Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Nothing to Prove, Happiness to Gain

Retirement grants us permission to do whatever we want with our time, energy, and resources. 

Before retirement, the next rung has driven us up the career ladder. We've added degrees to our name. We've built an impressive resume. We've done everything that we're supposed to do to prove to the world and to ourselves that we're ambitious, intelligent, and capable of soaring to great heights in our chosen occupations.

Congratulations! We made it!

Now what?

Career theorists suggest that matching our skills, interests, and/or self-image with a career is how to go about choosing a career path. According to self-image theories, you choose a career path that fits with how you see yourself. The foundation for this theory begins at a young age.

I remember having a discussion with my son, Steven, when he was 12. On the drive home from a Little League tournament he described in detail what a day of work looked like, including what he was wearing, how his office was decorated, whom he was meeting after work and what they were going to do. At the end of his story, he turned to me and said, "So Mom, what am I doing all day?"

I'm happy to report that 13 years later, Steven is living the image that he described in detail on that drive home. He's working in NYC's financial district, wears a suit to work on most days, and meets up with friends for drinks or a game of basketball after work. The job fits with how he perceives himself, his self-image.

Many of us have been successful in our careers because the role and responsibilities fit our self-image. The self-image theory worked for us. But beware, it may not work so well when deciding how we want to live in retirement. When it comes to retirement, we may need to give ourselves permission to do something because it's fun or different or challenging, and hopefully all three.

I'm thinking about getting a part-time job in a bakery. I know that I don't need a Ph.D. to bake delectable chocolate chip cookies. I worked really hard to earn a doctorate degree, but will I keep myself from doing something that I believe I'll enjoy because I'm too educated, too professional, or too something to do it? If so, I'll miss out on what may bring enjoyment and pleasure to my life.

When you think about what you'd like to do in retirement, complete the following questions:

I'm too educated to do _________.

I need to be paid too much money to be able to do __________.

But, when I think about what I'd like to do, what looks like fun, I'd like to try _________.

Now is the time to give yourself permission to have fun, to experiment, to say yes to something that you couldn't do when your career and reputation were on the line. You have nothing to prove and happiness to gain. Step over the line and create your own definition of retirement success.

Copyright 2015 Patrice Jenkins All Rights Reserved.

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