Retirement or Redirectment?

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By Larry Chatterley
From the Fall 2017 Journal of the Colorado Dental Association

According to the dictionary, retirement is a “withdrawal or ceasing from active working life.” I was never fond of the word retirement, mainly because it brings to mind the image of retirement homes, like being put out to pasture so to speak.  Not exactly what I picture as being the ideal way to spend the remaining years of my life, if that is all I have to look forward to.

I think a better word to use would be “redirectment.” Granted, you will not find that word in any dictionary, but I feel it better defines what people who retire actually do with their lives. The word “redirect” means “to change the path or direction,” and the suffix “-ment” is used to form nouns expressing the “means or result of an action.” Like the word refreshment is the act of refreshing or the state of being refreshed, redirectment is the proactive behavior of directing the quality of your present and future life experiences. Redirectment is not necessarily ceasing to be active in some sort of work lifestyle.  Work is usually defined as a job or activity that you do regularly in order to earn money. Redirectment could be any activity that you might pursue regardless of whether you are compensated for it or not.  So I am redefining retirement as “redirectment.” (Maybe I should post this on Wikipedia…)
Redirectment can be more like a career change instead of a career-ending event—not so much of a winding down mode but rather a switch to doing something new and different mode. Many at this stage of life still want to be productively engaged yet develop a new identity beyond their previous dental careers.

While money plays a major role in the decision to pursue redirectment, there is an emotional readiness that many require before taking the plunge. Challenges associated with a change in identity and questions about self-worth and one’s purpose beyond work often undermine the “golden years” for those emotionally unprepared for the change.

For some, redirectment planning conjures up images of days free from the stress and demands of the daily grind, but for others the prospect of leaving behind work they find meaningful and rewarding may be a more daunting transition. For most, this major milestone elicits a mixture of emotions that fall somewhere between anticipation and apprehension. Redirectment is, in fact, a complex experience for almost everyone, characterized by gains and losses with some major shifts in identity and routines.

Without the daily human interaction and challenges found in the work place, some may suffer mentally and physically after they discontinue the active practice of dentistry. Consequently, it would be wise to fill your redirectment with activities that engage you in meaningful interaction with other people on a regular basis. Additionally, one should seek to engage in new activities or pursuits that can fulfill the aspects of the previous work-life that provided particular satisfaction. 

Those who are willing to sit down, discuss and plan their long-term goals are those who will have a more satisfied, fulfilling redirectment. Ask yourself, “What will motivate me to get out of bed each day and do something fulfilling?” The answer will be different for everyone, but it will be helpful that you find something that motivates you and keeps you moving forward.

In his book, “Life after Dentistry,” Dr. Alan Roadburg suggests you consider writing down those items you are happy to give up, meaning those things you don’t like about work.  He calls it the “Push List.” In contrast, he goes on to mention you should create a “Pull List” from those items you look forward to when you discontinue working. After you create those lists, it is important to compare one list against the other. 

Once you have identified the direction you would like to take from your “Push and Pull” lists, try these tips to create a new life for yourself:

  1. Give yourself some time. Understand that this will be a process. Your transition into retirement (redirectment) won’t happen overnight, and your emotions may shift from one day to the next.
  2. Make a mission statement. Write down a list of things you want to do (the “Pull List”) and things you do not want to do (the “Push List”) and then identify ways you can achieve those things on your list.
  3. Build your psychological portfolio. While it is important to get your financial portfolio in place, it is just as important to develop a psychological portfolio, which includes your identity, your relationships, and your need for a sense of purpose.
  4. Assess your resources. Consider the things you turned to during other periods of change in your life. To help you identify ways to cope with your transition into retirement, ask yourself three questions: Can I change what’s challenging me? If not, can I change the way I see it? And finally, can I reduce my stress level through meditation, exercise, therapy, etc.?
  5. Find your path. As you consider your options, think about whether you want to spend your free time doing something similar to what you did in your job, or if you want to try something entirely different. Exploring something you have never done before can be a great way to stimulate your mind and make new friends.
  6. Maintain friendships. Make it a point to connect regularly with friends, and join groups or take classes in subjects you are interested in, which will lead to new friends. Men may especially find this helpful since they tend to form alliances based on shared interests and activities rather than relationships.
  7. Keep your body and mind active. Not only will staying active increase mood-boosting, stress-relieving chemicals such as endorphins and serotonin, it will also increase your overall health and help ward off illnesses. And like the body, the brain also needs to be exercised to stay sharp and healthy.

By investing a little time and a lot of thought, it is possible to change your retirement to redirectment. The dividend will be a highly fulfilling and rewarding phase of life following your active career. By pulling on the life experiences and skills you have gathered over the years and redirecting those to accomplish new goals, you will likely discover the happiness and fulfillment retirement is ideally known for.


About the Author: Larry Chatterley is with CTC Associates, a practice transition company in the Rocky Mountain region. Contact him at 303-795-8800 or visit ctc-associates.com.