And here is how to achieve it . . . .
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again and again… the first casualty in retirement is identity. One day you’re a nurse, police officer, manager, or business owner; the next, you’re a… I hesitate to say a ‘nobody’, but that is exactly how many retirees feel. How do I know? Because they tell me. And because I have felt those very feelings myself.
Who am I?
For most of us, what we do (engineer, cook, teacher…) forms part of who we are. The minute we retire and stop doing the ‘thing’ we do, our identity is compromised. To make matters worse, it’s likely that how we interact with the people who have always stabilised us changes too. Friends and colleagues may disappear along with the job, and there’s an inevitable shift in relationship dynamics at home. All of this makes us look at ourselves in a different way and question who exactly we are and what we have become.
Once our identity is compromised, our self-belief, self-esteem, and self-confidence follow. I often compare this process to a wooden staircase being attacked by termites. You can’t see the insects eating away at the insides of the once solid structure, but day by day, they erode it until it comes crashing down to form a heap of dust on the ground.
Losing self-belief and self-esteem for many retirees represents a slow descent into isolation, depression, loneliness, and despair. A state of mind it is very easy to enter but extremely hard to escape from.
To crash or not to crash?
That is the question. Identity and self-confidence are built up over the years. Every new experience, relationship, and challenge adds something to who you are and what you believe you can do.
So how, in retirement, do you hold on to your identity and self-belief?
How do you stop yourself from crashing down?
The answer is simple: by creating a new identity and finding a new purpose.
The execution, however, is not so simple.
Let me help
I retired early due to ill health; almost overnight, my identity was gone. It didn’t take long for my self-belief and self-esteem to follow. Slowly (and believe me, it was a slow process), I began to create a new beginning for myself – realising that I had thirty/forty years left to live. Now I use that experience to help others by guiding them ‘fast-track’ through what I learned.
The new identity tool kit
If you are to join me on this journey of discovery, there are two things you need:
- The desire to keep on learning, together with an understanding that when we are not learning or growing, we are dying.
- Courage – and lots of it. Your head will keep pulling you back into your comfort zone, and you will need all the strength you can muster to push yourself out of your cocoon.
A three-step process
My journey to a new beginning took many more than three simple steps, so please don’t take my words too literally! These steps are merely here to help you start your journey to a better future and guide you through what lies ahead…
- Firstly, you need to recognise that you can not stay where you are now, living the life you live today. And accept this.
- Secondly, you need to find someone to guide you through this process. I, of course, am very willing to help, but you need to do your own research and find a retirement coach or mentor who resonates with you.
- Then, you must seize the day. Tattoo ‘carpe diem’ across your mind. Take action, start the process and don’t, whatever you do, look back.
Avoiding the pitfalls of retirement – that loss of identity and self-belief – is not an easy process, but it is well worth the endeavour. It takes commitment and determination, but it can be achieved with the right mindset and people behind you.
I know that on my deathbed, I will have few regrets. If I’d stayed in my comfort zone when I retired all those years ago – playing golf, vacationing, and listening too intently to the debilitating thoughts in my head – I would, I’m sure, have many. Please get in touch to see how I can help to take that first important step.