Talking with a group of senior professionals last week, I reminded them of Logan Pearsall-Smith’s words, “There are two things to aim at in life, first to get what you want, and after that to enjoy it” and, equally importantly, that “Only the wisest of us achieves the second.”

It is all too easy with very busy lives to keep putting off thinking ahead but retirement shouldn’t be something you just stumble into. There are considerable risks if that is the approach you take.

Both our research and even more the work we have done with clients identify a wide range of different responses to retirement. Nonetheless, there are some common themes – we call them the ‘Unspoken Truths’:

  • Sense of potential loss – an often unacknowledged fear of the loss of status, power, influence, routine, sense of purpose and being part of a team.
  • Fear of the unknown – a common anxiety shared with us by many is “What will I do next? What am I qualified to do? How do I go about finding it?” “What will happen to the team I leave behind?”
  • Identity – many people are defined by their position within a business and have committed so much time to it that there is little room left for anything else. The loss of this identity should not be underestimated.
  • Fear of fear itself – “If I ignore this, it will just go away. I am too busy to think about it right now, I’ll get to it later in the year.”  Sadly, this tends to lead to greater anxiety about the transition as it looms closer and can damage the legacy when succession planning and client relationships are not proactively managed.

And yet, if planned for properly, retirement is an exciting opportunity.  You will be “time rich”, so why not make the time, the space, and the effort to explore and discover what you want to do, define what your options are and, critically, also work out the impact on those around you.

As William Bridges said, “Things change but people transition. It is not simply a model of replacing one thing with another.  Human beings need time to explore and investigate the new, then return to the familiar before venturing out again.  Slowly there is a feeling that the new is something safe.”

All too often we find people haven’t given themselves this time. They prioritise the needs of others or their firm right up until the point of retirement.  One of our research interviewees admitted, “I wish I had planned ahead more. I didn’t know programmes like yours existed. It took me three years of trial and error to realise that I should concentrate on doing what I want to do rather than what I felt I ought to.”

Having now worked in this area for more than 10 years we know that giving some time to explore who you are, what you REALLY want, and how you will  get there is critical.

If you want to be more in control, have greater clarity, and the confidence to create the life you want, please get in touch.

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