Some people know, even as a child, what they want to do in life. They are motivated, train for their future and select fulfilling careers. But not everyone is so lucky. Maybe you wanted to be a doctor, but didn’t make it through advanced chemistry. Perhaps you wanted to play football, until you ran into a 300 pound tackle. Maybe you didn’t quite know what you wanted to do, so you settled into a career that was available at the time, paid the bills and was satisfying enough that you just kept doing it.
[Read: 25 Things to Do When You Retire.]
In retirement, you no longer have to work for the money. Retirement is a time to stop settling and start pursuing your passions. But what if you don’t have a passion, or just don’t know what it is? Here are eight ways to decide what you really want to do in retirement. Answer the questions honestly to help find satisfying ways to spend your time after you retire.
What parts of your career did you like and hate? Maybe you hated working at your desk, but loved organizing and attending meetings. If so, perhaps your church or community center could use your help as a volunteer who arranges activities and schedules outings. If you liked working with others toward a common goal, you might want to volunteer for a large organization. If you didn’t like to travel for work, consider hobbies closer to home.
What would you like to learn? Find a catalog from your local adult education program or the continuing education division of your community college. Read through the course descriptions. Perhaps you have always wanted to learn more about history, yoga, technology or foreign languages. Maybe you want to take a course, but even if you don’t, this exercise can give you a clue about where your interests lie and where you should focus your energies.
[See: 15 In-Demand Jobs for Seniors.]
Do you like to work on your own or with other people? If you love being part of a group, you probably don’t want to hole up in your home office to write your memoirs or spend hours in your garage doing craft projects. Remember to schedule regular social activities or consider a volunteer role or part-time job that has a social component. If you enjoy time alone, you probably don’t want a schedule packed with volunteer commitments.
Do you like the outdoors? If you do, then maybe you should consider a move to a warmer climate where you can enjoy the outdoors all year for hiking, kayaking and playing golf or tennis. You might be interested in joining a league that offers a competitive outlet or helps you set a goal to focus your activities. If you like taking a four or five mile hike in your local park, maybe you’d love the challenge of hiking the Appalachian Trail or the Camino de Santiago in Spain.
Do you like physical effort or mental effort? You know you are supposed to get some exercise, but be honest with yourself. If working out is not really your thing, then make arrangements to get the minimum activity required to keep up your health, and then focus your energies on what you really enjoy. Perhaps you can take a walk before you head off to a bridge or chess club, or take a yoga class after your volunteer job at the town historical society.
Do you like to help other people? There are many opportunities to volunteer in retirement. You might choose to help seniors with meals or transportation or tutor children to improve their reading and writing skills. Ask around at your church or community center, or check your local listings on volunteermatch.org.
Do you like familiar places or crave constant change? If you’ve lived in one place your whole life and have deep roots in the community, chances are you’ll be happy staying close to home and aging in place. But perhaps you have a long-held desire to break out and test some unknown waters. You could rent a motor home and try out the RV lifestyle for a while or take a trip abroad to see if you like the excitement of someplace new.
[See: 12 Great Things About Retirement.]
Test out several hobbies. Take a photography course, go on a three-day camping trip or volunteer for Meals on Wheels. Pay attention to what grabs your interest and what leaves you cold. Experimenting with various pursuits, especially early in retirement, can lead you to find your passion. And one hobby may not fulfill all your needs. You could socialize with a walking group in the afternoon, then retreat to the quiet of your home to curl up with a book, or Netflix, all by yourself.
Tom Sightings is the author of “You Only Retire Once” and blogs at Sightings at 60.
More from U.S. News