Category: Work and Purpose

Retirement: This One Thing Will Make it Truly Fulfilling

Retirement: This One Thing Will Make it Truly Fulfilling

How do you manage the change from the fast-paced, highly scheduled, and task-oriented work life to what could be the opposite in retirement? What can you do to live a rewarding retirement life without the structure that guided your work life? Many retirees feel lost and even depressed as they struggle to re-orient themselves in life’s blank canvas called retirement. Here is one solution to help those feeling a little adrift.


Build Your Own Personal Retirement Life Plan


Not a financial plan, a life plan. Your own personal plan for retirement life. How? Allow me to steal some proven practices for my strategic planning days and show you how to turn your personal dreams into action. Don’t roll your eyes yet!


First, Start with Your Dream


Most of us dream about the freedom of retirement. Some want to travel, some to relax, and we all relish the day without an alarm clock. That’s a start. I’m sure there’s more. I’m talking about a personal vision. A good vision provides clarity of your direction, your life purpose and of what’s important to you. It guides you to living the life you’ve imagined.


Your personal vision is your compass in your life.


How do You Create a Personal Vision?


The key word is “create”. It’s a creative process in the part of the brain that is visual. Expect it to be a bit fuzzy at first, difficult to articulate with words. It may help to draw your vision. Imagine your ideal life in retirement – your personal Next3rd.


What is your picture of your dream life in retirement?


Reflect on the life you’d like to lead in retirement. Where are you? Who is with you? What leisure activities or hobbies might you enjoy? What are you learning? How are you investing in your health? How will you help others? What relationships will you nurture? How will you grow personally and be in tune with your spirituality? What’s important to you? What hints of your life’s purpose are emerging?

Jot down some ideas or draw a sketch. Leave it for a while and let your subconscious percolate. Finetune and repeat. Write it down! A paragraph or a page – whatever works for you. Write your vision as descriptively as you can so that you can ‘see’ it in your mind’s eye. It’s OK to be vague. Over time, you’ll gain more clarity. Just get started! Remember, this is personal, you don’t have to share it, but do read it regularly.


Stuck? Think about what excited you as a kid. That’s part of who you really are.


Second, Set Personal Goals to Reach your Dream


Yes, I sound like a strategic planner. Can’t help it. This stuff works!

While your vision may be a little fuzzy, your goals become more specific. Read your personal vision and think of timelines. Within your vision, what would you like to achieve in one year? Three years? Five years? What can you accomplish to move closer to your ideal life?


Write 3-5 goals per time frame. Any more and success is less likely.


Preferably, your goals are measurable. You can see how you are progressing and adjust along the way. My one-year goals included hiking the Inca Trail. Easy to measure – completed or not! Sometimes goals require adjusting as life surprises us. Finetune them as you need. After an injury, I adjusted my ‘active’ goals to reading and learning goals.


Personal goals give you something to work toward and keep you focused on what’s most important.


Third, Put the Pedal to the Metal


Time for action! Look at your one-year goals and determine what you intend to do in the next 3 months to help you reach your personal goals. I like to give my one year goal a theme to provide some focus for my activities.  It may be helpful to plan your actions at the change of each season. You are creating your own personal action plan to accomplish your goals.


Write 2-3 actions per goal to complete for the next 3 months/season and ‘tactics’ of how to complete them.


For my Inca Trail goal, I wanted to be in top physical shape and so my ‘tactic’ was to join a gym and hire a personal trainer. Check! Repeat this process of setting new intentions toward your annual goals every season. Watch how your life’s dream becomes clearer and closer to reality! You have something to look forward to in each season.


Seasonal action planning fires momentum toward your personal vision and brings focus and intention to your daily life!


Finally, Review, Reflect, Repeat!


Congratulations! You’ve developed your personal retirement life plan! Keep it alive and relevant by reviewing it frequently. I try to read mine every day and let it guide my weekly To Do list.  This truly helps me live an intentioned life. Reflect on your progress, goals and personal vision. What have you learned about yourself? Do you want to finetune anything?


As time goes on, your priorities may change, and that’s perfectly OK!


Repeat the process of annual goal-setting and seasonal action-planning and soon it will be a natural rhythm in your retirement life. A rhythm that gives you meaning, some structure, and direction. A fulfilling life is one where our actions and thoughts nourish and sustain our life’s dream!


“You are never too old to set another goal or dream a new dream.” – C.S. Lewis


Care to share?

How This Career-Focused Woman Found Purpose in Retirement

How This Career-Focused Woman Found Purpose in Retirement

She is a trailblazer figuratively and literally.  Fully engaged in her career and one of few women at the senior level of her industry, she made a choice that unknowingly changed her way of life.  How did she manage to switch from an intense, but fulfilling career to a relaxed and rewarding retirement?


Janet 3.0

Janet is an engineering classmate of mine.  Intelligent, driven, and, as with many women engineers of our vintage, a trailblazer in her career.  She loved her work, and as she rose through the ranks to the executive level, her career became all-consuming.  She didn’t mind.  When she declined an offer to move, her first career, Janet 1.0, ended at age 50.

Version 2 of Janet emerged six months later. She took the time to reflect, sought out the help of a career councilor, and despite several opportunities for more full-time work, decided she wanted to do something different and on her own terms.   Consulting, a dog and the beginnings of her volunteer contribution ensued.

“Don’t leap in too quickly.  Take the time to reflect about your interests and goals.”


Her new-found freedom and flexibility gave her opportunities to build new tribes.  She sought out volunteer organizations that aligned with her interests and offered to help.  All she knew is that she wanted to do something for the environment.  One opportunity, led to another and soon, Janet had a whole new network of interesting, engaged people.  “I went from a tribe of geeky male engineers to a tribe of geeky citizen naturalists” she says with a chuckle.

“You can’t sit at home and wait for an opportunity to come to you.  You have to make yourself available to the possible.”


Enter Janet 3.0.  Over time she was invited, nominated, and/or recommended to fill various volunteer roles, usually in a leadership capacity. “I have created almost full-time work for myself, just not paid.”  As she gained experience in the volunteer world, her purpose crystallized.  Janet’s mission is to protect and improve the green-space around Ottawa. She applies her skills, sometimes her own finances, engages her network and remains open to new opportunities to fulfill her purpose … with success!  “It’s very rewarding.”

“I hate the word retirement.  I see it as version 3 –  another life phase of action.”


Navigating the Volunteer World

Janet offers good advice when it comes to getting involved as a volunteer.  “The best place to start is with a group in an area that you are interested in”.  Offer to help. It could be as simple as manning a desk or clearing a trail. Even better, if you have skills the organization needs.  Janet could offer project management and leadership experience.  Try out the organization and give it some time. If its not quite right, try another one.  Diversify. “Have 2 or 3 irons in the fire.”

“First you are an outsider, and then you are gradually accepted into a new network of people. The more people you meet, the more useful, knowledgeable, and effective you become.”


Volunteer organizations are different than work, Janet reminds us. There is no hierarchy, no boss.  People are there by choice and interest and have different skills and opinions.  It requires a different way to draw upon people’s skills and passions than in the workplace. Volunteer leadership is more like people coordination. “I ended up in leadership positions in almost everything. That’s just me.”


Get to Know Your Councillor

If you’d like to get involved with your community, it will likely have a community association and that is a key link to your municipal Councillor. A volunteer project is likely to have better success with the support of your Councillor. A Councillor can open doors to more tribes too.

“Having your Councillor know who you are and know that you are a contributor to the community is helpful.  They can recommend you or nominate you for various organizations.”


Be Open

Janet’s retirement (even though she hates that term) is more than she imagined.  Her involvement with various stewardship and community organizations brought new opportunities, expanded her social circles and helped forge a new purpose. She didn’t plan to be chair of this organization or citizen rep of that, but she was open to the opportunities. She’s making a difference.

“You have to put yourself out there, be open and flexible and seize opportunities as they present themselves.”


Words of Wisdom

Have kind of an idea of where you want to go or be, in the sense of being.  What is your goal?  Then, open yourself up to a whole bunch of possibilities by putting yourself out there.  Everybody chooses a different way.”

Care to share?

Retirement: One Trait Needed to Live the Life You Dreamed

Retirement: One Trait Needed to Live the Life You Dreamed

There is one trait you will want to embrace that will make the difference between a listless retirement and one that fulfills you.  It’s a skill you likely practiced daily in your work career, but may have lost the opportunity to do so in retirement.  It marks the difference between the ‘old’ retirement – that of the rocking chair life, and the new retirement which is as unique as you.


 Lost Opportunity

At work we had the opportunity in some way to take charge of our tasks, our schedule, our day to varying degrees.  How you formulate your presentations, how you finesse your sales pitch, or how you solve the problem of the day. You find a way to apply your uniqueness in carrying out your role at work.

In retirement, we lose the opportunity, not the skill, to direct activities our way.  We may no longer have important problems to solve or people to collaborate with.  We lose the opportunity to organize how we work and what we do in a meaningful way. We may feel a little lost, inferior and directionless.

“If you take away one’s ability to make decisions, you take away their life force.”  Dr. Richard Richardson


You’re at Risk if…

You are used to other people planning your activities.  We all need some degree of order and organization in our lives.  Some of us let others decide for us and we follow along. Our social agenda, household budget, and leisure time are just some items that can be organized by others. We may amble through life without expressing our own uniqueness.

We run the risk of living a life designed by someone else.


 The Trait that Makes the Difference

 Want more from your retirement?  A good dose of ‘self-directedness’ is the cure.  Yes, that ability to map your own direction, purpose and attitudes. Self-directedness is one of the 15 retirement success factors determined by Dr. Johnson’s research, founder of Retirement Options.

Be the captain of your own ship on your journey of personal growth. 


Yes, that means taking charge of your retirement.  Don’t just sit back in that rocking chair and let it happen.   Get up and make the choices that fulfill you … and act on them!  It’s about designing your own, unique retirement plan and/or one that suits both you and your partner.  Reflect on how you will find a new purpose in life (learn how in this post).  What personal growth do you want to explore?  What hobbies and leisure activities peak your interest?  What will bring you life satisfaction?  It’s your life, plan it your way!


One Word of Caution

A little bit of flexibility goes a long way.  Let’s not be so focused on our own goals that we bull-doze over our partner’s or love ones’.  We don’t want to be that stubborn old person, who says “my way or the highway”!  Right?

Care to share?

Retirement: How to Find Purpose After Career

Retirement: How to Find Purpose After Career

Our career gave us purpose, goals, growth and tasks on which to focus.  Yet, research has shown, we still need a sense of purpose after our careers to live a rich and satisfying life.  Retirement gives us a new opportunity to discover what truly sparks our vitality, but many career-hardened boomers struggle in this endeavour.  Here is a valuable approach to discover your new purpose.  Get ready for that “aha” moment!


Why Purpose?

I can see some of you rolling your eyes.  I’ve had a few skeptics in my strategic planning sessions who thought discovering the organization’s core purpose was a waste of time.  Au contraire.  Knowing your true mission saves you time.  It gives you direction, helps you in decision-making and gives focus on how to spend your efforts, energy, and resources.

Do you volunteer for this or that group?  Do you invest in this or that activity?  Do you spend time with these people or those?  How do you apply your skills and talents? How do you grow? How will you spend your time?

More importantly, research has shown that your overall wellness is linked to having purpose and meaning in life. A purposeless life can lead to depression and is often expressed as “frustration, anger, a feeling of worthlessness and internal angst” explains Dr. Peter Johnson, co-flounder of Retirement Options. Working toward something that is important to you, energizes you and fires your vitality.  It gives meaning to your life.  Isn’t that the ultimate goal in our 3rd act of life, our Next3rd?


“Ever more people today have the means to live, but no meaning to live for.” 

– Viktor E. Frankl



Yours to Discover

Your purpose is in there, inside you already.  It probably has been buried since childhood, covered with external demands and tasks asked of others over the years.  Now you can mine it. Let’s go digging.  It may be muddy at first, but over time and with focus, your purpose will become clearer.



The Venn Diagram Approach

Andy Stanley reminded us to reflect on ‘why we are here’ in the 2017 Leadercast “Powered by Purpose” conference. For those less into existential thinking, his simple Venn Diagram just might hit home.



“Instead of asking what am I most passionate about, ask what breaks my heart?’” 

– Andy Stanley


“What breaks your heart?” That’s hitting the bone. Your answer will give you insights into what you truly care about and what problems you may be inspired to help solve.  Your first seeds of your life’s purpose.

Take an inventory of your skills, talents and wisdom that you can offer.  Revisit those personality profiles you may have completed in the past for more insights. How can you apply your gifts to the problems or challenges you’ve noted above?  You may want to do something completely different than in your past career.  This is your opportunity to bring out the real authentic you.

Who were you thinking of when examining what breaks your heart? Troubled kids, the polar bears, your family?  Who can you help by applying your gifts?


Meaning in life often comes from serving others.


What is the overlap or the intersection between these spheres of what breaks your heart, your gifts and who needs your help?  What is at the centre of your Purpose Venn Diagram?  There’s your first iteration of your current life purpose!  Is that “aha” that I hear?


Just Do It

Congratulations.  You’ve planted a seed to your life’s purpose and meaning.  Now act on it.  It’s not the thought that counts so much as the action driven by that seed that gives you life meaning.  It’s an iterative process.  As you act to fulfill your life’s purpose, your mission and life meaning become clearer.  Enjoy the quest!


Purpose feeds action.  Action feeds meaning.


Care to share?

How One Woman Made BIG Changes for a Happy Retirement

How One Woman Made BIG Changes for a Happy Retirement

She ended her marriage, moved to a farm, and launched a new business all triggered by early retirement.  Why?  To follow her life-long dream.  Now, she can’t stop smiling.  Here’s her story…


Now’s the Time

Marlene is an intelligent, authentic, and intuitive person.  You get the sense that she knows more about you than you do.  She knows herself too.  When the option of early retirement came, this professional project manager, knew exactly what she wanted to do.

Marlene Armstrong grew up with horses and her bond with these beautiful animals never left her.  It was time to answer her equine passion.  It was time to live on a farm with her own horses around her.


Be True to Your Dream

Just one problem.  Her husband didn’t agree.  After much soul-searching, Marlene faced a few truths about her life and her marital relationship.  She realized she couldn’t sacrifice her dream and made the brave decision to part ways with her husband of 36 years and father of their two daughters.

“It was kind of an amicable split”, although there were some “nasties” in the division of assets. The separation meant that Marlene had to rely solely on her own funds to finance her dream.  She had a good pension, could do contract project management work, and knew she’d launch a business involving horses.


Just Do It

And that’s what she did.  She studied equine science, bought a farm, built a riding arena and brought her horses home.  Her daughters, also avid riders, joined her.  Soon, people were knocking on her door wanting to board their horses at Foxview Stables.   But, that’s not the business she wanted to run.

Her eldest daughter, trained in equine management, runs the stables.  Her second daughter, studying for her veterinary doctorate, also helps.   Marlene was inspired by another idea.


Hone Your Calling

A casual conversation with a friend led Marlene to a business partnership, intense specialized training, and a very special coaching practice called Unbridled Coaching.

“People Whisperers” is the tagline.  Yes, life coaching using horses.  Horses, I learned, will only trust you when you are authentic and transparent. They mirror you. That’s about the best place to be in life coaching I figure!

It was during the specialized Equus coach training, when Marlene realized that this was what she was meant to do.  So did her renown trainers.  She passed with flying colours, and hasn’t looked back.

 “I’m in my happy place.”


Lessons Learned

“Be financially prudent.” Initial investments were high for Marlene especially since she was no longer part of a dual income.  Managing the financial aspect of investing and building her dream meant being adaptable to different income sources.

“Stay focused on your dream.”  It’s easy to let distractions get in the way and to take you off course.  When you’re focused on what you want, you can achieve it.

“Your body and heart never lie.  But, your mind tells you all sorts of stories.”  If you really pay attention, your body will tell you whether you’re on the right path.  Take the time to pay attention to your body.

Marlene’s only regret?

“I wish I had done this 10 years earlier.”


In Her Words

“Just do it and do it now.  Follow your heart, even if you’re scared out of your mind.”


Marlene Armstrong, Equus Coach

Unbridled Coaching

Care to share?

5 Benefits of Work You’ll Need in Retirement

5 Benefits of Work You’ll Need in Retirement

Think retirement is a life of leisure?  Think again. There are key attributes from your working life that you will need in retirement.  When we don’t plan to replace these 5 benefits, we can experience a gradual wearing-away of ourselves in retirement.  What are they and how can you satisfy them to keep your vitality in retirement?

According to the research on retirement success factors by Dr. Peter Johnson, founder of Retirement Options, the five benefits of work that have evolved to needs in retirement are:


  1. Income 

After decades of building wealth, you will begin to draw from your nest egg to meet your material needs when you retire .  It’s an adjustment and it can be nerve-wracking. An Angus Reid study reports that 48% of Canadians surveyed are worried about their money lasting their lifetime.

Having a financial plan and a qualified financial advisor will help you understand how you can best replace this benefit of work.  Need a financial advisor? Here are 6 questions you need to ask a prospective financial advisor from Jennifer Vachon’s blog.

Typically, income in retirement includes OAS (Old Age Security), your pension and savings.  A new source of retirement income is beginning to take hold.

Over 60% of new retirees are considering some form of employment after their first retirement.

But money is not the only benefit of work.


  1. Time Management 

Being free of your calendar, meetings, and conference calls may be your dream for retirement.  Yet, having a lot to do, actually does help us manage our time well.

Keeping some sort of schedule in retirement allows you to prioritize the people and activities important to you and keeps you engaged and involved.

Retirement is a time to create new habits and routines and explore new undertakings. Perhaps it’s a tennis game every Tuesday morning, art class on Wednesdays or a monthly community meeting.  Mondays are my planning and writing days. What you want to avoid, is idle busyness, killing time, or worse, letting your life schedule be dictated by TV programing.


  1. Sense of Utility

We all want to feel useful and have our work valued.  This doesn’t stop when our career does.  “Having purpose injects a sense of meaning in our lives.” Dr. Johnson reminds us.

This benefit of work was the hardest one for me to replace after selling our business.  I was feeling lost initially after having a clear sense of business purpose and direction for decades. I needed to take stalk of what mattered to me, of what strengths I could apply, and of what problems I could help solve to build a new sense of utility.

Retirement gives us freedom to re-engage in things that we love and care about.  Perhaps its family, your community or a world issue.  Maybe it’s learning something and sharing your new wisdom.

Find a way to be helpful, to contribute in a manner true to you and you will find vitality in retirement.


  1. Status 

It’s not about a title, but more about having a place in our community, having a role in society.

“Status is the combined sense of personal worth and identity we derive from knowing who and what we are.”

At work, you knew your role and how you fit in to the scheme of work activities.  You will still need to find your place in society during retirement.  Your new ‘status’ may be tied to your life’s purpose, or in your new usefulness or the ‘new you’ discussed in my previous post.

I’m the “Pathways Champion” of my community, a volunteer role that came about as I developed my new sense of utility and purpose.  “The number one reason first retirees work again is not for financial gain but to feel involved.”



At work, we are required to interact with others.  Collaborating on projects, meeting deadlines, responding to queries, presenting ideas, resolving conflict, or welcoming new team members are all forms of socialization.  Through our interactions with others, we develop ourselves, build relationships and form friendships.

We still need social interactions when we retire and for some, this is the biggest loss after retirement.  You may be forgotten by the former work crew.

  Retirement is an opportune time to join or build new social circles. Circles that embrace your new purpose, interests and role in society.


Now you know!  Replace these five benefits of work and you are on your way to a retirement full of purpose and vitality.


Care to share?

Retirement: Identity Loss or Gain?

Retirement: Identity Loss or Gain?

You’ve had a successful career, professional accomplishments, recognition.  Perhaps your identity is your work.  How do you move from career success to retirement success?  How can you manage the loss of your work identity?


“What do You Do?”

In our culture, the first thing a person typically asks when you are introduced, is “what do you do?”.  We are identified, categorized, and valued by the type of work we do.  Got a professional designation?  Own your business? Another label.   It is easy to let our work take over our identity.  We’ve spent most of our lives working and developing our work skills.  As Dr. Wayne Dyer wisely said…

“We become what we think about all day long.”


Reframe or Regress

Retirement is an opportunity to reframe our identity from what we do, to who we are.  Dr. Johnson calls this work reorientation, his first of 15 factors for a successful retirement shared in this blog post.

“A self-definition built almost entirely on our work can hinder our growth in retirement.”

Those unable to redefine their identity are at great risk of falling into a lackluster retirement of withdrawal, apathy and non-involvement, states Dr. Johnson, founder of Retirement Options and leading expert on adult development and gerontology.


Turning Loss into Gain

Yep, I was one of ‘those’.  I self-identified through my work.  I was an engineer, had an Masters in Business, successful businesswoman – and all that went away the day we sold our business.  It felt liberating!  Society’s shackles were off.  I also felt the loss.

You can feel unimportant very quickly.  You are no longer of interest to the working set – you don’t “do” anything according to the narrow view of our work culture.  It can be a rude awakening, but it is an awakening.

Let go to grow.  When you let go of your old work identity, you are free to create your new identity, an identity that is truer to you.  This is fun!  It may take some time.  It’s a self-reflective exercise and you will likely begin to rekindle the kid in you.

The New You

Retirement gives you the time to reflect on the new you.  Likely, you’ve taken personality assessments in the past and perhaps there’s some insight in these.  A life or retirement coaching program may also help you uncover the true you.  Or simply think back to your youth and what sparked your interests before society’s opinions mattered.  Here is a good Ted Talk with tips on how to be a ‘self-expert’.

Get started!  Stir up those childhood dreams, and let the true you shine.  When you know who you really are, you will be able create a retirement that is unique to, and just right for you.  Stop calling yourself a retired ‘such and such’ and start the new you!  Isn’t it more interesting to ask “what are you thinking about” instead of “what do you do”?

Need some inspiration?  Find out how Dave, a former engineer, became a triathlete coach in this blog post.

Care to share?

Early Retirement: A Success Story

Early Retirement: A Success Story

What’s it like to leave a high level professional career in your early 50’s and take the leap to engage your passion?  Meet Dave Harding, formerly a partner in an engineering consulting firm and now?  A very fit triathlete coach.  Here’s his story…

Start with Passion

Dave has a quiet demeanor, and is one, I get the impression, who thinks things through. He tells me that as a triathlete, you spend a lot of training time alone with your thoughts.  He uses this time to listen to his body for feedback, and I think, he also listens to his soul.

Dave’s passion is competitive athletics, something he has done nearly all his life. He first dipped his toe into marathon and triathlon coaching while still fully employed.  That’s when he realized coaching was what he really wanted to do.  He decided to pursue this passion more purposefully and began to act on his dream.  (How could one be more purposeful than completing several Ironman competitions?)

Prepare Perform Achieve

That’s Dave’s motto and that’s how he made his transition from fully employed to a fulfilling early retirement.   Over three years and while still employed, he took night courses to become certified and build his credibility in Fitness and Lifestyle Management, as a Personal Trainer, and as a Triathlon Coach.

He assessed his financial position in partnership with his wife to determine feasibility and timing for his early retirement. She’s still fully employed and the kids are launched which helped ease the transition.  He planned a phased changeover.  Dave moved from full-time employment to part-time contract work with the same company.  He carried out the contract work for a year before ‘stopping cold turkey’. That year gave him time to build his coaching business with less financial strain.

Dave enjoys the flexibility of his schedule now and the ability to have more time for his own training. (That’s 15 hours a week of training, yikes!)  The phased retirement approach gave him financial security to grow his coaching business and ease into his new lifestyle.  His coaching business keeps him engaged, allows him to apply his skills and talents to help others and propels him to chart growth both personally and for his business.

Lessons Learned

“Conceptually, have a plan of where you want to go.” It will be up to you to determine what’s next advises Dave.  It won’t be handed to you when you do fully retire.  It’s much better being pulled to something new, than being pushed out the door.  When you begin to feel less engaged in your work and secure in your finances, find what you really want to do and go after it.

“The social aspect is a bit of a shock.”   Moving from an office setting to working on your own can mean the loss of social connections. Ensure you maintain and create a social outlet that you enjoy.  It may mean developing new social circles and sticking to a schedule that gets you out meeting people.  Otherwise, you may end up wasting a lot of time alone at home.

My take-away from our conversation?  It’s up to you to live the life you want – especially in retirement. Plan for it and just do it!  Thanks Dave for sharing your story and inspiring us.  Must admit, I’m now a bit more curious about the triathlon scene especially since Dave mentioned he has clients over 60!

In Dave’s Words

“Find what you really want to do in life and pursue that the best you can do.”

Dave Harding, DEKK Coaching, Ironman Triathlete


Care to share?