Adjusting to Retirement: Embracing 3 New Mindsets

Rendering of brain illuminated to represent a change in mindset

Many of the mindsets that serve us during an intense career can become impediments as we embark on a new chapter, even one where we intend to be engaged and involved.

To start with, anyone with a demanding career has become habituated to reacting to the needs of others swiftly and automatically, which keeps the days filled with more than enough content. Similarly, we become acclimated to our status as an expert across most (if not all) areas of life—which explains the professional success. And speaking of success, most have probably taken the measure of their efforts according to how “successful” they are in the eyes of others, as evidenced by things like income, accolades, awards, and recognition.

I propose three mindset “shifts” that will make a dramatic difference to your ability to build an engaged and satisfying life after an intense career.

Mindset Shift #1: From Reactor to Creator

As a high-performing professional, your skill of “reacting” has been both crucial and well-honed. However, as you move beyond your career, the constant stream of inputs from clients and colleagues will diminish and then stop altogether. Unless you make a shift from “reactor” to “creator”, you might find yourself with an abundance of time on your hands as you wait for things to react to. When you shift to the “creator” of your life experience, it is you who sets the rhythms of your days, weeks, and years. It is you who chooses where you invest your energy and how you use the time you have each day.

Mindset Shift #2: From Expert to Student

You are a true expert in your professional life, not only in your substantive knowledge but also in the experience and the judgment you have developed. You are the master of your domain. As you consider options for the future, whether they involve new skills, new topics of interest, or new roles, you must embrace the mindset of the student—at least for a time. For example, if you decide to take piano lessons, do not rate yourself as a “pianist” but rather as a “student of the piano.”  In time, expertise will come, but if you set the wrong expectation at the start of something new, you might find yourself quitting before you give it a fair chance.

Shift #3: From Success to Usefulness

This important shift can be summed up in one easy-to-remember phrase: it’s not about you. Success as a concept is generally about what the world thinks of you.  You have already achieved abundant success.  Now is the time to flip the equation or abandon it completely. Being useful is about your own assessment of the contribution you make. Instead of asking, “Am I successful?” ask, “Is what I’m doing useful in some way?”

If the answer is yes, that’s enough.

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