The day has finally arrived. You just said goodbye to your colleagues and now you are retired. For years you dreamed of this - being able to stay up late, sleep in when you choose, go on vacation during what USED to be your busiest period at work.

What’s it really like?

Most people feel euphoria when they taste the freedom that comes with their first pension cheque. Their time is now their own, to do what they want WHEN they want. After six months or so, though, if they haven’t determined what they will DO with all that time, they usually feel let down or depressed.

Many new retirees feel a sudden loss of identity, especially if they derived a sense of status or power from their former jobs. This is a different life, with different rules. It isn’t about money or power now - it’s about the meaningful things you can do with the rest of your life, as well as making use of the leisure time at your disposal.

Maybe you worked for someone else for 30 or more years. During all that time, you may have had little time to think, let alone plan for yourself. Now you must decide how to spend your hours, days and weeks. If you strongly identified with your job and felt close to co-workers, you may (perish the thought!) find yourself missing your old place of employment.

That’s because your workplace provided a few other things apart from an income. Now it’s UP TO YOU to build these elements in your daily life.

For a happy retirement, you need THREE things - Purpose, Structure and People.

1. Purpose

It’s important to have a game plan BEFORE you retire. Will you start a new career, go back to school or focus on travel, beginning with a cruise to Alaska?

When you get up in the morning, you want to feel excited about the day ahead. Visiting your grandchildren will help to fill up your time, but depending on your health, you probably have energy for much more!

Your life needs meaning, whether you find this through a different type of work, friends or adventure seeking. You may decide to develop a creative talent, which is an adventure of another sort.

2. Structure

Of course you won’t miss that nasty alarm clock waking you up every weekday morning at the same ungodly hour! Sleeping in is a reward all its own. However, if you find yourself sleeping half the day away, you have a problem.

As a retiree you need to build some routine into your days.

Part of my routine is doing grocery shopping or errands in the morning, when it is less crowded. I also fit in my exercises before noon - whether it’s cycling, working out at home or walking along the river. This is so much easier than exercising after a full workday. I remember how hard it was to push myself when I was feeling tired!

You may decide to join a gym, or take up yoga or ballroom dancing. Your activities will shape your schedule. Even if you are working in some fashion, you should have the flexibility to make exercise part of your day. As we get older, staying mentally and physically active is what keeps us fit and alert.

Studies show that regular exercise can give us an additional 10-20 years of autonomous living. Health issues also gain importance as we age. We need to take better care of our nutritional needs and get enough rest. Why should we end up in a wheelchair or nursing home before our time?

3. People

Your former job probably came with its own social network. It’s not always possible to remain friends with your colleagues, especially if they are still in the workforce for some time to come. Your schedules and interests may really diverge and you can find that you don’t have all that much in common anymore.

You may have family and/or personal friends who are also available when you are. Retirement gives you an opportunity to do more things together - have picnics on a warm summer day, go skating, see concerts. The world is your oyster.

This is also the perfect time to join associations or groups - everything from Toastmasters to origami work groups to hiking clubs. Some people enjoy volunteer work or getting more involved in church activities. Whatever you do, it is vital to feel connected to others.

As for me, I don’t consider myself “retired,” only no longer in the paid labour force. It’s a relief not having to commute to work every day! When I’m not with clients, I spend afternoons in a cozy home office, though my hours vary and some days I never turn on the computer.

Once a week, I make a point of sitting in a downtown café to simultaneously write in my notepad and people watch. At least once a year, in the low season, I vacation on the sandy beaches along the Gulf of Mexico. Most of my time is taken up with my new career as life coach, as well as with my writing. As long as health permits, I plan to stay active and busy until my mid-seventies or more.

I hope that you quickly find your own way in this brave new world, and make your retirement years the best of your life!

Author's Bio: 

Thelma Mariano, life coach and author, is dedicated to bringing clarity and direction to people’s lives. Drawing on fifteen years of personal development work, she helps clients to recognize their unique gifts and overcome blocks in order to achieve their dreams. See her on-line coaching programs, articles and column at .