Redefining Your Worth by Joanne Waldman
Retirement is more complex than just receiving the gold watch and going off into the sunset. One of the factors comprising a successful retirement is Work Reorientation- “The degree to which you have emotionally distanced yourself from taking your personal identity from work.”
In a lifetime, it is a natural process to disengage from work. However, it may be a very difficult process for those who primarily define themselves by their work or those who are “workaholics”. Redefining self without the benefit of a “title” is a frightening thought for many people. In social situations, and after an introduction, are you frequently asked, “ What do you do?” How will you answer that question once you are retired?
When you retire, it is necessary to shift your perspective from what you do to who you are. How can you move away from a definition of yourself based on your material accomplishments toward a growth definition of self? First, you could say that your worth is not your work and still recognize your worthiness. Next, learn to put yourself first in order to discover your true self.
The internal journey is not easy and takes time along with self-introspection to come up with a new self-definition. Utilizing the expertise of a retirement coach can be useful. At 64, Tim felt that he wanted to start looking at his retirement options. Although not yet ready to retire, he was a self-described workaholic and knew that he was not prepared to successfully retire while still so engrossed with his work.
He worked on getting to know himself again. Through written and verbal exercises and assessments, Tim spent time relearning and discovering his likes, dislikes, strengths and accomplishments. Then he began to design and set goals around his ideal retirement. He planned to phase into retirement by working full time for a couple more years and then gradually decreasing his workload. During that time, he planned to explore new leisure pursuits, decide where to live in retirement, and to enjoy his grandchildren. Tim committed to learning how to slow down and live life to its fullest.
The idea of a gradual slowdown worked well for Tim, as he could not see himself stopping work one day without a plan to follow. In addition, he found his new definition of himself to be very empowering. He had more energy to try on new roles, learn new things, and to pursue interests and dreams that had been lost in all those years of work.
Loss is a key element in all transition. In retirement, you may give up your role as a worker and redefine yourself from doing to being. Gradually accepting the loss and planning for retirement will make the transition easier for you.
So ask yourself these questions to see where you are in this process:
To what degree do you feel that you have emotionally distanced yourself from your career? How much do you see your work as defining who you are? And how much of your personal worth is tied up in your work? By answering these questions and exploring this issue, you are taking your first step toward your new retirement.
By Joanne Waldman
First published in The Saint Louis Post – Dispatch