The value of life lies not in the length of days, but in the use we make of them.

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592)


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I hate retirement parties and mine is coming soon.

You know how it is going to be, you saw how it was for other colleagues. You spend your day packing the last of your stuff, passing the last of your projects to your colleagues. Your office just looks just like you never have worked in it except for shadows on the wall where your pictures were.

The whole room looks sad and empty. And now you have to go to the party marking the end of this part of your life, saying goodbye to it all, and maybe not at all sure what you really think about the next part of your life. Or maybe you are sure, and you really, really hope it is going to be like you envision it. But farewells are always a sad.

But there’s no choice right now, you have to look happy to be retired. You’ll have to listen to the retirement jokes, the speeches, do your best to make a witty and memorable response, and deal with whatever else they have prepared to make it memorable for you. Even if remembering your retirement party may be just about the last thing you want to do.

It all looks a bit depressing and you’d really like to avoid it. And you know you can’t avoid it, just like the bitter syrup you had to take when you were a kid. 

How can retirement party really be a true celebration? It is a necessary step and it does not have to be that bad. Yes , you need to close that part of your life cleanly and neatly and the retirement party really can be a true celebration.

But how can you enjoy it while in the midst of spending your last days packing, throwing, turning over your projects and unfinished dreams to others, all necessary and responsible actions which really leave you in no mood for celebration?

The retirement party is the completion, the grand finale of your professional life. And this is only one stage of your life.

To enjoy your grand finale, you need to be prepared:

  • You need to prepare the last months or weeks of your professional life.
  • You’ll also want to be reviewing the totality of your professional life you’ve been leading up to now and writing your final report.
  • You need to prepare the next stage of your life to have a clear vision about it.
  • You need to design your perfect retirement party.

What to do with the last months at work?

How do you want to use them?
Is there one thing you want to accomplish before you leave?
What do you want to be remembered for?
What will make you feel that your professional life is complete?
What would make you feel that you made a real contribution?
How can you do it ?
Who can help you in achieving it in the short time left ? Time to plan and get to work.!

Time is short but you will discover that having a goal for these last few months is going to give another color to these days. You are going to feel energized and enthusiastic.

The final report or, How to close your professional life

You have consecrated 30, 40 years of your life to your professional activity. This is a lo n n g time as you know and feel. You deserve to take some time to acknowledge this period of your life. Whether you did what you really wanted to do or whether you were pulled by events, family or others to take on a profession you would not have necessarily chosen on your own, it did occupy the days of your life.

By writing a final report (or recording it if you can't face writing one more report), you are going to be neatly closing that part of your life. This report is just for you, you can keep it or destroyed it once you’ve finished it. What is important in this report is the content, not the form. You want to be really honest with yourself, without censorship. You can call a cat a cat. It certainly should not be politically correct otherwise it defeats its purpose. (Even if you are normally allergic to report writing, this one is going to be the one you actually enjoy writing.)

What to put in your report?
The goal of the final report is to review your working life :
  • the good (to remember),
  • the bad (to close definitively),
  • what lessons did you learn?
You should write down or tape your thoughts about these lessons. Why? Because they are likely to be useful in the planning of the next stage of your life.
  • Forgive others for their flaws AND Forgive yourself for your flaws. They are what make you human.
  • Remember the people who were important to you. Take the time to express your gratitude.

Now your report is getting close to its end. You will just have to write the final pages about the present on your last days before your retirement.

So it is time to think to the near future.

Preparation of the next stage of your life

The perfect way is to prepare the next stage of your life, to have a clear vision about it, some specific plans, and even better to have actually started implementing some elements of your new life.

The reality of your work life often does not give you the opportunity to prepare to that extent. In fact, You may even have difficulty imagining how you want your life to be after you retire because it is so far away of your present life. Probably what you are going to want is a long holiday right after you retired.

A long holiday is a good transition but you need to plan only one thing : when are you going to plan your new life? and this needs to be before you finish your holiday. Why? Because otherwise, once you are back home, a lot of little things are going to take over your life and you will feel there is not time to plan.

Once you have reviewed and come to terms with your professional life, and you are on your way to reach your last professional goal, you are ready to turn your thoughts to the celebration of your professional life….

and your retirement party.

And plan how YOU want it. (It is YOUR retirement party after all).

How would you like it to be? Imagine what would be your perfect retirement party.

Are you uncomfortable to be the center of attention? Do not want to have your life reviewed? Do not feel like having your past be the centerpiece of the party? Then ask not to have an executive roast, (for “executive roast” see

Do you want gags and gadgets?

Do you NOT want a gift because you’ll have to abandon it since you’re selling everything and sailing around the world, with no room for trinkets? Then ask that that the money be given to some charity (or that they give you something you will need and have pleasure to use remembering them)

Do you want speeches, do you want give speeches, do you (it’s permitted on this occasion) like to sing? .....

You need also to keep in mind that the party is also a closing time for your close collaborators. They may be worried about who might step into your place. They knew you and your qualities and defects. They may even miss you!

Maybe you’ve had excellent relationships with them, or maybe chaotic ones. Do you want to do something special for them?

What about your friends. acquaintances, others? Maybe you want somebody from your past to come to your party.

You might want to do something special with some of these people, recognizing how they were important, professionally or personally. What you learned, what you particularly appreciated, etc.

Maybe you have one close colleagues who has not (putting it diplomatically) been an asset from your point of view. If you are planning to thank your other close colleagues, you may feel you have to do or say something about him or her. This can call for some (honest) creativity. For example, ask yourself what did s/he force you to do or learn that, in one way or another, you got something useful out of it?

Get clear on all these elements and share them with a friend or a colleague or the person who is going to organize the party explaining what you want.

They actually will be grateful to know what you really want. Then leave it to them. Now your party is being taken care of the way you want, you are taking the remaining actions to reach your last professional goal and there is only a week left.

On your last week of work, finish cleaning up and sorting your stuff. Bring home (or give away or throw away) as much as possible. Keep only the real minimum in your office so the packing of the real last day can be quick.

As the things in your office disappear, those empty shelves and the blank wall can get pretty depressing. Cover them with some large bright fabric in your favorite color, or best of all, a big poster of something you love and will be in your future life and the foal point of your office.

Finish your final personal report or decide to do this the first day after you have retired. Plan your that day carefully : what do you want to do? reflection, nothing and rest, start your new activity, go on a trip, etc.

Next think about the end of your retirement party, have someone close come to get you at your office, or go home with you.

If it’s really a “last day” party (and these are in many ways the best), pack everything before the party. Put it in your car or at least another place out of your own office. Plan to spend some time in your office consciously saying good bye to your working place, and have some time to go around the building.

Then turn your thoughts towards the party and

Enjoy your retirement party!

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I hate retirement parties and mine is coming soon. by Catherine Marechal is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License.

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