Some people approach retirement with the belief that they will figure it all out once they get there; they say they want to be spontaneous and flexible. Chances are these same people will feel overwhelmed and disoriented during the early months of retirement when the daily routine they had known for many years changes.
If you have developed goals for our retirement well in advance, you will be better able to cope with the psychological repercussions of retirement. You do not need to be locked into any of those goals; goals can be changed or modified as our life circumstances and desires change. Nevertheless, the exercise of setting goals can be very empowering and has been shown to result in greater life satisfaction. Goals give us a sense of direction and meaning, and as you achieve them, you feel a great sense of self-satisfaction.
When setting goals it is important to ensure that:
- the goal is important to you,
- it is within your power to make it happen,
- it is clearly defined, and
- it has a specific plan of action.
Once you have a vision of what you want your retirement to look like, you then need to set some goals for yourself based on that vision. What is it you need to have in place when the day comes when you work your last day of full-time employment? It might be helpful to look at four categories of goals:
- Health (e.g. have a complete physical, join a fitness club)
- Wealth (e.g. work with a financial expert to develop a financial plan)
- Personal development (e.g. take a creative writing course)
- Social development (e.g. contact non-profit agencies to see about doing volunteer work).
- Try to come up with at least three goals under each of these categories and write them down in your notebook.
- After you have written down your goals, think about two action steps you can take in the next short while. It is then a good idea to think through what might stop you from taking action, and what you might need to overcome that barrier. For example, you might decide to sign up for a creative writing course. You then take action and find out the local university offers a three-month program during the evenings. A possible barrier might be that you had already planned a long trip and might miss a few classes. Actions to overcome this barrier might be to call the professor and ask if there is a way to take make-up classes, explore on-line learning opportunities, or look into other programs the professor might recommend.
- Yogev, S. (2012). A Couple’s Guide To Happy Retirement: For Better or Worse (2nd ed). McGraw-Hill, NY.
- Qualls, S. & Abeles, N. (Eds.). (2002). Psychology and the aging revolution: How we adapt to longer life. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.
- Vaillant, G. (2002). Aging Well: Surprising Guideposts to a Happier Life. New York: Little, Brown and Company.
- Participating in activities you enjoy. National Institute on Aging. Retrieved October 1, 1, 2018 from: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/participating-activities-you-enjoy.
- Cornwell B, et al. The social connectedness of older adults: A national profile. American Sociological Review. 2008; 73:185.