Stephen Hale and Greg Hammond OAM
Moving into a new phase of life has been challenging for those of us who are recently retired from working for one organisation full time. Whatever we had planned or anticipated has been changed or put on hold by unforeseen circumstances or, more recently, thrown into chaos by the pandemic. It has been both an interesting and yet frustrating time.
In the early phase of retirement, the following is a random selection of observations.
1. Be open to God's leading
In this new season of one's life (even in the midst of the pandemic) it is critical to be open to God's leading and to being a part of what he would have one do. It is tempting to want to have a plan about the future before retirement occurs, but "letting go" is important and often requires time to reflect, listen and discern how you can best use your God-given gifts in fruitful ways.
When you have spent all or most of your career working for one organisation, it can be hard to think outside the lens or prism of that organisation. Shortly before "early retirement", I received some good advice – trust God and let go of the future, so you can think about it through a new lens, not the old lens of your first career (Greg).
This has always been tricky, but particularly so in the last two years for those entering this new phase of life, as lots of things have been on hold. Strengthening one's prayer and personal devotion is key to reflecting, listening and discerning.
2. A change in identity
Most of us get part (frequently a large part) of our sense of identity from our work and the offices or roles we occupy. It has been hard to get used to the idea that you no longer have a seemingly key role, place, influence or profile.
I think I'm still sorting this through and that includes moving in and out of locum roles (Stephen). In grappling with this issue, I have found Brian Rosner's work on being made in the image of God, being known by God and being in Christ as the Biblical keys to personal identity particularly helpful (Greg).1
3. Flying solo
One area we both find the hardest is working from home and having to do most stuff for oneself. We both miss the workplace and connecting with people, the informal chats over tea or coffee and the asking of questions of colleagues which can open up new solutions to problems. Juggling multiple involvements with no back up has been a challenge.
During the many lockdowns I lined up walks with different people most days in order to attend to my need to connect and be with others (Stephen). Before, during and after lockdown, I have needed to purposefully arrange time to meet with others for conversation and mutual encouragement (Greg).
4. Consider volunteering
It is unlikely in this new phase of life, that you will need to have a full-time paid role, not that a labourer should not be rewarded for their work. There are many charities and other "for purpose" organisations that rely on volunteers to make the vital difference in the delivery of services.
Even if you do not "get outside the church bubble" as suggested below, consider giving some of your time to a local charity or other "for purpose" organisation. For example, could you volunteer in an aged care residential home to enhance the lives of residents through a skill you have, or simply spend time talking to residents to help relieve the scourge of loneliness.
5. Exercise more
During lockdowns there wasn't much else one could do, but it did have its rewards and is a key thing to build into one's life when it's not as dominated by paid work. It builds resilience and guards against the creep of inertia! (Stephen)
In working from home, and using public transport less (especially since the pandemic began), I have found myself walking less and missing the quiet thinking time that came with short walks to the rail station, between meetings etc. It is important to not only find time for exercise, but also find new ways to quietly think about the challenges of the day or week.
6. Keep reading and engaging
Coaching or mentoring younger leaders and professionals is a great way of keeping in the loop as well as listening to the many podcasts that are out there. They'll help you know which books to consider reading and you'll at least be aware of the ones that are out there.
7. Re-establish old friendships
Most of us have long term friends who we may not have kept up regular contact with due to demands of work and family. Reach out and reconnect. Chances are they were thinking the same thing!
8. Get outside the church bubble
This was important for me (Stephen) and something I've wanted to do for years. I'm volunteering with an organisation that cooks meals for those in need using food that would otherwise be thrown out. The level of professionalism and sheer hard work is amazing.
9. Be more available for your family
With more flexibility there is more of a chance to be a part of your parents' and children's lives and (if you have them) especially the grandchildren. If one isn't tied down every weekday or every weekend this is quite a new thing!
10. Learn to relax
It may seem strange, but it has taken a bit of getting used to having the occasional afternoon or day when you have nothing more to do than clear a few emails! Learn to relax and enjoy these moments. I still find this difficult at times (Greg).
Greg Hammond is a former partner of King & Wood Mallesons and since "early retirement" has served on the boards of several not-for-profit organisations - a second career. Among other roles, he is Chair of Anglican Community Services (t/as Anglicare Sydney) and a director of the Australian College of Theology, G&C Mutual Bank and Opportunity International Australia.
Stephen Hale is the former Lead Minister of the St Hilary's Network and a Regional Bishop in the Diocese of Melbourne. Stephen is the Victorian Director of Overseas Council Australia and Chair of EFAC Global and EFAC Australia. He doesn't really think he is retired as such, he's just not working for an organisation full time
1. Brian Rosner, Known By God: A Biblical Theology of Personal Identity (Zondervan 2018).