Nearing Retirement? It’s Time to Turn Inward

Aging is an extraordinary process where you become the person you always should have been.

David bowie

For most of your career, your schedule has been jam-packed with 50-plus-hour weeks and a “to-do” list that seemed endless. Every morning, you hit the accelerator, laser focused on the problems of the day, and you pushed hard. It wasn’t easy, but your willingness to move forward and do—when others only tried—helped you reach the level of success you enjoy today.

Now, as you approach retirement, those 50-plus-hour weeks will go away. For many outstanding leaders, this moment can be challenging. All they have known for decades is the same narrative: problem, adrenaline, action, repeat. But science (and perhaps your personal experience) show that an endless cycle of “doing” eventually leads to stress and burnout.

All men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit alone in a quite room.

Blaise Pascal

Fortunately, there’s an alternative. It involves hitting the pause button and shifting from “Human Doing” to “Human Being.”

The Power of Mindfulness

More and more research has shown the incredible benefits of taking a short time each day to quiet the mind. According to practitioners, mindfulness can reduce anxiety and increase cognition, mental focus and well-being, and help prevent burnout. And while meditation practice has not gone mainstream in the corporate world, a number of prominent business leaders rely on it to create what I call the Optimal Operating State—a state that gives them an edge.

Bill Gross, cofounder of PIMCO, had an almost uncanny success in the bond market. Today, he manages some $2 trillion in assets. Four times a week, he achieves an Optimal Operating State through daily yoga and meditation in a separate space where he can just unplug and relax for 20 to 25 minutes. Ray Dalio, founder of hedge giant Bridgewater Associates, insists that meditation is the “single most important reason” for his success.

The good news is that you can use the same techniques to create an Optimal Operating State for your life in retirement. Doing so can make your Third Act the best of your life.

4 Steps To A Compelling New Narrative

  1. Listen to Your Inner Music. If you’re like most people, it’s probably been a while since you listened carefully to what’s going on in your head. Don’t worry; it’s easy. Know that it’s a bit like listening to music. So right now, take a minute and check in. If your thoughts were music, what would they be? A discordant crash of heavy metal? A frantic violin? A soothing, gentle interlude? There’s no wrong answer here. Just remember, noticing is the first step toward change. The goal is to work toward “calm” knowing it is achievable.
  2. Hit the Pause Button. Starting a meditation practice is as easy as hitting the pause button for as little as two minutes a day. So, go ahead. Make an appointment with yourself. Find a comfortable, quiet place to be still and take a little time to relax. You can use the meditation tips outlined here to get started. Or you can even download a guided meditation app for your phone.
  3. Make It a Habit. Meditation can seem awkward at first. After years of a noisy mind, it can be hard to develop a quiet one. The good news is that mindfulness practice gets easier over time. Start small, and don’t worry if you don’t “get it” right away. Even 30 seconds of inner quiet provides benefit. And soon, you’ll find you can change the music in your mind and find a moment of quiet whenever you choose.
  4. Enjoy the Benefits. Meditation is an opportunity to self-correct and find your Optimal Operating State. When you are in this place, you can make decisions that help you to live the life you desire. To make the connections you want. To get off the treadmill and explore new opportunities. And to create a Third Act that is focused, vibrant, and completely fulfilling.

Questage is the New Paradigm for Retirement Support

At Questage, we aim to build and inspire a community of engaged leaders who work together to redefine retirement for the benefit of themselves, their families, and the world. Our team of Questage advisors is ready to partner with Boomers nearing retirement or recently retired. We have more than 30 years of experience elevating top performers—from consulting with U.S. Olympians to advising senior leaders and executive teams around the globe.

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We can help. Are you ready for the Questage Journey?

To find out, take Questage Readiness Quiz.

The Killer Question Asked of Retirees— “So, What Do You Do?”

For many, the “so, what do you do?” question can cause as much stress as receiving a certified letter from the IRS. As you near retirement (or if you’re recently retired), reflecting on your response to this one question can be a networking game-changer. Your goal is to feel empowered and confident when asked this question.

“So … what do you do?” In America, this question opens conversations everywhere— from cocktail parties and neighborhood gatherings to neighboring seats on a jetliner. But it’s more than a conversation starter. By asking it, people size you up to determine whether your background and interests mesh with theirs. How you answer the question can help you forge new friendships, develop new business alliances, and build your network. Think of it as a high stakes game. Warning: If your response isn’t compelling enough, you might stop the conversation before it gets started.

What percentage of your identity is tied to your career, current or past?

For those of us who are retired or preparing to retire, the question “so, what do you do?” can elicit discomfort, even shame. It can put us face to face with our uncertainties and tap into our deepest fears. Do we know where we are headed?

For many, our work defines us. It’s a source of pride, and it gives us purpose. It provides us with community and a compelling reason to get up in the morning. And for better or worse, it’s the way others assess our value. But how do we best respond to this question at this new phase in life when many default to speaking of past roles and achievements?

The solution is to focus on your future. With the right support, you can build a life in retirement that’s productive and fulfilling. Then, when someone asks you what you do, you can respond with a compelling new narrative. Here’s how to get started.

Shifting from “what I did” to “who I am” today

When many on the cusp of retirement address “who they are” by identifying “what they did” in their careers, they still live in the past. It’s a cultural norm for Americans to place emphasis on their work as a way to define themselves. At social gatherings in the United States, the first question is normally “so, what do you do?” while in most European countries, most often the first question relates to “where are you or your family from?”

Changing the social narrative in America to focus on “who we are” versus “what we do or did” likely won’t shift anytime soon. However, to ensure your readiness when the question is asked, take the following four steps.

4 Steps To A Compelling New Narrative

  1. Start with a reflective assessment of your third act of life. What excites you about where you are in your journey in life? What do you find compelling? Engage in a reflective, introspective, appreciative look as you craft a new narrative about the excitement of where you are headed. How does your narrative speak to something bigger than you—a cause, a mission, a focus you want your legacy to be a part of? How can you entice your listeners to truly lean into your response?
  2. Script a powerful story that has you feeling confident and empowered when stating it. Think back to when you have been moved by another’s compelling response to the question “so, what do you do?” Most likely, it included a story versus a tagline-type recital of title and company. That narrative made you lean in with curiosity to learn more. What story can you incorporate into your response?
  3. Carefully craft your story with elements of what you feel passionate about doing. Make sure the description reaches into the coming decades and allows listeners to hear an authentic, heart-centered, and compelling response that has them seeking to learn more.
  4. Take your new narrative for a test drive. Much like the proverbial 30-second elevator pitch in sales, practicing your response will allow you to be at ease and speak with confidence when you’re asked the “so, what do you do?” question.

Your third act of life can be your best act of life. Having a new narrative not only points you forward, but it can inspire people to want to learn more. It can also allow you to grow a new social network that can last for decades.

Questage is the New Paradigm for Retirement Support

At Questage, we aim to build and inspire a community of engaged leaders who work together to redefine retirement for the benefit of themselves, their families, and the world.

Our team of Questage advisors is ready to partner with Boomers nearing retirement or recently retired. We have decades of experience elevating top performers—from consulting with U.S. Olympians to advising senior leaders and executive teams around the globe.

Download PDF

We can help. Are you ready for the Questage Journey?

To find out, take Questage Readiness Quiz.

Forget the Rocking Chair— Rock Your Retirement

Today’s retirees want to remain relevant and continue to lead in their lives while they explore new possibilities as well as travel and enjoy family time. The question is: How do they find that balance? How do they plan and execute in a way that makes all this possible?

In times past, we imagined retirement through symbols of the front porch and the rocking chair. When people stopped working, they cast off their work identities completely. They withdrew from the world and all its “doing” to the comfort of the rocker on the front porch. There, retirement meant sitting back and watching others “do” the world’s work.

Work once involved physical labor and repetitive tasks with little reward beyond a paycheck. Even executives typically served as little more than cogs in a machine. However, with the rise of technology and shifts in economic structure, the world of work has changed dramatically. In the past 30 years, we have worked less with our physical strength and more with our mental acuity. We applied our creativity to tackle complex problems and craft effective solutions.

The Boomer generation redefined America, politically, culturally, economically, and technologically. Now, as Boomers approach the Third Act of Life, they are already redefining retirement.

Both technological and social shifts have changed the vision of business, too. Increasingly, executives are looking beyond organizational objectives to achieve personal fulfillment and social good. They have built socially conscious companies, held volunteer days, and brought their concerns about personal growth, environmental responsibility, and community connection into the boardroom. No longer pursuing the goals of a single company, they have shaped their careers balancing their personal and professional goals.

It’s Time to Redefine Retirement

Just as Boomers have been redefining their lives and careers, it follows that the Third Act of Life is ready for evolution, even revolution. Now it’s less about rocking chairs and more about rocking retirement. And it’s less about isolation and more about engagement—with self, family, and community.

As the new “older”’ generation, Boomers have great value to offer. Our world needs their skills, wisdom, and thought leadership. In parallel, it wishes them to remain engaged, How? By sharing their life experiences to keep an historical perspective on the rapid changes around us.

Fortunately, those needs match the commonly expressed desires of current and future retirees. For example, a recent Merrill Lynch/Age Wave survey found that 75% of people over 50 want to work as part of their retirement. It noted that 80% of retired people who work do so not because they have to but because they want to. It also noted that retirees are three times more likely than pre-retired people to become entrepreneurs.

The benefits of continuing to work—from feeling purposeful to staying mentally sharp and continuing to earn income—are meaningful, even when it’s part-time work. But retirement for Boomers means more than a job. Today’s retirees want to remain relevant, continue to lead, and explore new possibilities as well as travel and enjoy family time. And they need to do it all while ensuring their prosperity into the future.

The question is: How do they find that balance? How do they plan and execute in a way that makes all this possible—especially if they lack immediate support needed to figure it all out?

To Rock Retirement, Form a Band
(with the right skills and talents)

No matter our vocation, skill set, or status, we typically made decisions based on factors ranging from economic conditions and business goals to our choice of tools. In the past, we collaborated with people whose skill sets supported us—that is, they helped us rule out bad ideas, foster good ones, recover from setbacks, and eventually achieve success.

Now with retirement, Boomers face deeply personal decisions about the direction of their lives. But the support team they once turned to on the job is shrinking as old networks become less relevant for the Third Act of Life. Family members offer their opinions, but they’re not experts. And while experts such as financial planners, life coaches, and employment consultants are available, they are siloed. Rarely can they provide the holistic support needed for living a high-impact retirement. What’s missing is true retirement support. Having a meaningful retirement strategy requires a process to help Boomers define goals, create plans, and execute effectively. And a team that helps them find purpose, fulfillment, and a reason to get excited about Monday mornings—that helps ensure financial stability and define personal health, fitness, and a sense of wholeness. A team that lets them use their skills and leadership capacities to contribute to the world and leave a profound legacy.

Questage is the New Paradigm for Retirement Support

At Questage, we aim to build and inspire a community of engaged leaders who work together to redefine retirement for the benefit of themselves, their families, and the world.

Our team of Questage advisors is ready to partner with Boomers nearing retirement or recently retired. We have more than 30 years of experience elevating top performers—from consulting with U.S. Olympians to advising senior leaders and executive teams around the globe. Within this growing community, Questage asks questions and shares ways for Boomers to rock their own retirements.

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We can help. Are you ready for the Questage Journey?

To find out, take Questage Readiness Quiz.