Posted On January 2, 2020

A No Regrets Retirement in 2020 and Beyond

Reprinted with permission.

I recently came across a piece on Facebook, originally from the Guardian, discussing the top five regrets of the dying. I thought it would be a wonderful way to ring in the New Year to use this framework to look at retirement, creating the top five ways to live a powerful retirement moving into the next decade.

The first regret stated that “I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself and not the life others expected of me.” Over the last 30 years as a practicing counselor and coach, I have encountered this sad notion too many times, including the experience of James and Charlie. James had grown up in a culture that only valued careers in medicine and engineering, but he was an individual that wanted to help others emotionally. He became an engineer at his parents’ request, but many years later when he felt that he could finally do what he desired, he switched careers to become a coach and finally felt at peace with his life. Charlie wanted to be a music major, but his parents did not approve and, although he was a talented musician, they would only pay for a business degree. He always regretted not being able to work in the field where he had so much talent and, in his retirement, now plays small gigs in his neighborhood. However, he still has that nagging thought of what if. So, in the next decade what talents and skills would you enjoy utilizing? How can you find a way to satisfy that craving to be creative and or help others? What will make you feel happy and fulfilled?

The second regret stated, “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard”. I remember doing a retirement workshop for 50 executives and having them complete an exercise about where they were putting all their life energy. There were six life arenas to choose from including career, family, relationships, self, spiritual life, and leisure. The total energy could only add up to 100%. Much to the groups surprise the average career arena score was a shocking 90% which left barely anything for the other five arenas. After some discussion, I invited them all to make a change now and not wait until their retirement, which for many of them was about two years away. Take a close look at where you are spending your hours. How would you shift your life energy to enjoy your family, relationships, hobbies and yourself more in the next decade? What will make you have no regrets about how you are spending your valuable time now and in your retirement?

The third biggest regret was “I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings”. How many times have you wanted to say, “thank you” or “I love you” and missed that opportunity? What feelings have you neglected that you would go back to express? Who would you want to express them to? Gratitude is frequently a feeling that is neglected. What have you been grateful for and how would you like to express those feelings? In words or actions? What thought or fear has kept you from expressing those feelings? How will you come to believe that your feelings are important, and it is necessary for your health and wellbeing to express them?

Number four stated, “I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends”. Since many of our friends come from work when we retire those relationships frequently shift and diminish. That is often unexpected and disappointing to retirees. Friendships from childhood and beyond can become extinct as our priorities shift and change. An old friend recently reached out to my husband while she was in town for a meeting. They had not seen each other in over 40 years. They went for coffee, drove through the old neighborhood and reminisced about happenings back in the day. Who do you think about and wish you could talk to again? How can you reconnect with those individuals and make it a habit to stay in touch?

Finally, the last regret concluded, “I wish I had let myself be happier”. Take stock of that which makes you happy and put yourself in that frame of mind daily. How can you incorporate meditation and visualization to help? I often ask my clients “where do you find awe, wonder, and delight”? The number one answer is in nature, and the second is with children or grandchildren. Many other items can complete that list. How can you vow to stay happy in the next decade while your life can take those twists and turns often associated with aging? This is where having that positive perspective can really come to fruition. How do you choose to keep your perspective positive? What else will help you attain this goal?

As you can see, these five regrets can be processed and shifted to make your retirement years compelling, and even exciting, so that you live in the next decade regret free!