THERE COMES a time when even the most glittering career must come to an end. Choosing the right moment to retire is difficult enough, but many people also struggle to imagine what they could possibly do next. In their new book, “Changing Gear”, Jan Hall, a former headhunter, and Jon Stokes, a psychologist, discuss the strategies that people can follow when approaching the “third stage” of life, after their childhood and their careers.
As the authors note, the third stage involves individuals redefining their role in the community. This process may be particularly difficult for those who have been in high-powered jobs. They must come to terms with a loss of their status and the realisation that they are both replaceable and mortal. Employment provides people with a lot more than just an income: it gives a structure to the day, opens up new friendships and provides a purpose that comes from taking part in a shared endeavour.
Those who have reached the top of the tree often neglect the other areas of their life—indeed, they may not have got so high if they didn’t. For such people, retiring may be a lot like the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Denial is particularly significant. As Ms Hall and Mr Stokes observe, “those in power gradually become insulated from reality” and “develop…