January 01, 2018

8 Steps to Repurposing the Retiring Lawyer in You

By James R. Nowlin

Thinking about the decision to retire brings about myriad emotions—trepidation, excitement, nervousness, and uncertainty, to name a few.

But for many lawyers, retirement can be especially difficult, particularly for practitioners who’ve for decades worked hard and lived and breathed the profession. On the other hand, some lawyers may feel relieved and welcome the lifestyle changes and freedom that come with retirement.

With all this free time that comes with retirement, often the question is: “What can I do to ensure a purposeful retirement?”

Here are eight steps you can take to repurpose that lawyer in you, before and during your retirement.

1. Refocus your life. Did you know that studies have shown that a human being is most vulnerable during the first 12 months after birth and during the first 12 months after retirement? Shocking, right?

If you don’t prepare appropriately or you treat the end of your law career as the end of your purpose in life, you may well end up losing your footing during this very vulnerable stage. Don’t focus on what you’ve lost or didn’t accomplish. Instead, focus on all the extraordinary possibilities retirement has opened up for you.

Use the approach of your retirement being a time to reflect on your life. Be honest with yourself, and evaluate how you’ve lived your life so far by identifying the things you want to change, placing your goals for the future on a vision board.

Your vision board will remind you of where you’ve agreed to focus your life going forward so you won’t get lost in daily worry and anxiety, wondering about the future direction of your life and what your most important priorities are. When you feel lost, reflect on your vision board and the images that reflect the new life you wish to create. This will ground you.

2. Enjoy the rewards of mentoring. You know a great deal about the practice of law and how to succeed in one of the most challenging professions out there. You can use that knowledge and experience to teach and guide eager students as well as young lawyers toward a promising future.

Ask around about mentor-protégé programs, connect with the nearest universities, your alma mater, your bar organization, or other law organizations and offer to volunteer your service. Check with the National Legal Mentoring Consortium [http://www.legalmentoring.org/mentoringprograms.php?id=0] website to see if there’s a specific mentoring program that interests you.

With mentorship, you can pay your knowledge forward for the next generation of aspiring lawyers. Mentorship is a gift that not only gives to the protégé but to the mentor as well. It’s a powerful way to stay connected within the profession, inspire the future, and receive the rewards of making a difference in the life of another person. Mentoring rising lawyers for professional excellence can be your legacy.

3. Prioritize health and fitness. Working long hours may have taken its toll on you over the years. In your retirement, you may feel that it’s time to play catch up with your health and wellness. Now that you have more free time, it’s also the time to make staying healthy your top priority.

Remember that if you don’t make health your priority, it’ll make itself a priority for you; therefore, be proactive and not reactive. Don’t wait for something to go wrong before you seek help.

Schedule annual health checkups. Evaluate your health and habits and make necessary changes. Be honest with yourself. Consult a professional dietician to help you create healthier meal plans as well as develop better eating habits.

If you haven’t cared about exercise until now, you may find it difficult to get into the habit of exercising. Choosing an activity that you enjoy can make the transition easier. Do something you can stick to, such as yoga, tennis, swimming, or tai chi. Just do it consistently.

If this sounds overwhelming to you, start with something simple such as doing a 15-minute jog or walk around the neighborhood each morning. Join a gym class or exercise group if you prefer working out with others. Many people, myself included, feel stimulated the most to exercise their hardest when in a group setting. Get a professional trainer to kick off your new exercise program, particularly if you’re having a hard time getting and staying motivated.

Once you begin to consistently feel the benefits of exercise, it’ll become as natural as breathing and something you’ll want to do more of. What matters most is your resolve and willingness to do the work.

I’ve said it time and time again, including in my book, The Purposeful Millionaire, 52 Habits for Creating a Life of Wealth and Happiness Now, as Rule #20: “If you’re not willing to do the work, nothing will work.” So just do the work.

4. Expand and deepen your social circle. Remember all those great friends you made in your professional or personal life whom you didn’t really have time to meet up with as often as you’d have liked? Well, now that you have the time, it’s time to reconnect with them and enjoy the power of friendship.

Remember this: The happiness we have in our lives is directly proportional to the quality of relationships we have in our lives. Want to be miserable? Be lonely. But you should never be lonely. Share yourself and your gifts with the world. There are literally billions of people out there who’d like to get to know you.

If there were events you enjoyed attending regularly before you retired, continue attending them. They serve as great opportunities for keeping relationships strong and for meeting new people. Always stay connected. Join clubs and associations whose missions are in line with your vision and value system. Never stop expanding and deepening your social circle.

You can also host your own social events. This is the perfect time to unleash the extrovert in you. Organize dinner parties, host barbecues, game nights, movie nights, vacations with friends, and more. Whatever you do, don’t become a recluse. Shuttering away from the world isolates us and makes our minds go stir crazy. Friends and family are to be cherished, and the more consistently you spend quality time with them, the happier you’ll become.

Just make sure you invite only people who have a positive effect on you and that you limit your judgment of others. Show them an extravagant example of love, kindness, and grace, and most likely you’ll receive it in return.

Never forget my Rule #40: “Lucky people surround themselves with other happy, lucky people. Restrict your time with unhappy, unlucky people, including certain family and friends.”

As you expand your social circle, don’t forget to make friends with people of different ages. There are a lot of younger people who prefer the company of those who are older than them. After all, age is just a number. Most people value personality, attitude, wisdom, and common interests when it comes to choosing individuals they want to spend time with. So don’t believe that just because you’re older, younger people might not want to spend time with you.

Younger people can give you energy and a different perspective. In turn, they’ll enjoy gleaning from you wisdom and a thought process that reflects years of experience beyond theirs.

5. Join a cause. Look for a worthwhile cause outside the legal profession and become a part of it. There’s nothing like the sense of fulfillment you get by knowing you’ve made a difference and contributed to making the world a better place. When you help enrich the lives of others, you’re also enriching your own.

Choose a cause that allows you to actively participate. Simply making donations can’t compare to the sense of accomplishment you’ll receive from becoming active, serving on a board, and volunteering consistently.

You can find information, including financial responsibility and overall effectiveness of non-profits and charities of all different kinds, on CharityNavigator.org [charitynavigator.org]. There’s bound to be a non-profit that’s a great match for you and your service.

6. Never stop learning. Let me repeat that: Never stop learning—period. The most alive and happy human beings are those who are lifelong learners.

Because we’re in the digital age, learning is literally at our fingertips. You can look for numerous online resources and read them for free, and you can also enroll in online courses. Online courses are flexible, and you can take them anytime you want and anywhere you travel, so long as there’s internet access.

Recently, I spoke with a retiree who’d taken four free online classes from an online university, and he’d structured his daily calendar around his continuing education. Another retiree had taken three semesters of community college classes on topics in which she’d always had an interest. Both retirees were not only keeping their brains fresh, but they also found great joy in the rigor of the classroom.

If you’ve always wished you knew how to cook, go take up a cooking class. If you want to be more familiar with the latest gadgets and social media websites so you can better relate to your children and grandkids, now’s the time to do it. See technology as your friend.

Learning also gives us a sense of growth. Whenever we feel we’ve improved ourselves, we experience fulfillment. Continue to better yourself by accumulating and applying knowledge. The more you know, the more knowledge you can use to connect and share with others.

7. Don’t let yourself go. Let’s be honest. Some people just let themselves go when they retire. Their appearance spirals downhill and often reflects how they feel on the inside. Being out of the workforce is no excuse for dressing like you’re on a constant vacation.

Once retired, you don’t necessarily need to wear courtroom or boardroom clothes, but you do need to dress with confidence and style. If you don’t know if your look needs some updating, ask a couple of friends to be honest with you. And if you’re feeling a need for change, update your look—get a new hairstyle, get a facial, or get a new wardrobe. An appearance update can work wonders for the psyche.

Let the new you shine through. You’re free from significant professional obligations for the first time in your life, and spending time on your appearance will only show the world that your outward appearance is a reflection of your inner happiness. Having a youthful, positive look will help make you feel young and optimistic.

8. Say yes to repurposing. Never forget that this juncture in your life is literally everything you’ve worked for and that age is just a state of mind.

The most important thing in repurposing the lawyer in you after retirement is taking the first step. My Rule #2 is a perfect fit for this: “Take the first step. You’ll never have an amazing journey if you don’t take the first step, even if doing so scares the daylights out of you.”

Don’t be afraid. Embrace the new you.

You’ve heard it time and again that 60 is the new 40 or that 70 is the new 50. So live it up, and make it that way. Stay energetic. Take pride in all the knowledge and wisdom you’ve gained through the years in both your professional and personal lives.

Be an inspiration to others with your contagious, positive outlook on yourself and the world. As the inspirational author Shannon L. Alder once said, “When you’re joyful, when you say yes to life and have fun and project positivity all around you, you become a sun in the center of every constellation, and people want to be near you.”

This is your retirement and your repurposing. Get ready for your sunniest days ahead.

By James R. Nowlin

JAMES R. NOWLIN is a lawyer and the CEO of Excel Global Partners, a corporate consulting firm, as well as its portfolio of investment companies, The EGP Family of Cos (excelglobalpartners.com). He’s also the author of The Purposeful Millionaire, 52 Rules for Creating a Life of Wealth and Purpose Now, an executive and life coach, as well as an international keynote speaker for corporations and associations (jamesnowlin.com).