Five (5) Reflections on Retirement

I’m approaching one year into “early retirement” (12/31/2021) – wow 2022 – what a year! There were lots of changes – some expected, some less so. As I look back on the year, I offer these five (5) reflections on my 2022 “retirement” and look forward into 2023 and beyond.

Retirement reflections 2022
Check the map
Where did the time go? Let’s check the map.

Where did 2022 go?

It seems like just yesterday I was preparing for “early retirement” in December 2021 and, (best Forrest Gump impression here) just uh-like tha-ut, we’re approaching the end of 2022.

The year end is always a good time for reflection and preparation for the coming year so I’m offering some thoughts over my first year of “retirement” and a bit of a re-framing at the end.

Here are 5 reflections from my first year of “retirement”.

1. Slowing down is great – just don’t overdo it!

Newton’s first law of motion, “a body in motion stays in motion…”, isn’t just for physics – it’s also a great reminder to never get too “settled” at any point in your life. In fact, I found it great advice in early retirement. I have to admit, it was both freeing and a bit unnerving to be disconnected from a set schedule after having pretty regimented calendar throughout childhood, student, and working phases life. Before retiring, I read that the first few weeks or months of retirement may feel like a prolonged vacation. I embraced that advice and thoroughly enjoyed a couple months working through adjustments, getting better organized, and focusing on a number of things that I had neglected throughout my working career.

So, I knew that I was not going to simply “stop working” – but what would that actually look like? I didn’t immediately have the answer.

For me, the spark was returning to my former company as a part-time contractor after a few months away. I was able to help my former team with my knowledge and it was a great opportunity to see and work with friends for several more, “bonus”, months. It also served as a catalyst to get me out of ‘vacation mode’ and start the Mindring Consulting business that I had been thinking about for some time.

Road into mountains slow down to 30mph to make turn
Slow down – don’t stop
Zen man in a cardboard box
Zen man in a cardboard box

2. Proceed carefully into early retirement – especially if you’re an introvert.

If you’re entering early retirement your friends and family are likely continuing to work. While that may seem obvious, it did feel different than I expected. You’ll likely see this noted in other articles especially those on early retirement – just know that it may feel different than you were anticipating. When (if) you find yourself in that same situation – take a deep breath and know that it’s OK. Don’t let yourself get “boxed in” – get out there and meet new people, try things you didn’t have time for before, and enjoy owning your time! The great thing with owning your schedule is that you get to build new friendships and relationships (even if it takes you out of your comfort zone).

3. You own it (whether you like it or not)!

When you make the decision to retire – own it like a boss! I realized that many of my pre-retirement decisions were schedule driven and it was truly freeing to not have the rigid structure driving me “through the funnel” every day. I know I mentioned this earlier but it’s worth repeating, it did take some effort to adjust and own my schedule beyond just the “must do” list.

Speaking of the “must do” list, during my working life, on one side of the scales were the “have to do” tasks and on the other side were the “want to do” tasks. During parts of my career, the “have to do” (HTDs) side always seemed to be heavier and overflowing with new HTDs. This meant that the “want to dos” (WTDs) were out of balance – usually taking a much lower priority.

That may be a bit of over-simplification but I think most of you will get the visual and can relate to the feeling. I worked through the challenges throughout my career and it makes me thankful that, in retirement, I have a bit more control of my time which certainly helps balance the scales. Own every moment of your time – it is a gift.

"Own your story" spelled out on a red background
“Own your story” spelled out on a red background
Measuring time - tape measure draped over clock.
Time needs measuring too!

4. “Measure twice, Cut once” isn’t just for carpenters

One of my grandfathers was a carpenter and I remember him and my dad working on finishing parts of our house when I was very young. I can’t remember when the phrase “measure twice, cut once” was incorporated into my vocabulary but the point is something I’ve taken to heart with planning throughout my life. If you’re unfamiliar with the phrase the gist is that if you don’t start with a good plan, test it, and check it again for good measure before you get started – you may find yourself with “boards that don’t fit” and have to make adjustments costing far more than the time it would have taken to “measure”.

This measuring and testing approach applies directly to retirement planning. An accidental “cut” in the wrong place at the wrong time can take a long time to recover. I’m thankful that we took that time and effort given the big shifts in the financial markets this year. While some of my fondest memories are growing up in the 1980s, I did not anticipate, when planning for early retirement, that the decade would get such press in the financial media. If you didn’t notice, the 80’s have been mentioned a lot this year. Inflation? Let’s check out the chart from the ’80’s. Interest rates? Yep, the ’80’s has a chart for that too.

Fortunately we have a good plan and had stress tested it against past financial downturns especially the historically significant ones. I know we’ll see more rough times ahead and, with the help of our financial planners, we know that the percentages of success are on our side.

Being confident in your financial independence is, to me, the difference between continuing to work on the “want to do” list (and sleeping well at night in the process) and feeling the need to shift the scales to the “have to do” tasks , taking all the priority and energy (due to lack of confidence in or failure of the plan). While we don’t know what the next year will bring we have confidence in the plan and our advisors that we’ll be able to weather the storm.

5. I highly recommend retirement (though there’s no such thing)

When I approached early-retirement, one thing that didn’t feel “right” was the word “retirement” itself. It was the proper word for the paperwork and the process but it still just didn’t seem to fit the feelings.

It wasn’t until late in 2022 that a fellow coach mentioned the word “ikigai” (eee-kee-guy). It was mentioned that there is no Japanese word related to “retiring from the workforce” and, instead, “ikigai” is practiced. I was intrigued and started to look into this new word/practice.

From the definition on Dictionary.com “ikigai” is “one’s reason for being, which in principle is the convergence of one’s personal passions, beliefs, values, and vocation“. Rather than diving deeper into the term, I’m including a relatively short (13 min) TED Talk that provides a little more information if you’re interested.

While I am still learning about the practice, I can relate to a number of the concepts including using the knowledge and skills attained throughout life but not being defined by them.

I remember family members lucky enough to reach retirement age speaking about “how we used to” do things and “back in my day” this is how things worked. There was a lot of looking backward at what defined them in their “working life” and less emphasis on their current life.

Ikigai flips that equation. Past accomplishments are still celebrated but it’s how those skills and knowledge are contributing to today’s story, tomorrow’s story, or a future story that’s the difference. At least that’s the path/interpretation that speaks to me most – continuing to build on my past accomplishments and helping people through coaching.

Ikigai spelled out on yellow background
Ikigai spelled out on yellow background
How to Ikigai YouTube TED talk explainer video

I don’t mean to imply that ikigai and work are incompatible. If you have found your purpose and passion in your work and balance with passions and priorities outside work – congratulations, keep up the great work. If not, find the path that will make you feel fulfilled both emotionally and monetarily. For me the term “ikigai” is a better description for what I’m practicing than “early-retirement”.

I see the new business, Career Coaching by Mindring Consulting, as a direct, tangible example of “ikigai” at work. Of all the responsibilities I had during my corporate career, working with staff, team members, and others to develop their own careers was truly, personally rewarding. Through the new career coaching business I get to use skills developed during my career to help you propel your career forward.

If career coaching sounds interesting (helping you reach the fulfillment and balance you’re looking for in your career or job) reach out to me via the contact us page or via email at info@mindringconsulting.com.

That’s a wrap on 2022 – I hope you found the information interesting and helpful. On behalf of Mindring Consulting, thank you all for reading the blog and providing feedback through social media channels (LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram). I wish everyone a happy new year and hope to talk to you, learn from you, and work with you in 2023!

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