Q: I’m feeling stuck from having too many choices! I just determined that I’m in a financial position to retire. I still like working pretty well, and I could stay at my current employer full or part time or pursue consulting or teaching opportunities. Or I could go to 100 percent retirement. How do I make the right choice?
Peter, 63, vice president
A: Step away from the idea of a single right choice; you’ll feel more freedom to move forward. That said, it won’t hurt to reflect on your options, seeking the choice that brings your head and heart into the best alignment at this moment in your life.
There are a number of approaches you could take. The “wheel of life” may be useful to help you take stock and articulate a vision. Draw a circle and divide it into six to eight pie pieces representing the important sectors of life: family, health, work, friends, spirituality, etc. Then assess where you are now and where you’d like to be. For now, stay pretty short-term, say, in the next year or two. You can use this to think through how well each option moves you toward your goal.
Or you could try writing the story of your next year if you pursued each of those paths. Who would you be with? How would you spend your days? And how would you be feeling? If you try this, keep it loose so that the underlying emotions for each option have a chance to surface.
Lists of pros and cons are good, too; just be sure you don’t overweigh pros to be aspects you think you “should” value.
Now throw the possibilities wide open. Think of things you’ve always dreamed of doing, whether they bring in income or not. This is a brainstorming window, so banish the reasons why an idea isn’t feasible. Reflect on who you are when you take your job out of the equation, opening up a full view of yourself and your potential. This may also be helpful if you just don’t know what’s next.
Talk to people, both those with skin in the game, like partners or other family members, and those who know you but will not really be affected. Pay attention to the words and emotions that you express as you explore your alternatives. You may not be conscious of your preferences at this point, but they can show up in your demeanor.
Notice where fear enters. It’s natural to have anxiety about big life changes; determining what drives the fears you may have will help keep them in perspective and prevent them from derailing you.
Here’s another thought about why you’re stuck. Could it be that, since you don’t have to make a decision immediately, you’re trying to rush it? Try giving yourself a somewhat more relaxed timetable to sort out what you really want at this phase in your life.
And then remember, this isn’t a one-time decision that can’t be changed. Many people step out of the workplace and then move back in; they just aren’t quite ready for that much change. Give yourself the flexibility to try new things, and don’t let an inner judge go after you if you change your mind.
What challenges do you face at work? Send your questions to Liz Reyer, leadership coach and president of Reyer Coaching & Consulting in Eagan. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.