Thursday, January 31, 2019

Fear of the White Space

In November, we had the pleasure of being part of an excellent all day program on retirement in Sarasota, Florida hosted by the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Ringling College.  Our host was Executive Director, Janna Overstreet.  The attendees were a combination of retirees and those who are still working including some that took a day off from work to make sure they get a fulfilling next act.

One of the areas of concern was the FEAR  of the White Space.  This is a condition that affects many retirees. The white space we refer to is the amount of empty space on a person’s calendar once they retire. Some people love their new-found calendar freedom, but not everyone.

Before retirement, people dreamed about the day they no longer had to attend meetings with demanding clients or boring customers, not to mention endless sessions with the boss and the team. The idea of retiring sounded very appealing. Many call the initial stage of their retirement-- the honeymoon phase—and they live in the glow of free time and fantasies. After a few months, however, retirement bliss can change and send retirees into panic mode. Some retirees complain of being bored even feeling rudderless. The natural instinct is to immediately fill up one’s calendar with activities.

Many retirees, unsure of what they want, start to commit to anything and everything just to be busy. Very quickly the fear of the white space is replaced with a new condition which causes frequent outbursts of “now I’m too busy.” Some people admit that they have even committed to things that they really don’t care about! The remedy for this condition is to unearth interests, identify what really motivates or drives you, and then use this knowledge to select new undertakings that fulfill and energize.

Check out OLLI in your area for more great ideas.

Monday, January 14, 2019


Last week our English friends emailed us when the news broke about Andy Murray’s unplanned retirement. “He says he can’t think what he’ll do, where he’ll fit in, who he’ll be next etc. etc.” He questions who will he be when he’s not what he does anymore!  Maybe he shouldn’t RETIRE BUT REWIRE.”  Based on our friends comments we decided to probe further into Andy Murray’s dilemma, which is an area we are quite familiar with.

Andy Murray is the 31 year old reigning British tennis champion and Wimbledon star who announced his retirement from the sport due to a severe and recurring hip injury.  He has been a fierce competitor and a celebrity. He has been playing since he was 3 years old and in his first tournament at age 5.   That is a 26 year career.  His departure is sad and poignant particularly because it is not on his time schedule. He commented that he doesn’t think he will ever replace the emotional highs or the excitement that tennis has given him.  It sounds like a lot of people we’ve met who have retired and mourn the loss of their job and career.

Someone like Andy Murray has a lot of opportunity in front of him.  He could be a coach, a commentator, open a school or camp, serve on an international tennis committee, or be a spokesperson for the sport.  The list is long and is growing daily.  

Retirees’ work lives don’t have to end with sadness or the lament, “I used to be someone.” You still are the same person but without the title or the paycheck.  Like Andy Murray, retirees still have a life in front of them that can provide the emotional highs and excitement so often desired.  

Maybe it’s finding new work, volunteering for a cause you believe in strongly, being a mentor and role model, teaching formally or informally, assisting your community in an area you think is important.  Your list is long, too.  But to have new highs you have to be willing to try things, and in some cases be a beginner and risk failing.  As one of our readers told us, “I tried 5 new activities when I retired to see what would give me fulfillment.  It would have been easy to say after failing at the first, oh well, I guess that’s it for me. But I kept trying new things and dared to discard the first four. After all you can’t expect to be successful with the first try! Eventually I found a volunteer opportunity that gives me fulfillment, fun and yes even some of the emotional highs and excitement I had at work before I retired.” 

 What’s in your future?