Re-Imagining Retirement: Potential

Something moved in my gut! I’d just put on a uniquely beautiful set of rings and whoa, they’d made a physical impact on me. What?! I repeated the process to verify what happened. Confirmed. I walked away bewildered; what happened?

Walking on the college campus to pick up (?) grades perhaps, and coming toward me was my recent instructor. I commented to him how much I enjoyed his course. “Well, if you liked it so much, you’d probably enjoy our master’s program, along this same line. Check it out at the office!”

These two simple events impacted where I am today. Impact and education.

I believe potential is an intriguing mystery. Mine started as a teenager. Oh, wait! Maybe it’s when I had a recurring dream when I was 4 or 5: my line was, “Mom, I want to see what life is about.”

Today, I believe your retirement holds an enormous potential.

I also believe our culture has failed to adequately prepare us, given our advances in opportunity, education and health in recent decades. Where did we miss the signposts?

The problem with my potential was a silent assassin. The secret stole my innocence, my shine and confidence. My strategy to be safe was to be invisible, don’t rock the boat, get good grades and be obedient. Thank heavens he keeps his hands off me, was how I expressed my gratitude, silently.

So, my career was fashioned around the same principles of head down, do the work, be responsible and diligent. Since I was a lifelong learner, however, my chance encounter on the college campus that day led to instructors who saw past my invisible safety mask, opening the recovery door for deep healing. Courage grew. Potential expanded.

Over the years I was a good listener for others, often helping people better express their talents on their resumes. Feeling seen and heard was so important to me, yet was lacking for myself. But I loved encouraging others. Facilitating other’s success was both fun and important to me.

Our culture did have a plethora of personal growth resources. One piece of advice was to describe ourselves using an object to talk about our attributes as that item. That’s when I called on my bewildering event to describe myself as quality, value, excellence, creativity, beauty, refined and as distinctive as those amazing rings. I related these terms to the valuable contribution I made working on projects and teams. I’ve since used this same bewildering event to create a metaphor for my inner spark.

Along the way I gained a lot of courage and mental strength by rooting fear out of my life. Joshua chapter 1 talks about having good courage, great courage, and be very courageous. Do not be afraid. I’d just moved 2,000 miles for a job transfer and had reasons to be afraid. But I stomped my foot and refused!

I was surprised one day, coming back from lunch during coaching classes, when I slapped a table and stomped my foot and said, “It’s not okay to be invisible!” Where did that come from!?!

My transformation and healing journey has freed me to be visible, seen, influential and heard now. Mental strength and healthy emotions permit me to look 15 years younger. I’m all about inspiring people to be curious again, think of possibilities, and exploring their potential. Since our culture failed to adequately prepare us for the emotional and mental transitions of retirement, it’ll be more work. Yet, being meaningfully productive while we have this extra time and healthy years is important to a lot of us. Potential. Being engaged in making our communities and the world a better place helps us to be healthier and happier. We have wisdom to share. Our education, experiences, talents and circle of friends don’t vanish when we retire, though it may feel like it. The researchers at Science of Purpose say a connection to purpose increases our effectiveness, fulfillment, learning, productivity and engagement.

Hanging on the wall at work in Everett years ago was a saying by Thomas Wolfe that still speaks strongly to me, still. It’s my hope for you today: If one has a talent and learns to use the whole of it, you have gloriously succeeded and won a satisfaction and triumph few people ever know. 

Today I shine, am visible and have confidence. (Instagram as the Queen of Courage, an author and created an empowerment course for your potential.) Need a hand to embark on a self-discovery journey, find purpose and gain the satisfaction and triumph of being your best self now? Let’s chat.

Sharon Rolph is a Spark and Retirement coach who lives in Edmonds and aspires to be an international speaker. Learn more at where she offers a free ebook: a Call to Courage: 3 Tips to Awaken & Ignite Your Inner Spark.

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