Setting Life Goals for Retirement
By Marie Langworthy, NABBW’s Transforming Retirement Associate
“What!?” you exclaim? Goals? I’m through with goals. During my entire work career, I needed to be focused on establishing goals – so much so that I determined that my only goal in retirement would be to not have any goals!
Perhaps you need to rethink your strategy. McLain & Lovejoy, in their March 2015 article, “The Importance of Goal Setting for Retirees,” remark, “The first step to goal setting as a retiree is to think about what matters most in your life, so that you can live with purpose.” In fact, setting retirement goals can help retirees stave off some of the negative effects of aging and help maintain quality of life for longer.
So, if you’re willing to revisit your aversity toward goal setting in retirement, let’s start with one of life’s most important and meaningful realities – family. Until now, your work life consisted of a challenging juggling act, attempting to balance family demands with those of your career or job. Now you have the opportunity to re-negotiate your allotment of time according to your own values. How about putting a high priority on spending time with both immediate and remote family members — either through personal one-on-one time or through social media?
Yes, the family dog needs to be walked; the grandchildren can be taken on those special field trips that create lasting memories; you now have the time to plan that special, unique birthday event for your partner or children, instead of merely mailing that predictable birthday card! And don’t forget your parents – those special people who were responsible in large measure for your life’s success. Chances are they would welcome a weekly breakfast date.
And what about your personal mental development? In their October 2010 article, “Mental Retirement,” Rohwedder & Willis state that, “For many people retirement leads to a less stimulating daily environment. In addition, the prospect of retirement reduces the incentive to engage in mentally stimulating activities.”
The authors continue to point out that retirees can stave off the decline of reasoning ability and speed of mental processing by engaging in cognitively demanding activities that exercise the mind.
So , if you follow the mantra “use it or lose it,” then yes, join that local book club that does a progressive lunch after each meeting; introduce yourself to that bridge group that always seems to be having fun; hone your Sudoku skills by challenging the virtual friends you’ve met on-line; take that gardening course that’s so popular at your local community college; better still, offer to teach a workshop on The History of Rock ‘n Roll – a topic that has consumed you since you were a teen. Not only do these activities sharpen and enrich your mind – they also provide surprisingly satisfying social connections.
If you’ve always believed that it’s a toss-up who benefits the most in any altruistic endeavor – the recipient or the giver, you’ll find ample opportunity to give back to your community by volunteering your time, talents, or material resources for commendable causes, while simultaneously stimulating your mind. Offer to tutor kids within your local school district. Or any number of Boomers would welcome your help in tax preparation. If you live in the city, your local museum, theatre, or hospital would eagerly embrace your offer to volunteer your time and talents, and in return, imagine what you would learn in the process in any one of these venues. Hence the paradox – “The more you give, the more you get.”
Your travel choices are legion. Go on your own and explore every nook and cranny of your chosen destination at your leisure. Choose an organized tour and leave all the details and decision-making to your favorite travel organization. Whatever option you choose, you will need to weigh its pros and cons, but without a doubt, you will find your travel choice to be invigorating, enriching, even in many cases, life changing. Travel takes you out of your comfort zone, challenges your traditional ideas, allows you to experience new cultures, and unwittingly or otherwise, opens new windows of self-discovery.
The first time I stood at the foot of a waterfall in a small Swiss hamlet, the lump in my throat revealed so many mixed emotions – that I could never share this moment in its fulness with the folks back home, that there are, in fact, many awesome destinations beyond the USA, that I will forever be changed for the better by my first trip to Europe.
Without work — or goals to replace the purpose that work gives you — you have little to keep you motivated. However, you are now in the enviable position of being able to completely revisit and renegotiate your “work terms.” Step back and “aim, aim, aim” before you fire. Consciously and reflectively determine your target. Are you going to continue to do the same type of work you did pre-retirement? Full or part time? Or are you going to pursue a totally different “work” avenue – one that fulfills a latent talent or an interest. Perhaps you’re thinking of venturing into the world of entrepreneurship — instead of having a boss, being the boss. It’s your choice.
Yes, now that you’re retired, you have the luxury of setting goals that are meaningful to you, driven by your definition of “a life well lived.” Whether these goals revolve around family, personal self-development, giving to others – or a combination of all three – they promise to hold you in good stead as your enter your life’s last, and hopefully best opus.
Marie Langworthy’s retirement well-lived is her best sales pitch for her co-authored book, Shifting Gears to Your Life and Work After Retirement: Second Edition. In her current retirement career, she is fulfilling her long-held compulsion to write.
Her new work takes the form of writing books, blogs and copy for client web sites. Marie is living proof that you can realize your dream job after retiring. But you need to do more than wish for it; you must will it to happen. Her mantra – “You think it – I write it!