Retirement coach and author, Marianne Oehser, discusses why our mindset is so important during the transition and into retirement. You can learn more aobut Marianne on her website, RetireandBeHappy.com. To read Marianne’s entire chapter on this topic, pick up your copy of The Retirement Challenge- A Non-Financial Guide From Top Retirement Experts.
Marianne also just released her own book, Your Happiness Portfolio for Retirement: It’s Not About the Money! You can learn more about the book here.The book is also avaialble on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
The topic for today’s episode is Your Mindset Matters In Retirement. My guest is fellow retirement coach and author Marianne Oehser. Marianne and I both wrote chapters in the book, The Retirement Challenge, a Non-Financial Guide From Top Retirement Experts, and she wrote a chapter in the book titled, “Your Mindset Matters.” Marianne also has a new book coming out soon titled Your Happiness Portfolio for Retirement- It’s Not About the Money. You can learn more about Marianne and her retirement coaching on her website, which is retireandbehappy.com. I will also include a link to her website in the transcript of this episode. Welcome, Marianne!
MO: Thank you, Reid. What a great introduction. I appreciate that.
RS: You’re welcome. I am happy to have you here today because…your chapter on mindset was the first chapter in The Retirement Challenge book. And I think that’s the perfect place for mindset (the chapter) to be because… I believe that our mindset, especially as we transition into retirement, sets the stage for all of all of the other topics that surround how we approach and plan for retirement. Whether it’s topics about the role that work plays in retirement, or deciding where we want to live in retirement, or developing and making new connections or relationships, or decisions involving health and wellness, all revolve around us having the right mindset. And without having the right mindset, those other decisions become much more difficult. So, what has been some of your experiences about how mindset plays a role in all of these other topics that people need to think about as they transition into retirement?
MO: Reid. I so agree with you and your assessment of mindset. Mindset is just sort of how you look at things. Whether you look at things, you know, we’ve all heard that is your glass half empty glass half full and the reason that mindset that you are right, that mindset encompasses everything. A good example of that is somebody that I’m working with right now, we’ll call him Sam, and Sam is about to retire. In fact, this week is his last week of teaching for 35 years. And he is very, very tied to and is passionate about his career. While his mindset at the moment is that the world is going to stop at the end of this week because he is losing all of the things that he worked so hard to accomplish. All the investment that he’s made in his knowledge and the thing, the excitement that he gets out of his career.
MO: And so his mindset is… after that (retiring) he’s going to fall off of a cliff and he’s going to be a nobody and a nothing. And that’s in the, that’s a sad, sad way to look at it. And what I’ve learned, and I know you know this to Reid, is that people typically have go down one of two paths as they retire. Their mindset is, wow, I’m free and I’m going to be in a perpetual vacation for the next 35 years. It’s just going to be fantastic. And as we know, many people do go down that euphoric mindset path and do have a wonderful honeymoon period. But the problem is it ends. Now, other people like Sam, that I was just talking about, go down the gloom and doom path. And, unfortunately his mindset is that everything…the gloom and doom mindset says everything from now on is going to be downhill. My health is going to be downhill, my life is going to be downhill. Nothing good is going to happen to me anymore. And it’s, it’s just really very sad when you see people like that. The good news is you have some control over it though.
RS: Right. Right. So let’s… you talked a little bit about mindset (meaning of), let’s go into that a little bit more. What is mindset and how would you describe a person’s mindset?
MO: Well, mindset is how you approach things, how you look at things, and it’s influenced by the beliefs that you have over your life, your attitudes about things, and that creates the behaviors, the choices that you make. Now, there’s a really good book called Mindset is written by Carol Dweck. She’s a professor at Stanford. And she has found through all of her research on mindset that there are typically two types of mindset. The first one she calls a fixed mindset. In that way (view), when you believe that you believe that you are dealt the cards that you’re dealt and you’re stuck with them. Whatever you’ve got is what you’ve got to live with no matter what. You aren’t gonna… it’s not gonna change, you’re stuck.
The other mindset is a growth mindset with that (one)…when you have a growth mindset, you can look at something, you fall down, we all fall down. And the question is, are you going to sit there waiting for somebody to come rescue you, which would be the fixed mindset. Or do you say, okay, don’t like this particularly, what am I going to do about it? How can I get over it? What am I going to do to get over this obstacle or around this barrier, through this, whatever’s happened and believing that you have the ability to make that change. And that’s a very different approach. And with retirement, if Sam stays on the path of gloom and doom, he…it’s going to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. If on the other hand he can shift, and I know you can shift is outcome will be very, very different.
RS: So, tell us a little bit more about why our mindset matters as we enter retirement. I think mindset throughout our lives is important no matter what our age is. But why is mindset probably even more important as we transition into retirement,
MO: It’s because when you, if you believe that this is the end of the, of the line that you’re out to pasture, that nothing good is going to happen. You aren’t going to look for the opportunities that are definitely there. You know, we all…when we’re looking through a lens, we see the world based on the way that lense is. Shift the lens a little bit and the picture shifts. And it’s that way with mindset too. So even…my hope, my intent certainly with Sam is that as we work together, he’s going to understand that just making a shift and how he looks at how what the outcome is will opt, will allow him to see the opportunities that are ahead of him, to see the possibilities, to look at things with hope and anticipation instead of dread and gloom and believing his life is over. So, mindset is so important with retirement because it influences the choices that you make in all areas of your life.
RS: Yep. Yep. In your chapter, you talk a little bit about, and I think this is really interesting, that mindsets can be shifted quickly. And so when we talk about having a gloom and doom mindset, but we have the opportunity to change that and that mindsets can be shifted quickly. Explain that a little bit.
MO: I will Reid, but using an example that Dr. Dweck had in her book, and then I’ll follow it up with an example of a real client. Anyway, when in the book mindset, doctor Dweck talks about the fact that she was giving a presentation to a junior high school class. And in the class was a student named Jimmy and Jimmy was a terrible student and he was just almost failing everything. And after… at the end of her presentation, Jimmy came up to her and said, “do you mean that I might not be stupid?” Jimmy’s mindset was that he was dumb and therefore why bother to work on his homework? And what ended up happening with Jimmy is once he made that shift and gave up that belief that he was stupid, he worked on his homework, his grades increased tremendously and he went on and actually graduated from college later.
MO: So it’s a whole…And in retirement, I mean, I like that story because it’s so illustrative. In retirement… I had a client, we’ll call him Rich, who was, when we met, was definitely on the gloom and doom path. And you know, his career had ended abruptly and not by his choosing, which is even makes things more difficult. Um, but he kind of tended to the gloom-and-doom mindset anyway. Well, as we started to shift the lens for him, instead he went from being so depressed that when he couldn’t get up in the morning and he said that maybe by two o’clock he had enough energy to read the newspaper and by the end of the day, you know, nothing has gotten done.
But once he was able to shift that lens just a little bit and begin to realize that he does have control over what was going on, he does have control over what he believed in, what his attitudes were, he was able to shift into a more growth mindset. And he decided to explore some of his old hobbies and loves. It turns out he used to love to write but he didn’t ever have time during his career. And he had decided to take a creative writing class at the local college. During the process of that, he uncovered a manuscript that he had written when he got home from Vietnam. It was a fictional short story. And I read it. It was actually super. Through his writing class, he sort of beefed it up and turns out his daughter had a friend in Hollywood that worked at Universal Studios and sent off the manuscript.
Well, today it is now being considered by both that studio and another one and is in the final stages of becoming a screenplay. Well, from that he went onto writing his memoirs, teaching memoirs, and they’re in the midst of being published. Well, that shift, that ability to say okay, it’s not all over and, okay let me look at the possibilities has led him down that path. Today he is about to earn his distinguished toastmaster recognition, which is the highest you can get in Toastmasters. He’s currently an area governor in Toastmasters. He speaks in his church all the time. He’s involved with doing special programs for the Alzheimer’s support network where his wife works. He is absolutely…and says my (his) days are so full that I’m afraid I’m going to miss something.
RS: So, it sounds like he really transitioned out of that fixed mindset into that growth mindset?
MO: Just like Jimmy, you have the ability, if you shift the lens to say, “maybe one of the things I’m believing isn’t true.” And just like Jimmy, Rich was able to say, “okay, that isn’t true. So how am I going to look at this differently?”
RS: Right. Yep. That’s good. You have a section in the chapter titled, ‘The Stories We Tell Ourselves.’ And I think one of the ways that you explained this in the chapters with the concept of background music, so explain both of those concepts and why being aware of these is so important to us in retirement.
MO: Yeah. The story, should we tell ourselves and we all tell ourselves stories all the time, that we as human beings…I mean because literally when an event happens, the event itself is neutral, but what story do we tell ourselves about it? Do we say that this was a good thing or do we think it was a bad thing? And so if something that could be either one. If you tell yourself a story that it’s bad, well guess what? You’re going to believe it’s bad. And if you believe it’s bad, you’re going to not see any possibilities for how it would be good. So the stories we tell ourselves are very important. And you mentioned the background music and, and what that means is that those beliefs, those, you know, those stories that we tell ourselves that live in our subconscious kind of play in the background like background music. And you know, when you go to a casino, you hear all this subliminal background that says really gamble more, gamble more, gamble more, which is intended obviously to make you spend money. Well, the background stories that run…these stories that run in your background music will also influence the actions that you take. So it’s important to get in touch with them and, and it’s possible to do. Some people say, why would I ever do that? But it’s definitely possible.
RS: Good, good. So how can we better tune into our individual background music? Or what are some of the ways that we can be aware of this background music that’s going on?
MO: Well there’s two things about it. In the first place is telling yourself that you want to be aware of it. So you stop and you know something happens and let’s say, um, you have a feeling, you have a feeling that just as not a good feeling. If you stop and say, “what was I thinking just then,” you’ll start slowly but surely to tune into them. And one of the exercises that I think that helps a lot to start to be aware of that, is to write your stories down. And it’s easiest to start with the positive ones because they’re just so, you know, we’re more aware of the positive stories. And so if you just spend some time reflecting and say, “what are some of the things that I tell myself or good about my life in the past, in my life right now?” And just write a couple of sentences about what is that that you are telling yourself about the events that have occurred in your life, and the more you do that, the easier is to tune into them.
MO: The negative stories are a little bit tougher because they’re kind of really buried down there in the subconscious, but you can get to them too. It’s a matter of when you think about an event in your past, what feeling comes up for you, and as that feeling comes up, what story are you telling yourself about what happened? And again, write that story. Sometimes it’ll take a couple of goes at it like any good story to get to get it so that you’re comfortable. Yeah, that’s, what I’m telling myself. Then the important part comes, you ask yourself whether that story is still serving you today. Do you still believe that you’re dumb like Jimmy did. (Do) You still believe that retirement is horrible like Sam feels right now, or like Rich did in the beginning? Or can you say, well, maybe that’s not true. Maybe it’s not true for me anymore. Maybe it never was true. Who knows? But when you can start looking at your beliefs that are underneath the stories, that’s when you can be able to shift the background noise, the background music.
RS: Yep. Good. So you talked a little bit earlier about the two different views of mindset, gloom and doom and the euphoric view. So give us a few of the things that a gloom and doom view of retirement can sometimes lead to in our lives.
MO: Uh, yes. And it’s, it’s much like the story of Rich where, what he was doing is he let his outlook on this as a horrible thing that happened to me, lead him into a very deep and serious depression. And that’s one of the biggest things that’s an issue. Sadly enough, suicide among men over 65 is the highest rate of suicide in any age cohort anywhere in the United States. And it has nothing to do with economic status. It has nothing to do with educational status. There’s absolutely nothing to do with anything except your mindset. So if you allow yourself to stay on that gloom and doom, if Sam allows himself to stay on that road as, sadly… um, someone I know who was unwilling to go through the effort of changing the lens is health begin to fail, his relationships will struggle. He will just be in a place where he will unfortunately die much younger than he needs to. So that’s how impactful mindset can be, especially the gloom and doom one.
RS: Yeah, it really leads to a lot of other issues, it’s tied into it (these issues). And that’s where, when we led off (the conversation), and we talked about mindset leading into all of these other areas of our lives in retirement, it really does, it really makes a huge negative impact in a lot of these areas. So let’s look at the positive side of that now. So are there ways that someone can take on a more euphoric view as opposed to that gloom and doom view?
MO: Well, definitely they can shift, but there’s another issue. We said in the beginning, when people are retiring, some people are just so looking forward to it and they’re euphoric about it and they are looking at it like the best vacation they ever had in their life. And they start down the…, they enjoy this period of time when being of the stress, free of the pressure and free of all of that kind of stuff is just so exhilarating. And that’s the honeymoon phase. The problem with euphoric mindset is people expect it to last for 35 years. Well, that’s not realistic. And research, hard scientific research, has shown that that euphoric period lasts anywhere between four to six months or, or maybe 18 to 20 (months). Somewhere in that period you will all of a sudden wake up and say, “hmmm, playing golf five days a week isn’t exactly as much fun as I expected it to be.”
MO: One of my former colleagues, when she retired, her whole mindset was euphoric and she almost went (pro), um, she was a good to almost… She was a good enough golfer. Sorry, the words got tangled. She was a good enough golfer to almost go pro. And she was seriously considering it. And yet about 18 months into it, she said to me, she called me and said, you know, I, I don’t know what’s going on, I just don’t even feel like playing golf that much anymore. And it’s like, now what? And she said, you know, some days I’m thrilled that I’m retired and other days I’m just really disappointed and I think I made this horrible mistake. And so the problem with the euphoric mindset is when you get to that point, you don’t expect that you’re someday going to get to that point.
MO: One of my clients, one time, there was a couple who was sitting in my office, and the reason that they came to me as is that they hit that same mark that my former colleague had, and he looked at me straight in the he eye and said, “we’ve done everything on our bucket list. What are we going to do for the next 25 years?” And that’s the problem with the euphoric mindset is thinking it’s going to last that long. And so then it’s time to sort of reevaluate and figure out what you want this next period of your life to look like that’s realistic, because neither gloom and doom nor the euphoric are realistic in the long run. They don’t have to be that way.
RS: Yep. So in the chapter you talk about the stage of our lives being the “afternoon of life” as opposed to earlier in our life when we’re more focused on achieving things or the “morning of our life.” So tell us about looking at retirement as the afternoon of life as opposed to viewing it as the morning of life and how this can help us in terms of our mindset.
MO: Yes, and that actually, that concept was actually a Karl Jung concept. Karl was the Swiss psychologist who started…who was the founder of area of psychology called analytical psychology and he actually influenced a lot of the ways we look at a lot of things. But he said, basically, that the afternoon… in fact, I’m going read you the quote because it’s so, so good. He said, “the afternoon of life is not just a pitiful appendage to mornings life. It’s rather (than) seeing our afternoon as a process of reduction.” He says “it’s a process of expansion.” So the morning part of your life is that time when you are doing, you’re creating your career, you’re working on your reputation, you’re building things for your family, you’re accumulating money for your retirement. You’re doing all of those things.
And so the afternoon of your life is just different. It’s a different rhythm, still full of excitement and still full of anticipation, but maybe just at a different pace. Hopefully at a little bit different pace and with the opportunity to enjoy it and to just savor it. So it’s…the concept of afternoon of your life is just as the sun is warm and glowing and setting and it’s just, it’s a time to savor that feeling of enjoyment. And I think that that, that idea of afternoon of your life is better than either the euphoric or the gloom and doom because that’s reality. That’s something that you can enjoy every single day for 35 years.
RS: Yep. So before we wrap up our conversation, Marianne, is there anything else you’d like to share about the importance of mindset in retirement?
MO: Actually, I’d like to go back to what you started with, Reid, because I truly do believe that mindset is more important than your health, more important than any other aspect of your life in terms of determining how your third act is going to turn out. And just as we saw with the stories of Jimmy and Rich, you control it. You do have a say in whether or not you are going to look at this as the afternoon of your life or not. You can change it.
RS: Yep. That’s excellent. A perfect place to end Marianne. Thank you again for joining me and sharing information about your chapter in The Retirement Challenge. I also encourage the listeners and readers to look for Marianne’s book. I think it’s coming out June 24th.
MO: June 24th.
RS: June 24th, Marianne has her new book coming out, and again, it’s called Your Happiness Portfolio for Retirement- It’s Not About the Money. I will include a link to that in the article on my blog. Once that becomes active, I’m guessing it’ll, the book will be available on your website, probably on Amazon. Very
MO: Yep, any moment it’ll be there.
RS: Yep. It’s a fantastic book (I received an advanced copy of the book). I encourage you (listeners and readers) to get that. It will help you plan for your retirement. So again, thanks for joining me, Marianne, and thanks for listening everybody. We’ll see you next time.
MO: Bye Bye.