As someone who proudly wore the Girl Scout uniform and lived by the motto “Be Prepared,” I approached life’s challenges with a certain confidence, armed with the skills and strategies I believed necessary to tackle any situation. This approach served me well throughout my 30-year career, where preparation was the key to my success and stability.

So, imagine what a complete surprise it was when I retired from that career, stepped into a new chapter, and promptly fell apart.

I thought I was prepared. I’d spent years working with a financial advisor, knew how to budget, and was confident we had the financial means to support the retirement lifestyle we wanted.

But I hadn’t prepared myself at all for the emotional roller coaster ride and identity crisis I would face when I walked out that door for the last time and entered the unknown.

And that was a huge mistake.

Retirement is often depicted as the golden chapter of life, a time for relaxation and enjoyment, free from the demands of a nine-to-five routine. That may be true for some women, but my reality was a starkly different picture.

It was a shock.

The day I stepped out of my office for the last time, I was unprepared for the emotional fallout. I quickly realized that my career was more than just a job; it was a cornerstone of my identity, a defining aspect of who I was.

Closing this long-standing chapter felt like losing a part of myself, and I was not prepared for the profound sense of loss.

Through this challenging transition, I learned that being prepared involves much more than financial readiness—it’s about emotional and psychological preparation too. Here are some strategies that helped me navigate this new chapter of life, which might help you as well:

1. Revisit Your Life’s Story

Reflect on your past chapters, each role you’ve played, and how they’ve shaped you. Understanding your journey helps you appreciate where you are now and can also guide you in exploring options on where to go next. (Grab my Amazon best-selling book here to dive deeper into designing your next chapter.)

2. Discover Your True Self

Retirement can be the perfect time to peel back the layers of your persona that were built around professional and social expectations of your career. As you peel back each layer, label, or limitation, you’ll be better able to see new passions or interests to explore.

Additionally, over the years we often adopt masks to fit into various roles, whether for career advancement or social acceptance. Retirement is your chance to shed these and embrace your authentic self, without fear of judgment.

3. Adopt a Growth Mindset

View retirement not as the end but as the beginning of learning and growing in different ways. A growth mindset (a concept popularized by psychologist Carol Dweck) will allow you to see opportunities in every challenge because it is based on the belief that you can transform your abilities and intelligence through learning.

Retirement doesn’t mean the end of your learning curve; rather, it offers the freedom to explore subjects and skills you’ve always been curious about and set new goals that excite and motivate you. Whether it’s learning a new language, picking up a musical instrument, or understanding digital technology, each new learning experience enriches your life, enhances cognitive function, and adds purpose and structure to your days.

Most importantly, a growth mindset helps you deal with setbacks more effectively. Instead of viewing them as failures, you’ll see them as opportunities to learn and adapt, which is especially important during life transitions.

4. Plan Your New Journey

Just like a trip, planning your post-retirement life can make the transition smoother and more enjoyable. Think about what you want to achieve, what will give you purpose in this chapter, places you want to visit, and new skills you want to learn. They will all become the reason for you to take the next steps on your life journey.

5. Master the Art of the Pivot

The ability to pivot—making a significant change in strategy or direction—is as relevant in retirement as it is in the business world. Life after career can be unpredictable, and your ability to adapt can determine how well you thrive.

With more free time, retirement is ideal for pivoting into exploring new ventures. This might mean turning a hobby into a small business, engaging in volunteer work that makes use of your skills, or even starting a blog or podcast to share your knowledge and experiences.

Above all, remember that sometimes, the best opportunities are those we never planned for. Instead of freaking out when that curve ball comes your way, being open to unexpected paths can lead to fulfilling experiences that you might never have considered otherwise. That’s the true art of the pivot.

By adopting a growth mindset and mastering the art of the pivot, retirees can approach this new chapter of life with optimism and agility, ready to learn, adapt, and enjoy all the new experiences that await. Whether it’s through personal development, embracing new technology, or adapting to the unexpected, these skills are key to thriving in a fulfilling post-career life.

Transitioning to retirement is unique for everyone. Stepping into that new chapter is not just an end—it can be a vibrant new beginning. Just think about the Girl Scout motto and prepare for the transition from a whole person perspective instead of just making sure your finances are in order.

Your future self will thank you.

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