Life Seasons: Retirement or Redirection?

According to his running tracker, my beloved’s running shoes have hit retirement time.

Looking at the actual shoes, they still have a lot of wear left – but they should have been retired eight kilometres ago.

Running in the right shoes ensures the mid-soles are well cushioned, ankles, knees and hips are well supported and the runner has good balance. For someone who runs several marathons in a year, these shoes, though they still have a lot of wear left, need to be replaced. That is not to mean they will not be worn again; they are still in the game, just a different game, with a different purpose and a different pace. They will be redirected.

When I saw that shoe message and the picture of the shoes in question, I thought about retirement from work. For many people, retirement age – 60 or 65, depending on who the employer is – finds them strong and with plenty to offer. Like that shoe, someone else might decide that you have done your time, but you might still feel that you have the juice to keep going. See the retirement age as a redirection age, and not necessarily a period. It is a time to redirect all that energy, experience and skills to the next place where it will be valued and bring you fulfilment.

While many people prepare for retirement, that preparation remains at the level of financial planning, which is critical, but not the only thing that one needs to plan for. Have you heard people say things like ‘the friends I had while I was in my position at work, I don’t see them anymore,’ or – my phone stopped ringing when I stopped working?’ Do not be too busy to build solid, genuine relationships with people in and outside of work – and with your family. Real friends are likely to make an effort to keep in touch with you wherever you are – and friendship is a two-way street so do your part to stay in touch.

The spiritual and psychological life post-retirement needs to be thought about as well. Do you have a community and plan for your spiritual nourishment and fellowship? If you plan to retire in a different location, is there a church community where you plan to move to?

The other important thing to consider is professional connection and networking. To redirect all that knowledge, experience and skill you have built over the years, you will need an outlet. Whether it is through mentoring others, serving on a board, doing consultancy work or volunteering – a professional network is a place to connect and engage with people in your areas of professional interest, and get information on opportunities available for using your skills.

Any form of change and/or transition has its own dynamics, and it is important to get as much support as one can to manage the transition. The emotional, mental, spiritual and social aspects of retirement must be planned for. The higher the degree to which one’s identity and significance are tied to their work, position or title, the more they will need professional support to define their identity and significance once they are no longer working in that capacity. Who are you apart from your job, title or position?

Organizations need to offer more rounded professional support to employees in preparation for their transition. Beyond pension funds and succession planning, there is an individual leaving your organization at the ripe age of 60 or 65, with plenty of knowledge, experience and skills – and years of living to go. How can you help him or her redirect that package and continue to make an impact?

Regardless of how far or close you are to the retirement age, it is never too early to start thinking about life after retirement. In fact, I would rather think about it as redirection, rather than retirement – because, what even is retirement?

The author is a leadership and career coach and director of Cogent Afrique Ltd.