Exit Planning

4 ways to turn retirement into ‘rewirement’

Retirement into rewirement person on bench viewing mountain

Who says retirement has to be the end? For former CEOs, executives and business owners like Will Byron and Tim Gustafson, life after the C-suite is a new beginning — a time when many do some of the most meaningful work of their lives. Here’s how to turn your retirement into what we call “rewirement.”


What is rewirement?

For Byron and Gustafson, rewirement means approaching retirement or your next step in life as a chance to acquire an entirely new mindset. Their stints as executives may have ended, but their work is far from over. For them and many others, rewirement means focusing on giving back, mentoring and executing your passion.

“When people go into retirement, they all react differently,” Byron says. “Some go unwillingly, some go willingly. Some run into it, some kind of slow walk into it.”

But whatever the case, everyone can benefit from the rewirement process. Here’s how to get started.

1. Take a breath

Once you enter retirement, one of the biggest changes is the pace of life. Gone are the long hours, the constant meetings, and the looming deadlines — but the void leaves many retirees feeling off balance.

For Gustafson, it was crucial to sit with that change and take the chance to reflect before jumping straight into a new venture. “In order to grow and progress, you’ve got to make space, which means you have to let go of something,” he says. That “something” could be an addiction to work, or perhaps a lingering need to be in control of the business you assuredly left in good hands.

Appreciate the peace and quiet; you’ve earned it. Then, try something new that’s just for you. Byron, for example, took a year to explore hobbies he’d never had the chance to pursue before, like carpentry, fixing cars and wildlife photography. It was important to him to take that time for himself, away from the pressure to immediately start the next thing.

“You don’t want your retirement to become your new work,” Byron says. “You have to be intentional in your process and try different things.”

Once you’ve made that space for yourself and settled into a newly centered mindset, it’s time to take your rewirement to the next step.

2. Reprioritize

Part of rewirement is shifting your priorities. It’s a time to ask yourself what you want — and need — out of your retirement.

“Everyone thinks of retirement as purely financial, and it’s not,” Byron says. “It’s a lot of things.”

Separate your post-career needs into four buckets: financial, mental, physical, and spiritual (in the sense of feeling fulfilled with how you spend your days).

Does continuing to make money matter to you, or would you be content with volunteer work? What would mentally stimulate you and keep your mind sharp? Do you know what energizes you and keeps your body feeling good? How can you spend your post-career years in a way that fulfills your sense of purpose?

For Gustafson, the big question was, “How do I let go of my old habits? How do I let go of mental, physical, and emotional processes I’ve been doing for the last 30 to 40 years?”

Those questions led both Gustafson and Byron to executive coaching. This was a new type of leadership that focused on service and the needs of members, which required a mindset shift.

“The change is in our habits,” Gustafson says. “You’re not ‘in charge’ anymore. The new rewired role is about listening and asking the right questions for others to learn.”

When you reprioritize, you can discover what gives you the most purpose. And once you have that purpose, it’s crucial to be intentional about it.

3. Look forward

People often view retirement as an ending, but rewirement should make you excited about both your future and the future of others. Many retirees still have a lot to give and can spend those years actively making an impact.

“I know several older people who are retired that think, ‘Oh, the world’s going to hell in a handbasket,’ and it’s not,” Byron says. “It’s just changing.” By working with the next generation of executives, Bryon is constantly reminded that the future is full of bright and inspiring people. The opportunity to advise younger CEOs and owners is an honor in that respect.

One of the keys to rewirement for Gustafson is flexibility and an openness to new ideas. Well-rounded people are better prepared for a future where running their business is no longer the focus, and as a result, they find themselves more successful in new endeavors.

“Just because you’re retired doesn’t mean you shouldn’t grow,” Gustafson says. According to him and Byron, growth is one of the biggest benefits of both rewirement and executive coaching.

4. Give (and get) back

By rewiring into a mindset focused on contribution, service, and mentorship, Byron and Gustafson get back just as much as they give.

“I love giving back. I love seeing the light bulb go off for my members,” Byron says. “It’s what drives me.” For every bit of advice he gives his peer advisory group, Bryon learns something from them — knowledge he wishes he had back when he was in their position.

That mutually beneficial relationship leaves both Byron and Gustafson feeling fulfilled. By passing on an entire career’s worth of lessons, they’re making a real change in the lives of their members — both professionally and personally. It’s a change that positively affects the families and employees of their members, too.

This invigorating work is energizing, challenging, and places them in a community of both up-and-coming leaders and fellow “rewired” coaches. For former executives who still have a hankering to chase the next win, it’s one of the best ways to get a return on their investment of a decades-long career.

“You’ve got so much to offer,” Gustafson says. “Why just hold it with you? Go out and help others — help them get what you’ve got.”

As far as Gustafson and Byron are concerned, whether your path leads to executive coaching or not, that altruistic mindset is the ultimate goal of rewirement.


Related Resources

How CEOs stay relevant in retirement

The CEO’s guide to success in retirement

Category : Exit Planning

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About the Author: Vistage Staff

Vistage facilitates confidential peer advisory groups for CEOs and other senior leaders, focusing on solving challenges, accelerating growth and improving business performance. Over 45,000 high-caliber execu

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