Transitioning from Work/Life Balance to Retirement/Life Balance

Ron Jeffery | Member, ARTA Wellness Committee

Retirees have transitioned from dealing with work/life balance to retirement/life balance. Do we know what that means? Are we ready? Are we achieving the results in retirement that we have set for ourselves?

When I began my teaching career in 1976, the excitement was palpable. There were no computers or social media. There was a traditional-looking classroom with a teacher’s desk at the front, a blackboard and chalk, an overhead projector, and for “high tech” media — a 16 mm projector and screen. The most powerful part was my classroom of thirty-two students, textbooks, and me. There was, however, a television that was a sign of things to come!

What I wasn’t prepared for was just how involved I would become at “work.” I began teaching summer school and adult education at night; worked on my MEd at university; became involved with the ATA Social Studies Council; coached basketball; began journal writing; became involved in school productions; and eventually participated in educational travel with my students to forty-eight countries by the end of my career. These activities, however, were related to my “work” at school and commitment to my profession. For fun, I became involved with the ’88 Calgary Olympics, played trombone in a swing band, and was an educational consultant for CBC Newsworld that evolved into a daily news program for the schools.

I mention the above to highlight just how busy we all were during our careers, embracing the profession we loved. There are a multitude of similar personal stories.


My life balance? I had a wonderful family at home with my wife and two sons. At the time, the last thing on my mind was retirement. I was too busy “living.”

It all came undone as I reached possible retirement age thirty years later, although it was not something I was planning. One spring weekend in May our sons and grandchildren made a surprise visit from Edmonton and Saskatoon. I had a stack of IB exam papers with marks due on Monday, and when my wife Linda called me down for Sunday brunch, I told her that I had to finish the marking and could only join for a short time. Linda then told me I had to get my priorities straight and balance home with work.

I retired from full-time teaching after a thirty-year career a month later and moved into a less onerous job in educational travel where I could work mainly from home. What I remember the most, however, was the Calgary Board of Education retirement banquet where more than one retiree at our table was in tears and traumatized by stopping their work life with no plan for what was to come.

Retire, Refire, Rewire

For most of us, planning for retirement meant financial planning. It meant looking forward to time with friends and family and doing the things you “never had time for.” And it is essential to look for harmony between what was and what is to come.

What we could not foresee, however, were other life challenges that would play a role in our lives and retirement plans. These include personal and family health issues; losing friends and family members that were an integral part of our lives; an awareness of our own mortality and the realization we might not achieve all the goals we had set for ourselves and our family. This doesn’t need to be negative, and with the right perspective, can create possibilities.


What was your bucket list? Are there things you can still achieve either with help or individually? Do you have a purpose each day for what you can achieve?

Have you taken advantage of the myriad activities and programs for seniors? Are you starting a new hobby, learning a new skill, working with children, volunteering, reading at the local library,
journaling your life, or sorting through those photo albums to pass along the stories and history to your family? There are always things we can do in retirement that we could not do when working. The key is to create harmony between your interests, capabilities, and opportunities and act on them — again creating purpose in your life.


Develop an assessment list of the goals you have set and achieved. Create another list of strategies for how to achieve the remaining goals and the resources required.

Harmony in retirement comes both from within and your connections to your own world. It comes from recognizing the possibilities.

What we have to do is “un-retire” from our retirement!

Whatever time we have left, with whatever limitations we might encounter along the way, can and should be meaningful.

Follow the Japanese concept of ikigai, which translates to “your reason for being.”