Reevaluating Your Goals As An Empty Nester

Expert advice for the next rewarding chapter of your life

Expert advice for the next rewarding chapter of your life

By Katie Nelson

Transitioning from life stage to life stage comes with many challenges – from forming new routines to adjusting to new norms. And that includes reevaluating the goals you’ve set for yourself along the way. As your responsibilities and priorities shift, it’s important to check in with yourself and evaluate your dream, the progress you’ve made and how you’re going to continue going about pursuing it. After all, you’ve entered a whole new chapter!

“As empty nesters, we all of a sudden look around us and see the house is quiet, the needs of family are different, and we’re getting older,” says life coach and change strategist Mary Helen Conroy. “Empty-nesterhood allows us time to focus within after so many years of focusing outside ourselves.”

Of course, pursuing any dream at any point in life has its hurdles, but it’s especially challenging when it comes time to adapt your dream to fit your new role. Empty nesters can face a new type of challenge – overcoming a feeling of helplessness, and maybe even feeling like you’ve got too much time on your hands. It’s one that Mary Helen felt firsthand.

“My role that I had enjoyed, loved, and worked at for so many years was different. I really felt the hole in my heart. It was a hole that really couldn’t be filled,” she says. “My sons really taught me the lesson of reframing my role as mom, an empty nester mom.”

However, overcoming these challenges is not only the way to cope, it’s a way to thrive. And that starts with self-reflection. Sit back and take a look at what this life change has given you, and how you can make the most of it. For Mary Helen, it’s about energy.

“The energy of raising a child, or children, is intense. You wake up in the morning and you’re already planning not only your day, but that of your family’s. You plan meals differently, you do laundry differently, you drive around town differently. The years of family within the home take on a rhythm not your own. So once the house is cleared out at least figuratively, it’s yours!”

So after all this talk of reevaluating your goals and dreams, how exactly do you go about making these changes? Let’s use what Mary Helen calls her three prong process, or the 3R’s.

Look back over your life thus far and pinpoint the things and activities that you’ve enjoyed. For Mary Helen, it was more difficult than it seemed.

“I had no clue. I had to make a list of things that I liked. I had to rediscover the word pleasure and what that meant. But, the review is also in terms of what am I learning about, who am I hanging out with, what do I like to do?”

It’s also important to make time for yourself and reflect.

“A walk in the woods, a spa day, a journaling day, a day in bed, a weekend retreat, or a girl’s weekend,” suggests Mary Helen. “Time to be completely away from the norm allows new brain waves to get energized.”

Reinventing yourself can mean whatever you’d like it to. For Mary Helen, going back to school after her sons left home was her approach.

“I went back to school at 43 because I read that an organism that doesn’t take in new information, dies. I looked at my life then and thought, I’m not ready to die. I need to take in new information and create.”

So now, with Mary Helen’s ‘3R’s’ in mind, you’ve got the tools you need to make this next chapter of your life as rewarding as the one before it. Enjoy your newfound freedom, and the dreams you now have time to accomplish, and remember, the choice to live a full, exciting life is yours to make!

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