Making the most of retirement
Thinking about writing a bucket list? Here we talk about setting goals and personal growth in retirement.
Dr Elizabeth King from The University of Sydney’s Coaching Psychology Unit talks to The Good Life about goal setting, personal growth and discovering what’s important as we age.
Retirement is often seen as the time to tend to all the things that there’s never been time for while working, raising a family and paying off a mortgage.
“Retirement is the time to focus on the things you want to do, when you get some space from the productive years and get some time to focus on our older years,” says Dr Elizabeth King from The University of Sydney’s Coaching Psychology Unit.
So to make the most of retirement is it a matter of sitting down, writing a list of things to do (which people sometimes call a bucket list) and working through it?
The short answer from Dr King is “no”.
“It’s not about writing down a list of things you should do,” she explains. “Goals are complex. What’s on the list is important.”
So firstly, what is a goal? Dr King looks to the late Professor Anthony M Grant, who established The University of Sydney’s Coaching Psychology Unit, and he describes goals as internal representations of desired outcomes.
Dr King says goals are also used as a focus device – so a person has a clear idea of what they want and how to achieve it.
So before setting goals or writing a bucket list, Dr King suggests reflecting on what’s important to the person and making sure a person’s goals align with their values. She gives the example of wanting to go on a family holiday but a medical condition makes it difficult for a family member to fly – so choices need to be made and if the ultimate goal is to spend more time with family, then a change needs to be made.
“There needs to be a hierarchy when setting goals,” she says. “If goals are conflicting, we need to acknowledge and accept the situation, adjust and make a choice.”
When people think about setting goals and writing buckets lists in retirement, thoughts often turn to a trip to an exotic location or even skydiving, but Dr King says that it’s just as important to focus on goals that include health, wellbeing and relationships. “It’s also important to ensure goals are satisfying, as meaningful goals are what make people happy.
“It’s important also to consider relationships, play, creativity and learning when thinking about goals. As well as goals which keep us active and open to learning about life. You are happy and more productive when you have a growth mindset [when a person thinks they can develop and change].”
When it comes to thinking about how to spend retirement, Dr King says people should ask themselves how do they want to feel at the end of their life and what they want their life to be about? “It’s probably not about what type of car you drove – it’s about the experiences you have had,” she says. “People want to be happy and would like their lives to be a satisfying experience. That brings us to the importance of growth. Growing and learning tends to be associated with the experience of a life well lived.”
Dr King says people tend to be happier when giving to others – such as volunteering their time or supporting a good cause – rather than spending money on themselves. “It’s important to identify goals that get in touch with what our lives are about.”
When thinking about personal goals remember:
- Identify what’s important.
- Be willing to adapt or change goals.
- Link goals to values.
- Meaningful goals tend to be the ones that make people happy.
Make the most of your retirement with IRT
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