As your career winds down and you inevitably look forward to your final day at work and the freedom that will be coming your way, you should also think about the emotions that come along with this major transition. Sure, there are the good emotions—a sense of freedom and a time to kick back and relax—but there are the emotions like anxiety and fear that can deeply affect your life.
Your retirement may be voluntary, or it may be mandatory based on your companies’ policies. Either way, this is probably the biggest life change you’ll go through. Like most people, you probably focused on the financial aspect of retirement, but maybe didn’t spend enough time on the non-financial aspects. Our research and analysis in focus groups have determined that there are three emotions to consider as you transition from busy work life to retirement.
First, there’s fear: The fear of losing your identity can be paralyzing. If you’ve been in the same company or role for 30 years or more, and that’s your brand, your professional status, your self-image, and your identity, then join the club.
It’s natural for entrepreneurs and executives who enter this time in their lives to feel fearful of losing their identity. Along with this fear comes the anxiety of what to do next. If you had a distinguished career, then this loss of identity can be traumatic.
2. Loss of Routine
The second emotion that usually comes with retirement is this loss of a routine. For your entire career, you had a reason to get up in the morning, and you knew what you would be doing from the time you woke up to the time you went to bed.
Some of the routines were probably automatic. You had to wake at a certain time to get to that meeting, another networking function, or straight to the office to lead your team. Maybe you were an early riser and went to the gym, planned out your day, spent time with your family, then made the journey out the door. The fact is that your routine gave you purpose, structure, and connected you to your daily life.
On Day 1 of retirement, when you don’t need to wake up for your day, it can be exhilarating, and you feel a huge relief that your responsibilities are less. After all, many people during their career have a mantra of "I can't wait until I can do nothing." But I’m here to tell you that feeling goes away rapidly shortly after retirement. Ask yourself honestly: How long can you actually do “nothing?”
3. Stress & Anxiety
Finally, there is the emotion that comes in hard and hits you head on with a big question: “What will I do all day?”
Besides no morning routine, your day now becomes free and as you look out through the week, you have 40 or more hours of new time that was eaten up with your career. Sure, you were able to fit in time for family, reading, leisure activities, and personal time, but even at maximum levels, these activities cannot expand to fill the 40 hours.
Not having a plan on how to fill this time can create stress and anxiety.
My launch into retirement was a slow transition. I gave notice 18 months’ before leaving. I wanted to make sure that my clients were taken care of, my legacy was intact, and my teammates were comfortable with me leaving. The good news was that this gave me plenty of time to think about the transition and to plan what I was going to do next. I will share more about this in the future. For now, I want to focus on my last day.
My Last Day at Work Before Retiring
I remember my count down. My last official day was December 31, 2018. That day fell on a Monday and New Year’s Eve, and I was going to be away for the weekend. So, my last day in the office was really Friday, December 28th. Keep in mind, that I had notified teammates, clients, and business associates for months, so it was no real surprise to anyone.
What was a surprise was how I felt on my last day and the emotions that came with it.
Our company had just moved space a month before due to a recent acquisition. In the last five years of my career, we grew from 23 people to nearly 80, so I was a part of some amazing growth, lots of great times, and plenty of hard work getting it done. Before the move, as the office was being designed, I told the office leader that took over for me that I didn’t need an office. I didn’t need a name on the door or any special treatment because I was leaving at the end of the year.
That last morning I strolled in around 9am. I said my greetings to all my friends and colleagues at work. I sat down at my cubicle (yes, my last month at work was in a cubicle…I ended where I started 38 years earlier) and wrote a goodbye email to my teammates, made a few phone calls, had lunch with a colleague, then sat back down in my cubicle one last time.
It was 2:30 and everyone was really busy trying to get work done for the weekend. I did a quick walk around the office trying to get in a few goodbyes, but it was not easy. Life had to go on, and they were either in meetings or on the phone.
After a few short chats, I turned my computer off for the last time, poked my head up over the cubicle wall, and decided now was the time. I saw our HR director on the way out, gave her my access card, and walked out the front door.
I walked down the long corridor towards the building atrium and made my way out into the vast parking lot to find my car. As I got in and sat down, I had a complete view of our building. It would be the last time that I had a reason to be here other than to visit friends. This was it, my grand exit after 38 years of building a business, leading teams, inspiring others, and building relationships that spanned four decades. Many emotions flooded my mind as I drove away from the building and away from a huge part of my life.
I don't know what your last day was like or will be like, but it still comes with emotions that we need to face and deal with. Lucky for me, during my 18-month transition, I slowed down at work a bit and found that I had more free time. What I learned from this is that I needed to have a purpose bigger than me to fill this time. Through my own research and self-reflection, I started my journey with markhamrollins.com.
The weekend was fun. I felt a huge sense of relief. After 38 years of hard work, I graduated to a life of retirement—that time when you get to do nothing. Well, I did nothing for the weekend and I enjoyed it.
The next week it started to sink in that this was not a vacation, and work would not be there in a few days. Lucky for me, I had a plan on what to do next.
If you are a few years out to retirement, start planning for this time in your life. We are all living longer and filling this time with meaningful work and having clarity takes some preparation and hard work. If you are already in retirement and struggling with what to do next, don't be fearful. There are solutions, and we’re building this business to help people like you navigate this journey.
If you’re interested in joining a community of like-minded people who are going through the exact same journey, consider this your official invitation.
Access our latest tools and teachings that will guide you to a Retirement Transformed. The first course is officially live, and we're ready to help you start your journey.