Are you ready to unretire? 6 tips for embracing your later career years

My life was frenetic! I loved my career and really felt I was making a difference. But then the pressures of being in highly stressful jobs over many years got to me.

I decided I would transition to a more balanced lifestyle, and enter the world of the “great unretirement”, concentrating on what really mattered to me.

I honestly thought I had prepared myself well. However, as we all know, life is messy and complex and throws curveballs at us when we least expect it!  

I took a holiday to celebrate my new life. Then I got back home and suddenly fell in a heap.

It was so weird! I thought I had left my main source of stress behind, but I felt filled with anxiety and so directionless, like a ship without a rudder.

I even began to feel lonely even though I wasn’t alone.

That was 2 years ago, and I can tell you I’m feeling great now. I love what I do and I’m excited about the future.

So how did I go from being in a terrible place to feeling so energised and fulfilled?

Before I tell you how, have you heard of the “great unretirement”? 

This is an increasingly popular trend worldwide where people over the age of 55 go back to the workforce after having retired.

A report by the USA Aegon Center for Longevity and Retirement found that 72% of workers plan to continue working past the age of 65, with 43% saying they will work part-time and 29% saying they will work full- time.

They may have missed, the connection with colleagues, the intellectual stimulation the sense of belonging and of being part of something greater than themselves.

They may need to go back out of necessity for financial reasons or they may just need more meaning in their lives.

As humans, we crave a sense of purpose and meaning. We want to feel like our existence is not only significant but also fulfilling. This sense of purpose is important at all stages of life,

Research has shown that if you are living a life with purpose and meaning, you can live 7.5 years longer.

Many people take the 3 G’s approach to retirement, Grandchildren, Gardening and Golf.  And of course, that’s great, but it’s not for everyone.

So, how did I go from falling in a heap to feeling energised and excited about the future?

Here are my powerful life lessons.

1) Cultivate a growth mindset

A growth mindset is the belief that one’s abilities and intelligence can be developed through hard work, dedication, and continuous learning. It is the opposite of a fixed mindset, which assumes that intelligence and abilities are static traits that cannot be improved.

By adopting a growth mindset, we are more likely to take on new challenges, learn from failures, and persist through setbacks.

People who tend towards a fixed mindset believe that basic qualities like their intelligence, their skills and their talents are fixed traits.

People who lean towards a growth mindset, see personality traits and abilities as malleable. They believe that even basic qualities can be developed through hard work and practice.

In this day of longevity, we all need to change our mindset of what it is to retire or age. We can be fixed, or we can have a growth mindset and be more flexible with our goals.

Having a growth mindset means we are more open to new ideas, approaches, and perspectives, and willing to adjust our plans and strategies as we need to, knowing that having purpose and meaning is key to a more fulfilling life.

2) Plan, plan, plan

Articulating your purpose and meaning, and having conscious goals to work towards, creates energy for change. Often goals change. However, being clear about your purpose and setting and pursuing goals at any stage of your life, puts you on a deliberate pathway to a more fulfilling life.

You are challenging yourself, making use of your inner resources and the wisdom you have gained over many years.

However, to be clear about what it is you want, you need to take some time to reflect on your life as it is, the good and the bad, and your dreams for the future.

Writing in a personal journal can help with this. It can be like having a one-on-one conversation with yourself. Click here to learn more about journaling.

In your preparation, the aim is to end up with an action plan with specific goals, strategies and actions aligned to your purpose and meaning.

If you are going through major change and want help with planning for your future, click here to learn about my online course, Life Journal. There are lots of activities to help you develop your personal vision and your pathway to it.

Along the way, you will learn so much more about yourself. You will also learn to journal if you haven’t done this before. It’s such a powerful, life-changing habit to cultivate.

3) Stay open to new opportunities

It’s important to stay open to new opportunities and possibilities. This may include exploring new hobbies or interests, volunteering, traveling and living in different parts of the world, or even pursuing a second career in a completely different field.

Being open to new experiences and keeping on learning and growing can help you make the most of your retirement years, no matter how you choose to spend them.

4) Keep your skills and knowledge up to date

It’s a good idea to stay engaged in your field or industry. This can include staying up-to-date on new technologies or industry developments, networking with colleagues, or even taking courses to continue learning. This will help you be better prepared if you decide to return to work in some capacity down the road.

 5) Consider part-time or flexible work options

 If you do plan to continue working in retirement, consider part-time or flexible work options. This can help you balance work and leisure time, and may also help you stay healthier and happier as you age.

Going from full-time to part time work is a gentler transition to retirement and in fact you may even end up staying longer in the workforce than you intended, because you have more freedom and flexibility.

6) Become more self-aware and mindful

There is no doubt whether your retirement is voluntary or involuntary, the ending comes with a form of grief and uncertainty and there is a grieving process.

It is good to familiarize yourself with the 6 different stages of grief of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance and meaning. Understanding why you are feeling the way you do really does help.

During this time, be prepared for any ingrained habits and thought patterns that lead to anxiety and stress to amplify and exacerbate. Preparing yourself emotionally to ensure a smoother transition is key here. I can’t emphasize this more strongly. 

We are emotional beings and learning to be more mindful about our range of emotions as we go through this major change is key. I thought I had but clearly nowhere near enough!

Going through a major transition no matter how prepared you are is an opportunity to learn more about yourself, about your patterns of behavior, particularly when under stress.

It is a catalyst for change. It is an opportunity to dig deeper and reflect on really what is the underlying reason for your stress and anxiety. You may be surprised at what really comes out!

To sum up, it’s important to remember that everyone’s retirement or unretirement journey is unique, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach.  

What is important is that whatever you do you have a sense of purpose and belonging and contribute to something bigger than yourself

By spending time on planning your future, staying open to new opportunities, keeping your skills up to date, and preparing for a longer retirement in this time of longevity, you can make the most of your retirement years, no matter how you choose to spend them.

So, whatever you decide to do remember that this stage of your life is what you make of it. You can keep learning, growing and evolving, and the possibilities are endless.

Good luck with the next chapter of your life!

Watch my video below to hear more about my story and my powerful life hacks!

Jeanette Brown

I have been in Education as a teacher, career coach and executive manager over many years.
I'm also an experienced coach who is passionate about supporting people in finding real meaning and purpose in their lives, building a resilient, grounded inner self and achieving their desired goals.

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