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As a retirement coach I help people with their emotional (non-financial) journey to a fulfilling retired life. The definition of a ‘fulfilling retired life’ is very personal, which means it can’t be defined by a checklist.
That is where a coach steps in. There is no preaching, telling or even advising. Instead there is listening with open respect to a client’s story with a view to helping them find their own path to fulfilment in retirement.
I find that in my work with clients there are four useful perspectives, or approaches, to take. Usually all four will enter the conversation, but at different times. They are:
These engage the client in achieving the end goal of the retirement coaching work, which is to help the client discover their meaning and purpose in retired life. They were probably very clear about their purpose during their working life.
We might like to think that we are very rational creatures but, generally speaking, emotions rule our lives. Do we support a football team or marry our partner because we followed a logical pathway to that decision? Probably not. So what about the emotions of a retired or soon-to-retire person?
I think retired people may realise that work was a place where they felt included, but retirement can make them feel left out. This is because work is usually a place with a culture that accommodates employees, in some way.
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As part of the retirement planning process, it’s a good idea to think about this. In addition, underneath this emotion of feeling excluded there is usually a need (we will meet needs later in the article), such as the need to be respected, to be relevant, or to meaningfully connect with people.
The identification of such a need, which is not simple, can lead to very practical outcomes for the client. For example, finding an activity or a hobby that leads to joining a club or a class.
Self-talk is the way we interpret and think through our actions, and how we tell stories to others. Some examples may be:
- I am a better driver than most people
- I could never speak in public; I get too nervous
- I should have her job; I am much more experienced
Often our self-talk is riddled with contradictions, doesn’t fit the available evidence from our lives, and holds us back from achieving our goals. Coaching is a platform and a safe space that permits the client to question their self-talk.
Here is an example. A client might express a wish to learn to paint. Not surprisingly, the client’s self-talk is negative: I am no Leonardo da Vinci. But there is another way to think about this. It may be that painting will give them pleasure while broadening their social lives. It’s at that point the self-talk turns positive and enables them to move forward with this activity.
A life of work obliges us to be busy and, importantly, to be seen to be busy. Retired life doesn’t make that demand, yet many people export that busyness into their retired lifestyle. There’s nothing wrong with that. You can adopt grandparent duties, sit on committees or carry out endless charitable endeavours. However, that kind of busyness can raise a red flag if:
- It is not connected to your meaning and purpose. It may be the case that you are sitting on a board of directors because it fell into your lap but, if it doesn’t integrate with your purpose in retired life, you are not allocating your time and energy in the best way
- It is in the service of other people’s wishes and opinions. Picking up grandkids from school may be helping your own child more than it is you and, if so, could lead to you feeling resentment.
A retirement coach can help you identify a red flag and then analyse it in order to eliminate it.
Meaning or purpose in retired life is the base of the pyramid of retirement coaching. This is also where the client’s needs can be identified and worked through. What do we mean by ‘needs’ in this context?
As an example, many of us have a need to belong to a social network, community or neighbourhood. However, we all interpret this need in different ways and with varying degrees of importance and urgency.
The reader may raise an objection here by asking: Don’t I know myself well enough to decide how important a need like this really is?
Well yes. But, as it turns out, this is a pretty baggy sack of issues to work through and prioritise, and early retirees can find it very worthwhile to get an experienced retirement coach to help them develop their response.
An example will clarify; one that we met before in the section on emotions. I frequently meet clients who have recently concluded a high-profile career, yet it hasn’t occurred to them that they may be suffering RDS – relevance deprivation syndrome. In other words, they have a need – carried over from their work life – to be important to others. To resolve this they can either satisfy that need or adapt to living without it, but to be made aware of it is already a step in the right direction.
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Understanding your emotions, self-talk, behaviour and needs will help you discover your meaning and purpose in retired life. If this feels overwhelming or if you think you could benefit from professional support, a retirement coach can guide you through the process.
Dr Jon Glass is a retirement coach. More information and contact details can be found at 64PLUS.com.au.