I had a retirement coaching conversation with a fellow recently, which turned out to be refreshingly different than the kind I have with most. This gentleman is a serious mover and shaker in his industry, well known to many and highly respected by all who know him. In retirement, he wants to stay the same on the inside, but he wants to be different on the outside. By appearing differently on the outside, he hopes that others will engage with him in a different manner than they currently do. He just wants to be a normal guy, and he doesn’t want to be seen as “the boss” any longer.
In retirement, he wants to shed his work persona, and retire from his reputation. While he very much appreciates and is grateful for the status and the respect he is granted, he is poised to leave it all behind. He has a favourite charity where he has enjoyed a longstanding leadership role. His challenge is to figure out how to work quietly in this realm where he has long been regarded as the guru. In retirement he wants to lick the envelopes now, not the run the thing! He still wants to contribute to an industry that is extremely meaningful to him, but in a vastly different manner. He said he would like to be like a chameleon; be the same guy, with the same goals and values, just appear differently to people who know him only as “the boss”. My client’s goal is to shed the obvious trappings of being the boss; the status, the authority, and the decision-making so that he can work and be treated as a volunteer just like everyone else.
One of the keys to retirement lies in our ability to adapt to our environment. Be the same person and do many of the same things, perhaps just look a little differently doing them. Kind of like a chameleon.
The chameleon never stops being the same creature. The magic lies in its ability to be the same creature but change its appearance to enable or enhance survival. In retirement, we are still the same person. However, our happiness and ability to thrive depends on our ability to change some things about ourselves. Indeed, our goals and values might remain exactly the same, but the way we accomplish them can be different.
Retirement success requires adaptability. For some, the changes need to happen on the inside where values, goals and purpose are revisited. For others it might simply be an exterior adaptation. As in the case with this gentleman, he knows exactly what he wants to do with his life so that he will be engaged, happy and fulfilled. His adaptation is more of an outside job. He wants the world to engage with him as something other than the boss, and it is his challenge to find a way to get the world to see him a bit differently.
While some may be reluctant to change or want to stick with all that they know, the folks that will be happiest in retirement are the ones that embrace the unknown as a welcome change into their lives. A positive mental attitude goes a long way in preparing us for the dramatic changes that happen in retirement. All of this will depend on one’s ability to adapt. My client who has been the “boss” for so many years is focusing his attention on interacting with his fellow volunteers in a different way. It is his responsibility to teach others how he is different and how he would like to be regarded. As with many worthwhile things in life, it can be difficult. However, he is keenly aware that his happiness in retirement lies in his ability to show others who he is becoming.
Like many retirees, my client can learn a lot from the chameleon, a creature that has mastered the art of changing in response to its environment so that it can thrive. Kind of like what is needed for a successful retirement!