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Finding your Purpose in Retirement

Updated: Jun 6, 2023

Many teachers are considering retirement or early retirement. There are different reasons for this, but the challenges of teaching over the last couple of years have been the catalyst for change for many teachers that I have had contact with.

If you are an early retiree, it's likely you are considering retirement from teaching not retirement from work in general. Your retirement is a career change and an opportunity to perhaps do something completely different, to follow your passions or start your own business.

Did you know that in the UK 46% of the self-employed workforce is over 50 and in Australia 33% of new businesses are started by people aged 50 and over?

It's not surprising when you think of it, as people 50+ have acquired a huge number of skills during their working life. They are perhaps more than a little bit attracted to the idea of freedom of having your own business and being your own boss. I know I was. I was so tired of having to follow other people’s ridiculous rules and timetables. It's so nice to be able to plan my day how I want to and take time off when I want to, too.

If freedom is one of your values I think you'll enjoy this aspect of self-employment, but I digress, this article is about finding your purpose,or your why in retirement.

As an early retiree you are most likely to derive your purpose from your new endeavour.

But one of the concerns of many teachers who retire at the regular retirement age ( it's 67 in Australia now) is “what will I do with my time? “ When you have always identified as a teacher, retirement is a big adjustment. It is very easy to feel lost and lacking in purpose.

For teachers, loss of purpose is probably the most difficult aspect of retirement. Just like identity, we usually get our sense of purpose and meaning from our work.

Most teachers enter teaching with a very strong purpose because we want to make a difference in the lives of children. That’s what drives us to do the best we can, even in difficult circumstances.

While we are working, and especially when we face unrealistic expectations and a terrible work/life balance we look forward to a life of less responsibility and commitment in our retirement.

But what we may not realise is that it’s the responsibility and commitment that give us purpose and meaning.

When you retire your life changes dramatically, suddenly you have no reason to get up in the morning, reduced social contact and mental stimulation. You miss that sense of purpose and if you do not find another activity that gives you purpose and meaning, you could end up feeling unfulfilled and unhappy.


The good news is that there are many ways to maintain our sense of purpose in retirement, although they may not be immediately obvious. Finding something that suits you, may need some self-reflection and guidance.

A good way to find out what will give us a sense of purpose in retirement is to look at our core values. When you KNOW what your values are you are able to decide what is really important in life. You will understand what motivates and drives you.

What are your core values?

Your values are the things that you believe are important in the way you live and work.

They determine your priorities, and, deep down, they're probably the measures you use to tell if your life is turning out the way you want it to.

One of my favourite definitions comes from Brene Brown, she defines a value as “ a way of being or believing that you hold most important”

She says that when you live according to your values you “ walk your talk” and are clear about what you believe and hold important in your life.

Understanding your core values will help you to make decisions in all aspects of your life, quickly and effectively. Life can be much easier when you recognise your values and make plans and decisions that align with them.

You may be aware of your values, but they do change over time. It may be helpful to revisit them, especially when you are entering a new phase of your life. If you don't know your values, now is a great time to learn.

Here are 3 things you can do:

1. You can work out your values yourself by taking the following steps:

a. Search on google for a list of values

b. Choose 10 from this list that are most important to you and write them down

c. Reduce this list of 10 to 5 by comparing them with each other and eliminating the least


d. Now order the last 5 according to the importance to you. The first 3 are your most

important values. Examine your life to determine how well you are expressing these

values in your life right now and make the necessary adjustments.

2. You can get some one-to-one coaching help (from me) to work out your values and help you with other aspects of your retirement plan (not financial). Book an obligation free call here to have a Zoom chat about how I can help you.

There are a few options. To help you work out exactly what is the best way forward for YOU, I am offering a Mini Power Coaching Package, which I am delivering online. In the first 60-minute session we will work together to find the best option for you and look at ways to move forward. You will then begin to implement the ideas. A week or 2 later we will meet again (online) for a 30 minute follow up session to make any adjustments and refine the process. At the end of this you will have a clear idea of what you are going to do next and a pathway to move forward. Just think how you will feel when you finally have a way forward.

I also have longer Coaching packages available that are tailored to your needs.

3. If you prefer to work alone but still would like something structured, I suggest you enrol in my short online course Getting Started with Career Change for Teachers. It is designed for teachers who are considering leaving teaching and don’t know where to start. But it will work equally well for teachers who are retiring and looking for alternative careers or activities that are meaningful and give them purpose. Working out your values is part of this course as well as looking at beliefs, understanding your strengths and skills and creating goals. You can find out more and enrol here.

4. Career Change for Teachers is a more in-depth course that guides you through a 6-step job search process that delves into your mindset, your beliefs, values, strengths, transferable skills, interests, passions and purpose. It then guides you to identify the careers that are the best fit for you and create a career pathway to get your ideal job. If this sounds like what you are looking for, you can find more details and enrol here

Regardless of our circumstances, we all should carefully consider our expectations for our retirement and make a retirement plan to help us have the best retirement we can.


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