I recently sat in a room with a very successful 40-year old business professional who stated, “I’m thinking I might retire in 10 years.” Whether you’re 1 year, 5 years, or 20 years away from retirement, the reality is that retirement looms in the future for all of us. The attitude we have about retirement varies from “I can’t wait,” to “I’ll have to work until I die because I won’t have enough money to be able to retire,” to “I’m afraid I’ll be bored when if I retire,” to “I’ll never retire.” No matter our current age, our attitude about retirement is something we can work on now, as having a positive approach is one of the predictors of success in retirement.

When you hear the word “retirement” what images, thoughts, attitudes and emotions arise in you? If you envision old people sitting around doing crochet and watching TV, I’m here to tell you that “old” view is quickly being replaced by a “new” definition of retirement as active, engaging and generative. I have been racking my brain to come up with a new term for retirement-and so have many of the experts-because retirement today is not what it was for our grandparents and parents. We can be grateful for this!

In his book, The New Retirement, Dr. Robert Johnson encourages those considering retirement to see it as a transition to a new stage in life that offers unlimited possibilities and as a time of personal change that offers tremendous growth. Similar to changing to a new job or moving to a new city, retirement can be viewed as a transition to something new and different, and while transitions are challenging, our attitude about the transition makes a difference.

When I work with individuals planning their retirement, or, for that matter, going through any life transition, I ask them to pay attention to what they are saying to themselves about the transition and to write down their thoughts and the feelings they have about the thoughts for about a week or two. It’s quite an eye-opening experience for those who do the exercise. What they discover is that their thoughts and feelings don’t always support them in making a successful transition. The first step is to be aware of what you are saying to yourself; the second is to explore the beliefs behind those thoughts and the feelings that arise when having those thoughts, and if needed, create new, more supportive attitudes that will make the transition easier and, ultimately, more successful.

Attitude matters! If you are in the midst of a transition, try this exercise. If you get stuck, we’re always here to help!

By Theresa Gale,