Fisher: Retirement? No problem
Vail CO, Colorado
“For years, I’ve been waiting to retire and now I’m not sure what to do with myself,” he confided. Frank retired six months ago. “At first it was great to be on my own schedule, but now it feels pointless. I’m no longer clear what my purpose is.”
“What was your purpose before you retired?” I asked.
“I was the breadwinner. As Mary and I raised our four children, I worked and she stayed home. Our philosophy was that no one loves your children like you do and will raise them the way you want them to be raised.”
“Tell me about being the ‘breadwinner’?” I said.
“Seeing my role in the family, being the breadwinner was important. I felt needed and purposeful. Even if it sometimes felt like a burden, I had to work. If I didn’t bring home a paycheck, I wouldn’t have upheld my part of the agreement and supported my family. I could easily see why I was working … because I financially supported our family.”
“What did it feel like to be needed and purposeful?” I asked.
“I had a reason to get up each morning and go to work. It gave me the structure and determination to move forward.”
“If you were the breadwinner before retirement, how would you describe yourself now?” I asked.
“I’m not sure. Retirement seemed ideal. To be able to do whatever you want, whenever you want worked for a while, but it seems like there should be more. At 68, I have a lot of life left. I don’t want to feel like this for the next 30 years!” He said.
“You mentioned that work helped give you structure and kept you determined to move forward. Tell me about that,” I said.
“I was expected to go to work each day and was also given performance goals every year. I felt challenged and useful. I had a reason for being there. I felt purposeful.”
“Now that you are retired, where do you feel purposeful and what goals are you striving to reach?”
“That’s the problem. I don’t know what I’m doing now. I have no goals,” he said.
“During your working years, what were some of the activities and hobbies you postponed because you were too busy? Go back in your mind 20 years. What you’d have liked to be doing if you had had more time?” I asked.
“Twenty years ago I was in my prime. I was climbing the corporate ladder and supporting my family. I remember being really busy and having to put my interests on hold.” He paused, thinking. “At one point, I wanted to learn Spanish and travel to Mexico with our church to visit villages in Mexico and provide food and medical services. But between all of the kids’ activities, I had too much going on to think about helping people in Mexico.”
He paused as an idea came into his head. “I never pursued learning Spanish because the timing wasn’t right … but maybe it is now. I had forgotten how much I wanted to do that.”
His voice changed. It held new life and the whisper of possibility.
“If you were the breadwinner before, how could you describe yourself now?” I asked.
“I am the student, the philanthropist and a traveler. There must be a Spanish class that I can take and I will find out what programs are available to travel to Mexico to help,” he said.
Before I could ask he added, “I’ll bring back information for both of these activities the next time we meet.”
As he spoke, I heard a new determination in his voice. He had once again found the structure and purpose he needed to move forward.
Coaching Challenge: If you haven’t thought about your purpose for a while, you may be coasting through life. What’s there for you when you are coasting? What does it feel like to be purposeful? Spend 30 minutes writing about your purpose.
Start with, “The reason I am here is to ______.” If it’s easier, find a word that describes the role you are playing in your life right now (breadwinner, traveler, parent, etc.) Once you find your purpose or main role, identify two action steps to help you to better fulfill your purpose. Commit to taking these steps in the next month.
Sheri Fisher is a Life Coach who lives in Grand Junction. Her practice, Living On Purpose, focuses on personal and professional coaching. The situations and characters in her column are fictional to maintain client confidentiality. Sheri can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or for more information, visit http://www.coachwithsheri.com.
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