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Memphis Daily News
Retire, Then Reinvent Yourself
December 8, 2016
By Dr. Mary C. McDonald

Birth is a beginning. Death is an ending. Everything in between is merely a transition. The secret to fulfillment, to leading a purpose-driven life, to happiness, is how you learn to manage and maximize those transitions.

Socrates said, “The secret of change is to focus all your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” It is easier said than done when, for better or worse, there is a comfort zone of predictability. There is always a learning curve and a period of adjustment to a new reality, even a good one.

For many, that new reality is retirement. You have waited years, talking about all the relaxing things you would welcome, all the places you’d go, all the hobbies you would finally have time to do. You have perhaps even saved and planned and talk about living the dream. Then you retired. Some lived that dream. But for many, they found a sense of restlessness, like something was missing. And that “something” was a sense of purpose that had become so much a part of their very beings.

So, what do you do? You reinvent yourself. You examine the passion that drove you in the past, and focus on new ways to redirect that passion into the future and who you are now. You take all you know, all you experienced and all that you built upon in the past, and rebuild yourself for the future.

It is challenging, enlivening and hard work. I know. I retired and then reinvented myself. I began again, from the beginning. It is exhilarating to climb another mountain and test the limits of the possible. And what I found is that anything is possible. I also found a renewed sense of purpose, in fulfilling the needs of others with what I had learned. And I learned I was not alone.

At a recent meeting, I was talking to a group of fellow travelers along the reinvention road. They all had retired, and all had started their own businesses. And, like me, a portion of the day was spent in mentoring budding first-time entrepreneurs. There is always a need to give back what was given by others.

Remember the past, but don’t live engulfed in it. Spending too much time there can translate into an “as good as it gets” mentality that robs us of a chance to evolve and improve. Learning to celebrate the future, and all that is yet to be, is learning to live in the wisdom of uncertainty. Continuing a legacy that is infused with the power of living life to the fullest, whatever that looks like, whatever our circumstances, whatever we do. When we encounter those who defy the odds, who dare to make a difference, who reinvent themselves and their significance repeatedly, who persevere, they show us how to slip the surly bonds of resistance to change and they lift us all. Then we are free to make a difference in our own lives, in our own way, wherever we are, whatever we do now and next.

Contact Dr. Mary C. McDonald, a national education consultant, at 574-2956 or visit

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