In a recent podcast, I interviewed a friend and former work colleague whom I hadn’t talked to in many years. It was so much fun seeing her again! She had a long and successful career at the company where we both worked and now is retired. I was eager to talk to her about her retirement because I’ve heard from many professional women that approaching “that time” can be very stressful, if not downright terrifying.

Thoughts On Retirement

For my friend, whose name is Sarah, the thought of retiring wasn’t completely terrifying, but it was at least disconcerting. She decided to work with a coach who could help her think the whole thing through. Sarah wanted to be curious about the process she was about to go through. As a dedicated scientist her entire educational and professional life, she was accustomed to viewing things as experiments, so what if she thought about her life in retirement as an experiment? What would work for her and what wouldn’t work? That meant she needed to try out lots of things and not settle too quickly into a particular routine.

With the help of her coach, Sarah decided to think about the positive things she got out of working in terms of “buckets.” For example, there was the social bucket. Every day she got to see people she enjoyed being around, working with, and chatting with. There was the intellectual bucket, which demanded high levels of thinking, reasoning, problem-solving, and using her many years of education and experience. A third bucket she described as an ego bucket. Because of her position, her success, and her expertise, people listened when she spoke. The fourth bucket had to do with making a contribution. What she was working on could potentially have a positive impact on many people.

What Are Your Important Buckets?

As Sarah was planning for retirement, she thought about what she could do to fill some or all of those buckets which were very important to her. This made her willing to try many different things, to keep some and to let many others go. Now she is very happy. She feels fulfilled in the ways that are important to her and continues to see retirement as a journey and a never-ending experiment.

Does this make sense to you? It occurred to me as I was listening to Sarah, that it may never be too early to start to think about what are my important buckets? You’ve probably heard that starting to make a financial plan for retirement in your fifties is just too late. I think the same can be said about our important buckets. No matter how old you are or how far from retirement you may be, if you’re still working, think about this now: what are the things that you really like or are really important to you about what you’re doing?

New Choices

On the other hand, if you’re getting ready to stop working (at least in your main career), take stock of what you’ve enjoyed about what you’ve been doing so you can use that to plan for next steps. Many women now are leaving what they’ve done for some time and moving on to the next thing, whatever that may be. Some are starting their own companies, or they’re changing the kind of work they’re doing, moving to a new company or organization or even to  a different part of the country or the world. Depending on your personal situation, you may have many choices women never used to have, if you’re willing to make a careful assessment of what’s important to you and have the courage to step out into whatever may be next.

Following Sarah’s example, take a piece of paper right now and write down the four to five buckets that contain what’s most important to you about what you’re doing now. This is not chipped in stone. By tomorrow morning you may want to modify your buckets in some way. What you’ve begun is a journey of exploration and experimentation. Course correction is always possible, so have fun.

Learn More…

The Prime Spark Membership Community is designed for women 55 (or close) and older to support one anotherWe learn and grow together while furthering the mission of Prime Spark. Membership currently is closed. If you’re interested in joining, please send an email to [email protected] and ask to be placed on the waitlist.

We will launch the Mastermind for High Performance Women Over 50: What’s Next? in October. We also will begin another Prime Spark Women’s Story Circle later this year. Are a senior woman and would like to know more about either of these. Please send an email to [email protected].

Sara Hart, PhD, is an author, speaker, and coach. She is leading the charge to change how older women are seen and treated in our society. She is the creator of Prime Spark, a movement to transform how women over 55 take responsibility for their futures. Sara is the author of three books. She also has over forty years of experience in leadership development, coaching, and building thinking environments. She was the director of training and development for a Fortune 100 companySara was also an executive director of the Institute for Women and Technology. To learn more about claiming your power as a senior woman, visit Prime Spark today!