Accurate Language for Retirement Goals

As I announced a couple of weeks ago, I will retire from teaching for the second time in May.

I am a strong proponent of retiring to rather than exclusively from something. The former gives my life purpose; the latter feels like I’m running away.

Four years ago I retired to writing. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to write or what that might look like, but I felt a pull toward the writing life. I experimented with different genres and interests. I went to several conferences and participated in writing challenges like NaNoWriMo. After several months, I found a nice groove.

For this second retirement, I want to take those dabblings to the next level. I’m ready to call myself a serious writer, but I stop short of calling it a business. I fear jumping into another all-encompassing career. What sacrifices would be required of myself and my family? Will my workaholic tendencies lead to burn out?

This past week I listened to a podcast with Susannah Conway, an online blogger/teacher whom I greatly admire. In that podcast, Susannah discussed her business. She is pleased with its growth over this past decade. She has intentionally maintained a solopreneur status, knowing full-well a partner or team would help her market grow exponentially. But since she is an introvert, she consciously keeps her business small and cozy. I love this because, in essence, Susannah gave me permission to pursue modest goals.

Since I do my best thinking and planning with a pen in my hand, I decided to journal: What do I want retirement to look like?

I want to be a serious writer but cringe at the thought of big business. I am goal-oriented but not motivated by money. I want to connect with an audience but hate the idea of marketing. Was I sabotaging my efforts before I started?

Through the study of the Enneagram, I know my “6” type is prone to focus on worst-case scenarios. We lack confidence and therefore retreat into our comfort zone. But I also know we have the capacity to push through the fear and develop faith.

The way for me to push forward is to transform my thoughts. I need to use accurate language that inspires me rather than popular buzzwords that instill fear. For example:

  • Rather than pursuing a Business (making a living by generating income)…
    • I prefer the word Vocation (a calling or mission)
  • Rather than defining Success (focusing on revenue, profit, and the bottom line)…
    • I prefer the word Productivity (creating content)
  • Rather than developing a Marketing plan (asking others to buy my goods/services)…
    • I prefer the word Communication (letting others know what I offer)
  • Rather than sharing my Ambition (an aggressive pursuit)…
    • I prefer the word Aspiration (a longing, wish or desire)
  • Rather than practicing self Promotion (look how great I am)…
    • I prefer the word Advocate (how I can support and encourage you)
  • Rather than viewing Sales as a focus on profit…
    • I prefer to view Sales as a focus on others

Please don’t misunderstand me. I do not believe these buzzwords are negative for others. They are only potent to me. My connotation of these words paralyze me rather than motivate me. They prevent me from becoming a better version of myself. Which is, after all, my primary purpose in life.

So between now and June 1st, I will lay the groundwork for retirement by:

  • Establishing a Vocation plan based on my definition of Productivity.
  • Creating a vision board of my one-year and five-year Aspirations.
  • Developing a Communication program which centers on connecting with others in a meaningful way.

These may seem like small semantical differences, but for me… accurate language is essential to effective self-talk that will enable me to achieve my retirement goals.


  • Michele

    I just love your approach to these retirement words! I am always telling my husband he needs a plan for how to retire! I also write and have struggled with what that should look like. There is a lot of pressure to be all in and make lots of money and do all the funnels and videos etc. Of course, writers need an audience. But you get to define who that is and what it looks like for you!

    • Molly Totoro

      Yes to ALL you said πŸ™‚
      For the longest time, I thought I was supposed to want a big platform, big profit, and bigger goals. But the truth is, I am uncomfortable with big. As an introvert, I enjoy small and intimate. I enjoy my privacy and pursuing other hobbies and interests. I was relieved to hear Susannah Conway share the same vision.

  • Christine

    I really relate to this. I’m so enjoying ‘retirement’ which means I get to spend lots of time doing what I enjoy – and that involves lots of family time – and writing. I don’t do it for the money (although I am now being paid for some and aspire to more of that), but mainly because I love the expression, the discipline, the language, and indeed the audience. All the best with your aspirations.

    • Molly Totoro

      Yes, writing fills so many voids in my life. I like the discipline and the fact that there is always more to learn. I love expressing my thoughts and sharing them with like-minded people. Money is never a factor for me, but personal connection and mutual respect most definitely motivate me to keep on keeping on.

  • Sue from Sizzling Towards 60 & Beyond

    Hi Molly you are certainly approaching retirement with a positive outlook and I just love how you have changed language to be more accurate to how you view things. So often, words are overused and they lose their value and meaning. Buzz words come and go, just as the latest fad diets. It is having a solid foundation of your values that is more important in life. Thanks for a wonderful message and I will be sharing on social media. Great to have you in the #MLSTL link up. xx

    • Molly Totoro

      I love how you connect writing with a healthy lifestyle. In both cases, slow and steady wins the race. Life is not a sprint but a marathon … and I want to be running in this race for a long, LONG time πŸ™‚

  • Leanne | www.crestingthehill.com.au

    I love how you’ve chosen to frame your approach Molly – it makes it seem so much more “gentle” than the hard hitting, go for broke type approach we see a lot of these days (and a lot burn out from it too!) It’s so great that you have something in place to fill your days with now you’re officially “retired” from the workforce. I’m still trying to get my head around what leaving work means for me – I don’t have any aspirations atm and I think for me it’s about rest and recovery – then I’ll decide what’s next – this may be my first retirement because I’m still not sure what lies ahead.
    Thanks for linking up with us at MLSTL and I’ve shared on my SM πŸ™‚

    • Molly Totoro

      I’m so excited you are leaving that toxic environment, Leanne, and can now pursue activities that feed your soul.
      You are right … I detest the “go for broke” attitude that seems to dominate the sales/marketing industry. I know many who find success with that attitude, but it is simply not me. I’m excited to see what’s next for both us as we navigate the retirement waters together via social media.

  • Johanna Castro

    I think it’s always important to pre-consider how we will approach different stages of life (if we have time) – some stages are just too hectic! But retirement does afford us time to think. It’s hard to step down from a busy and productive and money earning existence to take more time for oneself, to smell the roses and perhaps give back to the community rather than earning more money for ourselves. I think we also have to consider letting the next generation have their time to shine too. Great post, made me think πŸ™‚ Sharing on SM and coming from #MLSTL

    • Molly Totoro

      Yes, I think the “first retirement” was my time to take things slow and reassess. I am ready to fully embrace a new retirement this go around πŸ™‚
      I like your idea of allowing the next generation to shine. While I am sad to say good-bye to my teaching colleagues, I am excited that someone new will join the school family and share their knowledge and experience with the student body.

  • Debbie

    I hadn’t really considered how important the ‘words’ are Molly, but retiring to is much more positive than retiring from! Your approach is refreshing and planned in such a way that it should be achievable. A very thought provoking and interesting post, thank you! #mlstl

    • Molly Totoro

      Thank you, Debbie πŸ™‚
      If I am anything, it is organized and planned out… sometimes too much so. I am trying to set goals but not expectations. I’d like to experience a bit of spontaneity in retirement too.

  • Pat

    Molly, I am totally with you on finding the right words! Love “Aspirations”; it’s a word not often used. And super curious to see what your vision boards will look like.

    I did 5 year scenarios as part of my retirement visioning, back 4 years ago now. They were a couple of paragraphs in length on a few of my life domains. As I was exploring writing as a thing to do, that approach felt right at the time.

    • Molly Totoro

      I think it is good to review and reassess our retirement vision on a frequent basis, Pat. So many considerations come into play other than I personal desires (like health, family dynamics, finances). I’ve never taken the time to create a vision board before, but I’m excited to see what I discover about myself.

  • Janet Mary Cobb

    Molly – words matter! Thanks for so eloquently outlining how the words around retiring, writing, business, etc. impact our motivation. These are some of the very things I grapple with – so when I come up for air, I’ll be spending some time reflecting on this post. Thanks!

    • Molly Totoro

      I know you are in the middle of major work right now, Janet. I admire your tenacity!
      I’m still mulling and reflecting, so if you want to bounce ideas around, let me know πŸ™‚

  • Jennifer

    I love this. I love how you’ve turned the language to have meaning for you. I’ve also struggled with the word choices and really love aspiration over ambition. You’ve inspired me to take a look at my word choices as well.

    • Molly Totoro

      Thank you, Jennifer. I struggle knowing what to share on the internet. Delilah frequently tells me that “no one cares”
      Thank you for putting her voice to rest and letting me know that my random ramblings can connect with others.

  • Mary Lou

    This sounds like a good plan no matter where you are on this retirement journey Molly. Your philosophy rings very true for me too! I’ll be sharing on Facebook and Twitter for #MLSTL.

    • Molly Totoro

      Thank you, Mary Lou. I’m learning words have a lot of power. If I can change my self-talk, I can transform my mind.

  • Molly Stevens

    I can’t tell you how much I relate to this blog post, Molly! When I retired I looked at my writing as a business and even got some consultation from a business coach. I panicked! And retreated into safety. But at the same time I felt guilty because this was part of my plan when I retired. So by changing the language, maybe I can tiptoe out of my cocoon and devise a plan that works for me, too. Thank you so much for verbalizing what I’ve felt about this writing journey.

    • Molly Totoro

      Oh Molly… we need to “chat” πŸ™‚
      I equate self-worth with productivity. Therefore, writing that does not contribute to the bottom line is not worth my time. SO ridiculous, isn’t it?

      I am serious about writing – and I love the indie-author mindset. I enjoy learning about my craft as well as how to market my work to a target audience. But I don’t have to be ruthless. I don’t have to be a “mogul” I can do this in a way that is true to my personality.

      I’m still figuring all this out… but I’m taking consistent baby steps.

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