Retirement Redesigned

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Saturday, May 18, 2024

Retirement Redesigned

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Your Power of Agency

People who work full-time sometimes experience a feeling of being overwhelmed. They try to attend to the many challenges facing them every day and often feel that they cannot get to everything that is expected of them. Performance anxiety is a big factor. What would be nice is if there could be someone looking out for you and helping to resolve your worries, like a sportsman’s or a movie star’s agent.

Agency, and the sense of it is about having the benefit of someone like your own agent acting on your behalf to make things work for you; to negotiate for your advantage. People who are seen to have agency are those that get things done and can resolve that awareness of being overwhelmed. Having agency creates a certain confidence and a feeling of being in possession of your life

Once in retirement the sense of being overwhelmed is there for a different reason. Retirees are not worried about the many things that they have to get done. No more the back-breaking deadlines and the cluttered diaries. Now the cares are for other matters. They are plagued much more by self-doubt and uncertainty. They can become trapped in a place where there is a great deal that they don’t know, and for which they cannot get clarity. That uncertainty can relate to their health, their financial standing, their need to adapt to a new lifestyle, the diminishing circle of friends and many other issues that make them doubt their own ability to cope. In the process, sometimes with a sense of hopelessness they have relinquished their sense of agency.

To recover it the authors of the book “The Power of Agency” Paul Napper and Anthony Rao say there is a way out of this retirement desert. They have refined the possible solution to seven key principles. They are:

First, Control Stimuli. This means, especially with regard to the all the electronic and technological gizmos that crowd in on our lives, we must control them and be tough about it. Cell phones constantly pull our attention away. Passive TV watching does it too. Think specifically where you put your attention.

Second, Associate selectively. It means be careful who you deal with and where your energy is focused. Negative people and moaners are to be avoided. Build a friendship network of more dynamic positive people whose company energizes you. Be inspired by the people in your circle.

Third, Then, and this is very important. Move. In retirement there is the temptation to spend your hours sitting down and moving around less than you are able to. Keep your eating habits and habits of exercise in check. Get out. Take time to be outdoors and to appreciate nature. Don’t become a passive couch potato, Keep moving

These three are what have been called the Behavior Principles in the building of your agency.

The next four are seen as cognitive principles;

Four. Position yourself as a learner. A curious mindset in retirement is a great gift. Learning more about the world and what is going on in it will keep you in touch and strengthen your sense of

Agency. Think of doing some further education. For inspiration investigate the university of the “Third Age”

Five. Manage your emotions and your beliefs. A good life at any age is when your physical and emotional lives are in balance. Don’t let your beliefs become too rigid and put a stranglehold on your ability to see new realities. Stay flexible. When these two matters go out of alignment you head to major problems.

Six. Check your intuition. Your sense of intuition is there for a reason. It is especially valuable when you tap into your deep experience of life and you can sense when something is right. Or when it is wrong.

Seven. Lastly, When planning to do something first deliberate and then act. When overwhelmed, people can shoot from the hip and do themselves all kinds of damage. Think carefully first, especially when you have to make big decisions like whether to relocate or change your investments, or when deciding about family problems and there is pressure for you to act.

If you feel overwhelmed by your loss of grip in your retirement you may also want to listen to the podcast of The Art of Manliness where the show’s host Brett Mckay interviews Paul Napper and gets a wonderful overview of agency quoting passages from his book The Power of Agency Check it out

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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