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Essay: Strengths for a Successful Retirement

An Essay by Vern Drilling

Of the many people I have counseled through the retirement process, about 25% adjusted quickly and moved almost immediately into new and exciting activities and lifestyles. Another 10% struggled for a long time and never really adjusted. They were often bored and felt useless and lonely and sometimes depressed. The largest group, about 65%, eventually adjusted into new, comfortable, and even exciting life styles but say that it shouldn’t have taken them so long. If they had anticipated the change, prepared for it, and received more guidance, they would have been much happier, much sooner.

In my book Closing Doors, Opening Worlds: Plan Today for a More Fulfilling Life in Retirement, those people who have been happy and most successful in retirement shared the strengths that helped them the most. Consider this list as you approach retirement. Which ones do you feel that you need to strengthen?

  • Have a realistic idea of your strengths and weaknesses.
  • Set high standards for yourself. Measure your progress against your own standards, not the opinions of others.
  • Don’t tie your feelings of identity to your job but rather to your spiritual beliefs and moral standards. It helps if you maintain an active religious affiliation.
  • Throughout life, devote time and effort to improving yourself.
  • Be involved in leisure, social, and volunteer activities during employment; your job should not be your whole life.
  • Be a team player. It helps if you like working with others toward a common goal.
  • Work to define your interests and what you want out of life.
  • Learn to enjoy using your skills in service to others.
  • Even if you are not wealthy, strive for being relatively stable financially. Learn to balance your lifestyle with your income.
  • Learn to be flexible. Anticipate and plan for changes in your life.

Vern Drilling is an organizational consultant and employee counselor. He developed an international program for employee assistance at a large corporation and managed it for eighteen years. He is on the Senior Advisory Board for the City of Minnetonka and on the board of Discover U, the educational services for Senior Services of Western Hennepin County.


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