The best way to predict the future is to create it.

Abraham Lincoln

Earlier this year, Savant Wealth Management partnered with Absolute Engagement to study how investor perceptions of retirement are changing. Our research found that the word “retirement” doesn’t really describe how people are choosing to spend their “next chapter.” Many of the 750 investors we surveyed told us they would like to continue to work – either full-time, part-time, or as a volunteer – before stopping work altogether. We also heard that many would like to try something new instead of working at their current jobs.

These days, it seems our entire workforce is reckoning with a desire to experience life on their terms. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of “quits,” or voluntary separations by employees, continued at an all-time high in August, particularly in the South and Midwest regions. What’s driving this “great resignation?” In an article for the Harvard Business Review, Ian Cook cites a number of possible factors, including increased workload and burnout related to the COVID-19 pandemic, or a delayed transition by employees who put off changing jobs because of the uncertainty caused by the pandemic.

Whether you are 45 or 65, you may be thinking about your life differently now, and considering some new options for how to spend your time in the future. Happiness comes from knowing where you want to go and why, setting worthy goals, and achieving those goals as you follow your game plan for life. In Victory Lap Retirement, Work While You Play, Play While You Work, a book I co-authored with Mike Drak and Jonathan Chevreau, we offered three steps toward thinking about the next chapter in your life. And it all starts with having a plan.

Failing to Plan Is Planning to Fail

You may have heard this before: Setting a goal and not creating and following a plan to achieve it is merely a wish. Hope is not a strategy; a well-thought-out plan is. Before you decide to make the leap to your next chapter – whether it’s a new way of working, a gap year, or a full retirement – consider these three steps:

Step 1: Articulate Your Dream

First, articulate your vision – one that will allow you to live the longest, healthiest, most interesting, and most satisfying life you can. You need to align all of your dreams and goals with what you want to accomplish in life and with what you desire to become.

Start by exploring your passion. What gets you excited? What gets you out of bed in the morning? Next, make your goals real by visualizing exactly what you want to do and where you want to go. The more vivid you can imagine your future, the stronger your desire will be to get there. Dream big, and feel your happiness and energy start to flow!

Step 2: Establish Your Core Goals

As we explain in Victory Lap Retirement, core goals are themes that form the code you choose to live by to achieve your vision. How would you like people to remember you once you’re gone? Visualize your legacy and how those who survive you will describe that legacy: how you helped others, showed compassion, and made contributions to your community.

Core goals come from what a person wants to accomplish in life – not in terms of making money or acquiring more stuff, but in how you help and touch the souls of others.

Step 3: Establish Your Short-Term Goals

Short-term goals act as stepping stones that help us realize our long-term vision. Longevity studies tell us which areas in our lives we need to address – all the things we need to do to stay engaged, healthy, and balanced. We need to take that knowledge and convert it into clear and well-defined sub-goals so we can live a long life.

Short-term goals are the “how,” the steps needed to achieve the higher vision of the life you want to lead. The key in establishing these goals is to make sure you can clearly articulate them. Write them down, set a specific completion date, and hold yourself accountable. Examples of these types of goals include:

  • Achieve financial independence by Dec. 31, 2022.
  • Lose 30 pounds by Dec. 31, 2022.
  • Volunteer to help organize the local hospital charity run on Apr. 1, 2022.

You get the idea. Tracking your progress and regularly comparing it to your goals can help motivate you to stay on track. The real value of setting and achieving your goals lies not so much in the rewards you might receive, but more in the person you’ll become as a result of reaching those goals. As you begin to achieve your short-term goals, continue to develop new ones. Your life – and your next chapter – is a purposeful journey. Don’t stand still.

Author Robert E. Morrison Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer

Rob has been coaching clients since 2001. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business from DePaul University, is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional, and co-authored “Victory Lap Retirement,” second edition.

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