Retirement Redesigned

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Saturday, May 18, 2024

Retirement Redesigned

HomeMindsetIdentityWho you are, is not what you do.

Who you are, is not what you do.

As a retiree, I’ve learned that who you are is not defined by what you do. After leaving full-time work, I found myself struggling to define my identity without the crutch of my career. It was as if a part of me was missing, and I was left with a feeling of emptiness and uncertainty.

The question “what do you do?” can feel like a loaded one for retirees. Saying “I’m retired” can feel quite passive. Prompting others to inquire about your plans for retirement or assume that you have all the free time in the world for leisure activities and volunteering. It can be challenging to establish your identity in a way that feels authentic and affirming.

I found that the key to overcoming this challenge was to create a new identity for myself, one that reflects my passions and interests in retirement. I redefine myself in a more affirmative way by highlighting my new pursuits such as pursuing a hobby with more focus, spending time with my grandchildren, or investing in a small business. Creating a new enterprise gave me back some social traction. I was able to confidently answer the question “what do you do?” without feeling like I had lost a part of myself.

Retirement can be a time of great opportunity for self-discovery and exploration. By creating a new identity for yourself, you can embrace this next stage of your life with enthusiasm and purpose. Your identity may still be based on what you do, but it’s the new and improved version of you, ready for the next chapter in your life. Remember, who you are is not just what you do – it’s so much more.


Our top article pick of the week:

Life after work: Finding and embracing your identity

If you’re looking for a practical exercise to help you work on your post-work identity this article offers a simple one of rating various areas in your life in terms of satisfaction. It helps identify various areas to focus on and can be illuminating.
To read this 5-minute article on The Hartford click here.

Our most popular daily thought this week:

No matter how far you travel, you can never get away from yourself. – Haruki Murakami

For many of us, our careers and identity become enmeshed over time. When we leave full-time work for retirement, we can struggle to define ourselves outside of what we did for a living. The truth is that our identities are unique to us and not defined by what we do. The transitions we undergo when retiring offer the opportunity to redefine ourselves.

Quote by Haruki Murakami

Have you found good ways to define your identity outside of your career?

Share them with us by replying to this mail for a chance to be featured.

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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.