Creativity in Retirement:

Let the Instrument be the Teacher

I started playing guitar in the last few years, so improvement is the name of the game.  I wanted to advance from being a beginner to playing music I enjoy listening to. I got invited to play with a group of about five other people, all more advanced musicians, and playing with them has helped me improve the most. I also took a semester-long guitar class at a local community college and a few shorter courses at UCSD Extension.  I had the good fortune to have excellent instructors for both and have continued private lessons.  This has been a lot of fun, which drives wanting to improve. When I hear something I like, I try to play it, even at a beginner level.  

Learning a song or a technique on the guitar is itself creative. If I can play a tune better than I did a week ago, that’s gratifying.  Figuring out how to play a tricky part of a song creates the ‘I can do it!’ feeling.  Playing music is an immediate gratification experience, so if I play something that sounds good, I want to play more.  The most fun thing has been playing music with other people; it’s a great environment to develop music skills.  And there’s a lot of collaboration, cooperation, and organization when playing a song together.  Interacting and learning from my music teachers has been very motivating because they are so engaged in their music.  Listening to different musical genres at local venues has been inspiring and has resulted in fun nights out. 

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The Last Frontier

When planning a journey, I think it’s always a good idea to know where you’re starting from, where you’re going, who your traveling companions will be, and most importantly, who you are. Retirement is a journey. 


I recently retired from my clinical practice, so I’m a newbie at being retired. Still, I prepared for retirement as a personal project and worked hard to get my practice and patients ready. One critical takeaway I’m learning from people I’ve talked to about retirement is: that despite common factors, everyone’s retirement is unique and personal. As psychologists, we focus on self-awareness, regardless of our professional activities or theoretical orientation. The question, ‘who am I’ is an existential must for psychologists to answer, first about ourselves and the patient, client, group, organization, etc., we are serving.  

Peter LiBero is a retired clinical psychologist. He continues to work as an executive coach and psychological consultant to management.

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