Retirement ain't all it's cracked up to be

I retired in my early 50’s and found it to be quite challenging. Although I wanted to and did all of those things people want to do when they retire, it wasn’t enough. I renovated an old house, travelled, read books, rode my bike, and volunteered. But it simply wasn’t enough to keep a retiree in very good health busy and happy. On average, a person lives 30 years after retiring and the majority of that time they experience good health. Filling thirty years with short term tasks is ultimately unsatisfying.

I started looking for more and as many do I looked at returning to the career I had when I retired. But that was not achievable mainly because of where I lived. The volunteering did not challenge me and I found myself rather lost.

I on a whim decided to become a yoga teacher, primarily for seniors. After taking several different types of training and teaching over 50’s classes, I began advanced yoga training. I chose a training regime that had a therapeutic focus and its theme was to provide life coaching within a yoga structure. We learned how to diagnose muscle and skeletal problems, how to pinpoint where people found themselves now and where they wanted to be with a variety of tools like surveys, meditation etc. We looked at lifestyle issues and helped them with goals to improve their health.

Each student in this advanced training picked a target market: the young women picked mums and bubs, others chose athletes, or people mid-career, or parents with teenagers while I chose recent or soon to be retirees. Taking this knowledge, I coached several individuals who were contemplating retirement.

One individual, I’ll call Linda, who worked in the education field, was in her mid-fifties and was definitely thinking about retirement. But she had no concrete plans but a lot of ideas floating around (of the travel, volunteer, read books type). We completed the coaching process and came up with a variety of ideas that Linda wanted to explore in more detail, a tentative time line, and a list of other professionals she would have to talk to implement her retirement.

Linda’s career was in education in a rather structured field but what the goal setting exercises did was point out how much she wanted to return to something she loved doing in her twenties. She wanted to return to a non-traditional method of healing. She wanted to move out of the city where she had lived the past 30 years, work on changing some lifestyle choices that she felt were not in her best interest, and continue in a limited way teaching one course she loved to teach. However the most important thing that Linda learned through the process was that even though she might want to retire she still needed to do something that gave her life a purpose and for her healing was that strong purpose.

Linda spent the next 6-18 months exploring the various elements of her plan: doing the yoga poses I designed to help with her muscular and skeletal weaknesses, exploring places to move to, and working on improving her health through lifestyle changes using traditional yogic methods like meditation. She started intensely studying the non-traditional healing methods she liked so much. These explorations confirmed some decisions in her plan while she discarded others. We developed a set of revised goals and a new timeline. I continued to be a sounding board and a participant in her forays into healing as she gained confidence and came to understand her strengths in this area.

Where is Linda today? She has reduced her long time position to half time and is slowly giving away parts of her responsibilities as she slowly sheds this career, including the course that she thought she would like to continue teaching. She has settled on a date to formally retire given her finances and other lifestyle changes.

She has made significant changes in her lifestyle: has become meat and dairy free, no longer drinks, and is quite physically active as she plans travel that involves significant physical challenges. She has decided that she is not interested in moving but will stay in the town where she has lived for many years.

But the most significant change is that Linda has opened a retail space and offers her healing services to the public. She has been very successful with this endeavour. She is very happy with the result and her ability to bring healing to people in non-traditional ways. She has developed a sufficient customer base to begin to expand her business.

I believe Linda’s retirement will be quite successful as she has chosen to do something she loves while also feeling that she has a meaningful purpose that reinforces her continuing need to contribute to her community.

My input into this was giving Linda the space, attention, tools and support to first develop, then implement these changes. Using the principles of yoga which is a system that nourishes the physical, mental and emotional elements of an individual which leads to a more satisfying life steered Linda to explore all of the elements of retirement, including her need to continue to be productive. Concentrating on specific tasks like travelling leads to an unproductive retirement because almost everyone at any age wants to have a purpose in life and to continue to contribute to their community.