Who do you want to be in retirement?

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Who do you want to be in retirement? A good answer to that question can come from two things: analysing who you are now—because you will take who you are into retirement; and what you want from your retirement.


Working out who you are

‘Know yourself’ is a saying often, but wrongly, attributed to the Greek philosopher, Socrates. It was actually an inscription on the temple at Delphi. Socrates did say something related: ‘An unexamined life is not worth living’.

Both knowing yourself and examining your life is helpful as  you plan your retirement.

Meg Selig, a counsellor and regular contributor to Psychology Today says that one of the best ways of working out who you are is to look for your VITAL Signs of self-knowledge. VITALS is an acronym she uses that, in brief, means the following.


Selig suggests values could be such things as ‘helping others’, ‘being creative’, ‘health’, ‘financial security’ and whatever guides your decision making and motivation to achieve goals. She adds that writing down values makes it more likely that they will be achieved.


These could be passions, hobbies and ‘anything that draws your attention over a sustained period of time’. Here are three questions that can help you work out what your interests are: ‘What do you pay attention to? What are you curious about? What concerns you’?


These are your inborn preferences. For instance, are you an introvert (one who restores their energy by being alone)? Or are you an extrovert (one who loves the energy of the crowd)? Are you a planner or a ‘go-with-the-flow’ person? Do you make decisions on feelings or thoughts and acts? Are you a details person? Or a big ideas person?

A-Around-the-clock activities

Morning or night person? At what time of day does your energy peak? If you schedule activities when you’re at your best, you’re recognising your biorhythms. ‘Your daily life is more pleasant when you are in sync with your biology’, says Selig.

L-Life mission and meaningful goals

You can discover this by asking, ‘What have been the most meaningful events in my life’? Selig suggests, ‘You may discover clues to your hidden identity, to your career, and to life satisfaction’. And to your retirement satisfaction.


This involves abilities, skills and talents, but also character strengths (think of things such as loyalty, respect for others and love of learning). Knowing your strengths helps with self-confidence. Knowing your weaknesses helps you be honest with yourself and others about what you aren’t good at.

What Selig has done is provide a framework to help us understand who we are. To help us be able to live the ‘examined life’. With purpose. It’s important at any stage of life, but more-so in retirement where there’s no paid job to help give us identity.


What do you want from your retirement?

I’ve used this three-step approach before and I use it again here because it has proven helpful. Take a piece of paper and create a list that fits you under the following three headings.

  1. Passions

What are your passions? It could be a cause. It could be a club. It could be gardening. This is your passion and it’s about what moves you to want to act and be involved. Retirement gives you more time to do those kinds of things.

  1. Interests

I’m using this is a similar way to Selig (although she bundles passions in with interests). Your interests could be a hobby. A sport? Perhaps it’s the in-depth study of a particular topic. Of course, you might want to call your hobby or sport your passion. That’s fine. This is your list, no one else’s. You get to rate what fits where.

  1. Priorities

This is probably easier than the other two to work out and could include such things as your health; family; and relationships. Your finances could fit here as well.

Bottom line? Knowing who you are and what you want to do is an excellent way to work on planning a great retirement.


Bruce Manners is the author of Retirement Ready? and Refusing to Retire, and founder of RetireNotes.com

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Category: Planning, Purpose, Retirement

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