I have been conducting research with pre- and post- retirees for over 20 years. During this time, I have discovered that when people plan for the future, or whatever they call it, words like passion, purpose, hobby, busy, fulfillment, engaged and fun are most frequently cited. But during this time of COVID,  I have heard many, particularly friends and clients over age 50, say they wished that they had real interests, engrossing hobbies, or passions to keep them engaged or at least positively distracted during these challenging times.

Although many people were still working during this time, they had no real interests that would allow them to escape after they finished working in their home and called it a day. Others who were immersed with their grandchildren pre-COVID discovered they couldn’t see them for the reasons we all know. Numerous committed volunteers were shut out of their organizations, and people who got great satisfaction from going to the theater, or the opera, or playing golf or pickle ball, not only lost their activity, but their community, and the chance to be entertained, to compete, and most importantly, to learn.

When our world suddenly closed down for what we thought would be a few weeks, we accepted that and felt we could handle isolation for that period of time. But then when we realized that this could be for much longer than ever imagined, a panic of sorts set in, accompanied by a sense of shock, then boredom, and a feeling of the movie Groundhog Day. Many were suddenly aware that there was a lack of engaging interests in their lives and this hit them hard. The reality of not traveling was the most profound pain that most admitted feeling. 

People began to ask me for ideas about cultural events, lectures, and theatrical shows they could virtually attend. They admitted that they felt they were flunking isolation. There is a great deal of pressure on people (put on us by ourselves, our children, friends and society overall) to get the future right. But how were we supposed to get isolation right? What does that even mean? How could we survive in this age of COVID if we didn’t even know it was coming? Sure, we stocked up on toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and even diet sodas, but you couldn’t stockpile personal interests. 

As the COVID Quarantine became extended, I continued my research. I discovered that many people were getting bored with their activities of choice and admitted to being Zoomed out. 

My clients and friends who had real passions, whether it was biking, running, book or film clubs, blowing glass, or lectures on the Great Houses of England were happy. No one wants to say they enjoyed this pause, because there is too much economic, physical, financial, and emotional pain associated with it. However, they will admit that interests that they were passionate about along with the friends and communities associated with those interests has kept them going. 

How did your interests hold up? Are you ready to seek new and different interests for when we reenter the world? There are reconstructionists, people who wishfully want things to go back to the way they were pre- COVID. Then there are the realistic opportunists who are grabbing for a new brass ring. You should be asking yourself which one are you right now. Maybe you are you somewhere in between. That’s when you have to ask yourself what it will take to encourage you open up to exploring other interests. 

My premise is detailed in my book, Don’t Retire, REWIRE!  It has always included suggestions about how to find new activities that will engage and fulfill you. This all begins with the idea of self-awareness; you have to know what turns you on and be willing to go for it, whether you’re 50 or 75.  Remember – longevity is real. You have time to take some deep dives into exploring new ideas. We all have dreams and ideas that have been lying dormant that may now be ready to rise up in some manner. Sure, we get comfortable … even lazy, but we need to be brave, be bold, be courageous. Dare to be vulnerable. The worse thing that can happen is someone laughs at your first painting, your attempt to write a musical score, or how you sound after your first harmonica lesson, but who cares. You’re doing it and they’re not!

People admit that they get stuck on how to proceed with an idea once they decide to go for it. The first rule is to be patient and kind to yourself. We might have a few extra months on our hands so why not start your journey. Since social distancing is real, and we really can’t meet with people like we did pre-COVID start with the internet. Google and other search engines can be your friend. Here are a few simple steps to get you thinking about discovering or expanding on your interests:

  1. View your interest from a variety of angles. Don’t narrow your initial search; you can edit your ideas later. 
  2. Go local and global in your search. Read, read, and read more.
  3. Look for local/national/international organizations that support your activity. Attend a meeting/event (online or in person if possible). Evaluate your interest level.
  4. Subscribe to the organization’s newsletter; they’re usually free.
  5. Determine if you know people already doing this activity. Text them so they can introduce you to others, but don’t expect them to do the work for you!
  6. Take classes. Take notes. You are a beginner so ask questions. 

If the activity you select isn’t fulfilling your expectations, dare to discard it and try something else.  Readers tell us that it is often the second, third, and sometimes the fourth idea they have investigated that leads them to where they want to go.  Be persistent because your increased happiness is waiting.

Jeri Sedlar is an internationally recognized author, speaker, and lecturer on the topic of retirement. She is the co-author of the highly acclaimed book, DON’T RETIRE, REWIRE! 5 Steps To Fulfilling Work That Fuels Your Passion, Suits Your Personality and Fills Your Pocket which is in its Third Edition. She has been researching individuals on the topic of retirement for 20+ years and has emerged as one of the country’s leading thought leaders on “the new way to do retirement,” or as she calls it rewirement©, which means to find new purpose, passions, work and/or volunteer opportunities that produce healthy and productive outcomes as well as being fulfilling, even fun.  She has influenced millions through traditional and social media and has delivered programs across the globe from Dubai to Des Moines.

Visit www.dontretirerewire.com to learn more about Jeri.