to be taller or better looking with an improved idealized physique and without what we see as our less-appealing features.

In retirement this is particularly focused on good health. Inevitably there is a decline in factors like eye-sight, or hearing or easy mobility.

But once we get over it and somehow make peace with the wish for some kind of remodeled appearance and vibrant health, it is on the personality and ability that we focus. Once again, we have in our minds an ideal. It is the behavior and attitude that might enable us to be more confident, more outgoing, less fearful, charming and more intelligent. It is the desire to be admired and to be seen as a better leader and a smarter thinker or strategic problem solver.

The self-help shelves of bookshops are full of books about improving lifestyle habits and how to be a better improved you. They offer advice on everything from a healthier exercise program and better eating habits to improving leadership skills and how to find peace of mind.

Optimism and the firm belief that we can in fact reinvent ourselves is what drives the hugely profitable training industry, the ever-growing faith in coaching and the various disciplines of psychotherapy. Much of it comes from self-diagnosis and a preoccupation with egocentric attempts to become the ideal self.

Advertising and the burgeoning media sector show us what we should look like and how to behave. The movie industry is driven by ever-confident great looking Hollywood idols. All of which feeds our sense of dissatisfaction with ourselves and the often-passionate drive for self -improvement, no matter how unrealistic. Envy is a great motivator. Other people’s lifestyles and what they do can look so attractive. Many are driven by FOMO — the fear of missing out.

The great thing about retirement is that it is the beginning of a new future. It is an ideal time in life for reinventing yourself. It should not be seen as a time for the loss of identity, but rather a time to create a new identity. Some, heading toward retirement, do so almost with a sense of shame. The best part of life is over and it’s downhill from here.

The happiest retirees do not feel that retirement is imposed on them. They get away from their past-career mindset and embrace the change. They simply go through a reframing exercise and put together a plan for where they want to go from this point onwards.

The unhappiest retirees are the ones who fear the future and regret the past. In Mindfulness therapy people are taught not to be preoccupied with either the past or the future but to focus totally on the present; to see its opportunities and to take pleasure in what is now.

Retirement should not be something that happens to you. It should rather be a great new stage of life to enjoy in its own right.

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Johann is the founding partner of Reset Retirement where we focus on assisting people with planning for the non-financial aspects of their lives after full-time work. He had a long career in executive search and leadership as the founding partner and chairman of Heidrick & Struggles in South Africa where he was the head of the company’s board practice.


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