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Are you Experiencing a Retirement Lifequake?

Bruce Feiler, author of Life is in the Transitions: Mastering Change at Any Age, interviewed hundreds of people, capturing their life stories of change and transition. Through this work, he identified key themes and takeaways that can help people thrive in times of change.

What is a lifequake?

Disruptions are a part of the living process and occur on average every 12 -18 months in a person’s life. Feiler distinguishes these common disruptions from more major ones that totally upend a person’s life. Feiler notes that these “lifequakes involve a fundamental shift in the meaning, purpose or direction of a person’s life.” He found that the average person experiences 3-5 of them in their lifetime.

These can be voluntary, like marriage, or involuntary, like a cancer diagnosis; happy, like the birth of a child, or sad, like the loss of a job. They can also be individual, like moving to a new geography, or collective, like a pandemic. They all have in common that they totally upend a person’s current state to the point where they need to go through a process of change and create a deliberate path forward, a transition.

They have three parts.

According to Feiler, lifequakes have 3 parts:

  1. The Long Goodbye, in which people need to name it and manage their emotions around it all.
  2. The Messy Middle, in which people need to shed the old and experiment and try something new.
  3. The New Beginning, where people step into their vision of their new reality and fully transition to it.

This isn’t a linear process; Feiler claims that folks gravitate to their comfort zone first but need to get through all 3 stages to fully transition.

Retirement is a lifequake

Retirement is one of these significant disruptions. It could be happy or sad, individual, or collective, voluntary or involuntary, but it is a significant disruptor in people’s lives. Many are fearful of how they will spend their days, and some are even paralyzed and holding on to the past.

We interviewed pre- and post-retirees and found a continuum of experiences ranging from shocked and dismayed to excited and engaged. Like Feiler, our research found that people living a fulfilling life in retirement are those who accepted it, took charge of it, and actively put a plan in place to transition and create their new normal.

Transition success factors

We found that there are 5 key elements that people employ when transitioning to a fulfilled life in retirement. First and foremost, they shift their mindset and don’t limit themselves due to their age. Phrases like “I can’t” or “I am too old” are not a part of their vernacular. They adopt a growth mindset, eager to experiment, learn, and grow.

Second, they reconnect with and/or ignite a sense of purpose. It doesn’t need to be something grandiose. It just needs to help guide them to live a purposeful life that makes the most of their time and experience.

Third, they are actively involved in their community. It might be mahjong, pickleball, church, volunteering, or an entrepreneurial pursuit. Those who are most fulfilled connect and form strong relationships within a community of others.

Fourth, they manage their energy – physical, emotional, and spiritual – balancing the needs of their body, mind, heart, and soul.

Lastly, they manage their money, especially when they know the life they want to live and make choices to fund it. They do not let money drive them. They let their desires drive them and look at finances as a means to an end.

What about you?

Are you experiencing a retirement lifequake, and if so, how are you managing it? Are you in the Long Goodbye, the Messy Middle, or the New Beginning phase of your transition? Wherever you are, rest assured there is a path forward to a brighter and more fulfilling time in your life. Embrace it and step towards it. It might just be the best time of your life yet.

I'm here to help along your journey with tips, advice, and resources. I want you to have all the information you need so that you can make smart choices for yourself and your family.

If you have any questions or need more support on this journey, please reach out. I'm here to

As co-founder of The Future of You, Lisa tapped into her experience in leadership development, transition planning, and career coaching to create an effective formula to help people discover their best life in their next chapter. Lisa believes that anyone can live up to their full potential with the right mindset and tools no matter what stage they are in on their life’s journey.

Lisa Stornaielo
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