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  • Larry Gard

Retirement vs. Summer Vacation

The other evening, I ran into my friend Peter who I hadn’t seen in some time. He seemed relaxed and contented, and he informed me that he retired last year. We chatted about his various pursuits since exiting work. Peter told me about a colleague of his at his old company. This gentleman was apprehensive about his own retirement, fearing he would feel aimless and bored. Seeking reassurance, he phoned frequently during Peter’s first few months of retirement to ask, “what are you doing?”

Many late career professionals I speak with describe a similar uneasiness about retirement. They’re not confident that they’ll find truly meaningful, satisfying things to occupy their time. Many of them say they have few if any hobbies or interests other than work. On further examination, this isn’t always the case. Their work feels so compelling to them because that’s where their focus is. In truth, they actually do have other interests, it’s just that they’re not spending any time engaged in them let alone enjoying them.

When speaking with these clients, I try to get a sense of which aspects of work are the most satisfying for them and which they believe they would miss the most. Do they like having an established routine, leading a team, solving problems, etc.? We keep these things in mind as we brainstorm about alternate avocations and activities. There’s also the option to add in psychological assessments to identify potential interests and how those might mesh with their personality style.

I’ll sometimes ask these people to describe their best and worst summers off from school as a kid. The point of this exercise is to help them see that they managed to survive the worst summers, and they found pleasure in the best ones. I remind them that although they’re 45 or 50 years older now, they haven’t lost the ability to adapt to extended down time. They’re simply not used to doing so. Some of you might say I’m comparing apples to oranges. It’s true that retirement might be exponentially longer than summer vacation, but to a 10-year-old facing months away from school, it feels like an eternity!

Filling up all those months and years may seem daunting, but don’t underestimate your capacity to craft a fulfilling next chapter. Coaching can help you discover interests that have been dormant, and develop a plan to pursue them.

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