Posted On September 29, 2016

Five Ways to Discover What’s Next

Reprinted with permission.

“I don’t have much of an imagination, so I can’t imagine life in retirement. What can I do?”

This question came from a participant at a recent presentation of mine. She was very successful in her career and was beginning to consider what was next for her.

There are many ways to discern possibilities for the future. Imagination is not the only path to the future.

Here are five ways to begin the exploration.

1.  Notice what you’re curious about.

Make a list of your curiosities. You can do this in one sitting by brainstorming or you can do it a little at a time. Once you have a list, read through it and see if there are any items that repeat or are related. Do you see any themes arise? Can you identify your top three? Of these, is there a way to begin to explore one of them? This may be as simple as a Google search, finding a new recipe, taking a class, or planning a trip to an unexplored part of your neighborhood. Are there any items on the list that point to larger life themes like ways to contribute, reform, or learn? One at a time, explore a curiosity and see where it might lead you.

2.  What gives you energy?

Notice what situations, activities, people, and topics are energizing. Some people might name this energy as excitement, and some might label it as aliveness, or even relaxation. Can you feel the difference between something that’s energizing and something that’s depleting or neutral? Do you feel a heightened awareness? As you explore your curiosity list, check in with your energy to see how to continue your exploration.

3.  Take a trip down memory lane.

What did you love to do as a child or teenager? Sometimes the past can provide clues about the future. Whether you enjoyed playing or listening to music, climbing trees, conducting experiments in the basement, or playing soccer, remember what you loved. How does it feel when you remember this? Is this part of your life now? Is there a way to incorporate some aspect of this in your life now and in the future as you head into retirement?

4.  Recall a forgotten path.

Was there something you were interested in, but thought it would not provide adequate career and financial opportunities? Maybe you wanted to study archeology or psychology and family and teachers discouraged you from pursuing an interest without a clear career path. Maybe it was not clear how this could be financially viable. In the meantime, your career has fulfilled its purpose and as you retire you wonder what’s next. With more discretionary time, and less dependence on financial or career implications, you may want to revisit your forgotten path. How might you get re-acquainted with it? How might it inform your life’s next chapter?

5.  Conduct interviews.

Everyone does retirement in their own way. Talk to several people about their retirement. Ask about their choices, activities, curiosities, challenges, and satisfaction. This may be a way to explore something on your Curiosity List. See if their story might inform your own. See who else you might want to talk with. How will you take action on what you learned?

If you use one of these ways to explore what could be next for you, we’d love to hear from you. If you found other ways to discover what’s next, please let us know.

Enjoy your journey!

Virginia Macali is the founder of High Point Transitions. You can learn more about her coaching programs for people in the retirement transition at