People in business attire going up a stairway headed into the light.

A Post-Career Liminal Space – What’s That?

I sat in a pew visiting a church where we used to be members. The pastor was in the middle of her sermon when she introduced the concept of obtaining or being in a liminal state. Well, that got my attention.

Derived from the Latin word limen, the word means “doorway” or “entryway.” It can be a threshold or an “in-between” space from one part of life to the next. It can be a sacred space where an old way of life gives way to a new existence.

That sounds a lot like post-career or retirement (with or without the spiritual aspect). Right?

 You are in your 50’s and plan to retire early. Sixty-five is around the corner and you’re going to start taking Social Security. You’ve working at 75 but you sense a slowing down and you can’t keep up the pace. Any of these could be in a post-career liminal space. There is a sense that a transition is about to happen, but you are not sure what it means.

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This liminality can be both exciting and unnerving.  The freedom to pursue passions and explore new hobbies is liberating.  However, the loss of a structured schedule, social interaction with colleagues, and a sense of purpose can be disorienting. Consider your situation and challenge yourself with the following scenarios. You don’t need to be close to retirement, an entry into a new style of living can happen at any time.

Define Your New Identity (or Affirm Your Current)

One of the most significant impacts of this liminal space is the sense of uncertainty and loss of identity. For decades, individuals have defined themselves by their careers, titles, and professional accomplishments. Suddenly, they find themselves without this central anchor, leaving them questioning who they are and what their purpose is. This identity crisis can lead to feelings of anxiety, depression, and even a sense of purposelessness.

To gain a better understanding, take the time to develop a life purpose statement. Knowing what will get you up in the morning can be what you need to decide when you stay in the current state or when it is time to shift to a new reality.

Solidify Your Support Systems

The liminal space of retirement can disrupt established social networks and support systems. Many retirees find themselves disconnected from their former colleagues and workplace friends, leading to a sense of isolation and loneliness. Building new and maintaining current social connections and forging meaningful relationships can be challenging, particularly for those who have been deeply entrenched in their professional lives.

Complete your own social network audit and know who are the important people in your life to ensure you invest enough time with them now to have relationship capital later.

Confirm How You Will Grow

Post-career liminal space also presents an opportunity for growth, self-discovery, and reinvention. It’s a chance to explore new hobbies, pursue long-neglected passions, or embark on entirely new ventures. Some individuals may choose to start a small business, volunteer for causes they care about, or dedicate time to personal growth and learning. By embracing this transitional phase with an open mind and a willingness to adapt, retirees can find renewed purpose and fulfillment.

Be proactive and try to get an understanding of how and where you will invest your time in a post-career life.

The Retirement Time Analysis tool, offer of a free download.

Nothing Lasts Forever

The liminal space of pre-retirement doesn’t last forever.  By defining or redefining your identity, know your support systems, and deciding to always want to grow, individuals can emerge from this transition feeling fulfilled and empowered.  Retirement isn’t an ending; it’s a new beginning, a chance to step out of the familiar and into a world brimming with possibilities.


David Buck is the author of the book The Time-Optimized Life, owner of Kairos Management Solutions, LLC, and founder of the Infinity Lifestyle Design program. As a certified professional retirement coach (CPRC), David works with financial services providers helping their clients create a post-career lifestyle strategy. To learn more, contact him at dave@kmstime.com or visit Infinity Lifestyle Design.

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