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Seven Tools for Finding a New ‘You’ in Retirement

April 10, 2014 | by Natalie Caine | 5 Comments

wsj-7toolsAs one of the Wall Street Journal Experts, Natalie’s blog was originally published at

NATALIE CAINE: I was hiking uphill, early this morning, and met a woman on the path. We briefly chatted. As I continued my hike, I heard her voice in my head, “I am 76 and started hiking at 62. It makes life worth it. This summer, I am going to try biking at the beach.” Now she becomes a role model for me and gets me excited about possibilities.

I think when you are heading toward retirement or sitting in it, you can practice shifting the different voices in your head. For example, there’s the voice from your younger self that you hear, “Oh man, you are 40, that is really old”–and, of course, you are way past that age now and don’t feel old. Or there are the voices you hear in present time, such as, “I will be so bored after a few months and my life will just be invisible.”

Your new job is to hear those inner messages and make choices. “No, I am not 40 and I am not feeling old” or “Yes, I might have boring days and I can figure out what I want to do about that.”

Changes can give you a new view of you. You are in the unknown and that can be both exciting and terrifying. Delete the need to compare yourself to others.

Here are a few tools:

  1. What new meaning, beyond being the worker bee, is possible for you? (For example, being a positive role model.)
  2. Who within had to go dormant because of your work life that now wants to emerge? (For example, the artist, the sailor, the chef.)
  3. What new resources do you want to cultivate in your inner world and outer world in order to head in a direction that makes you happy? (For example, spiritual practices and taking a class.)
  4. Remind yourself you get to change your mind. When you know that, you will make fun choices.
  5. Believe in yourself. I know that sounds ridiculous and I also know you forget to be a best friend to you. You have never been at this crossroad of your life, so how can you have all of the maps together?
  6. Accept that your life will have challenges and joys. Savor the moments. Ask for help.
  7. Check in with your expectations, “Oh I should have more friends than I do. Oh, I should figure it all out before hand.”

Your new chapter, called “Me beyond work life,” is fed by exploring what really matters to you now. Health, family, friends, creativity, spontaneity, joy, spirituality, etc. You can have more than one and you can change your mind. Life continues to be a journey, not a one-answer response. You get to be the role model you want to be. If you have people who motivate you, as far as how enriching their lives continue to be after retirement, post them on your refrigerator, even if it is their name.

Today on my refrigerator is the name of the woman (Katherine) who I met on my hike, along with a big happy face.

5 Responses

  1. kathy says:

    help…im 57, and empty nester and I have no idea what to do..i have not many friends, im at home and im going crazy

  2. Linda says:

    My one daughter is now living 900 miles away, I am 65 and scared to retire from teaching….what will I do? I’m single now and “on paper” I should be okay as far as finances, but I am afraid everything I own will breakdown as soon as I retire!! I don’t know what to do!

  3. Ellen says:

    Linda, i wouldn’t retire. My work is what saves me.

  4. Ellen says:

    Does anyone live in Central NJ? I would love to form a support group.

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Natalie Caine, M.A.