Life coaches can help retired execs find purpose
When former University of Phoenix business management student Barbara Penn-Atkins retired as co-owner of an executive search firm, the self-described workaholic says she felt lost. After years of running a multimillion-dollar company whose business calendar ruled her waking hours, retirement quickly grew tedious, says Penn-Atkins.
“Self-identity was wrapped up in my company, social status, a jet-set life and material trappings,” she recalls. “Suddenly, I found myself faced with 24/7 time on my hands and not a plan in place other than to play golf.”
Not one to sit still for long, Penn-Atkins channeled her energies into helping people like herself who come to a crossroads in life and need help finding direction. After starting a new business, The Penna Group LLC, she launched the division SunRise Beginnings, a life-planning business.
Penn-Atkins’ independently pursued her certification as a transition life and retirement coach because she wanted to help today’s retiring executives work through the disheartening emotions retirement can often bring about. She also wants to help them transition into their new identities because many executives have been so accustomed to investing 90 percent of their energy into their companies that they find several months into retirement that they are not only bored, but depressed and devoid of personal purpose.
“The question for many retired executives is ‘what am I going to do with myself?’” says Penn-Atkins, also author of “70 is the New 40” which includes a forward written by University of Phoenix health care instructor Dr. Damita Zweiback. “A coach … help[s] them prepare for a change, discover what matters and [start] doing what they love,” Penn-Atkins says.
Why executives turn to retirement coaches
Retirement coaches like Penn-Atkins further find that the loss of self these “hip silver tsunamis” experience during retirement can lead to greater issues, including dysfunctional relationships with family or friends, she notes.
“Retirement is an emotional process,” says Penn-Atkins. Savvy executives are beginning to recognize this and, therefore, are hiring retirement coaches to help them assess and prepare for the big “R” to avoid this emotional rut, she says.
Part of this assessment process is to encourage executives to make a flexible, new life plan using SMART goals, a concept first introduced in the 1980s by business writer George T. Doran.
S – Specific. Write down your personal life goals and dreams.
M – Measureable. Manage the feasibility of your retirement plan, including reviewing your finances with a financial planner.
A – Attainable. Take steps that lead to achievement.
R – Realistic. Develop a plan that’s practical.
T – Timely. Create a timeline of when you hope to meet each goal.
SMART goals help executives put their life into terms they understand — a business plan. Penn-Atkins explains it with the following example: “I want to play golf on Dubai on 11/11/11, and it will cost me $22,500 to do that.”
Fortifying your plan
To help her clients take the SMART process a step further, Penn-Atkins encourages them to:
- Keep physically and mentally active.
- Maintain social contacts.
- Discover your passions.
- Discover your strengths.
- Discuss life options. Do you want to re-career, volunteer, travel, etc.?
- Confer with a coach or loved one about how to leverage your talents.
- Connect and maintain a community presence.
- Return to school for a skill, if desired (i.e. attend a culinary arts school to open a bake shop).
Doing these things, Penn-Atkins says will lead to a successful retirement, free of the blurred sense of self that traditionally follows leaving a long-held job.
“I’d like executives to just get rid of the word ‘retirement.’ It’s not the end of who you are or what you represent,” emphasizes Penn-Atkins. Rather, it’s best for them to look at its meaning.
“By definition, you ‘retire’ to something else.”