In working with individuals and their retirement planning over the last decade, I have come to conclude that the concept of retirement is changing. Those whose only focus has been to get to, or in some cases even avoid, retirement have found disappointment with a flawed thinking.

Many retirees leave work at the peak of their skills and capabilities. They leave behind their highest career salaries, personal identities, network of colleagues/friends, and sense of daily purpose. Long work weeks of go-go-go turn into a slow-paced “what do I do now?” life. The slow pace might sound great, especially if you have been go-go-go, but by about month six of retirement, after the long naps, a lot of good books, probably a bit of babysitting the grandchildren, refinishing the deck, spring cleaning, etc…what’s next?

Some make this transition beautifully. They look at retirement not as an end, but rather as a beginning: an opportunity to do what they want on their own terms. For them, they are not actually retiring as much as they are moving onward and upward. Why does this seem to come so easily to some while it is fleeting to others?

It’s because these people have found personal empowerment. These individuals have created purpose beyond the mundane. They have organizations they believe in and participate with, friend networks (from outside of work) that share common interests, curiosities about topics such as travel, spiritual discovery, the arts, family involvement, and/or passion in a new field of study, among other things. They may even still work, but for personal enjoyment – not for the money. Often their retirement job is doing a job they dreamt of but couldn’t afford to do while they were raising a family.

They are engaged in life, interested in learning, looking to live the next 35 years, and are not just waiting for the inevitable and “hoping that things will work out.”

For those, and there are many, who are suffering from anxiety related to retirement, find your purpose. A purpose can start out small and grow as big and broad as you allow it to be. The key to a great purpose is one that is unique to the person who owns it. You will not achieve empowerment if your purpose is copied or adopted from someone else’s.

Own your purpose and find empowerment.

Empowerment is not magical. It is not a special spell or silly enchantment. It is the idea that the things you do on a day-to-day basis all add value to who you are as a person. It creates an uplifting experience. There is an old saying that you cannot truly love another until you love yourself. Live with purpose and reason in everything you do, and you will feel empowered.

The reward.

Once you have achieved personal empowerment, your view on retirement will change. You may not actually leave your job once you reach a level of financial independence. You may keep working because you enjoy it, you believe in the organization’s cause or agenda, or you like the money because it allows you to follow your true passion of philanthropy or travel. You may leave your current job once you are financially independent and pursue that college degree you always wanted, or volunteer for a non-profit you dearly believe in. You may even rent an RV and travel the country collecting eclectic recipes for your café that you have always dreamt of opening.

Getting to the point of it.

Don’t limit your own future. Work is the key to unlocking financial freedom, but it shouldn’t define who you are or what you stand for.

Don’t be in such a hurry to leave the working world if your work is important to you or if it allows you to enjoy things that are more important to you.

It’s never too late to find new passions. Stay true to yourself and remember you can start small. Let retirement be a beginning, not an ending. In the 1950’s life expectancy wasn’t much beyond retirement age, and now people are expected to live between 30 to 40 years in retirement.