A regular feature of the Motley Fool Rule Your Retirement newsletter service is our success stories -- profiles of people who have become financially independent. One of the most remarkable stories is about Billy and Akaisha Kaderli, who, at age 38, left their fast-track lives, moved to Nevis, West Indies, in the Caribbean, and started traveling the world.

Retirement is more of a process than a single event. We do not wake up on our 65th birthday automatically retired.

Books abound on how to set our finances in order and what percentages of certain investments we need in order to prepare adequately. This focus on dollars and cents is necessary, but how do we measure motivation, purpose, or life satisfaction?

The emotional component of retirement is often overlooked. How do we communicate to our families that we want something different out of life? If we've been the fiscal cushion for our children (and perhaps now, grandchildren), to what extent do we modify that in order to gain more mobility or freedom? Do we maintain a household because we have pets? Do we keep a five-bedroom home just in case the kids want to visit? If we do end up selling the family dwelling, where will we celebrate the holidays? And what about our aging parents?

Questions about balancing our responsibilities with the desire for a different life can set us back on our heels. It can be difficult to find a way to be productively engaged and develop a new identity -- one not defined by our careers. Service opportunities, civic involvement, or pursuing a lifelong passion can offer us new ways of relating to the world, but many of us are unsure of how to transition into these new role shifts. It's uncharted territory, and the waters look choppy.

A new concept of "retirement"
Baby Boomers are healthier and more educated, active, and diverse in interests than preceding generations. We also have more opportunities to contribute and connect in fellowship. The first thing to remember is that we aren't alone. If some of us have uncertainties, it's likely that others of us do, as well. We're transforming the face of retirement, but where do we start?

Our changing perspectives have spawned classes, coaching sessions, and support groups all over the country. Community colleges, nonprofit organizations, and private foundations have tuned into these shifting needs.

Libraries, alumni associations, human resource departments, career counseling centers, civic leadership programs, and online retirement forums are all places that offer guidance or programs linking us with others of like mind. They can help clarify our visions, get us in touch with other resources, and assist us in developing practical plans of action. Exchanging ideas with those addressing these same issues can open us up to a new future.

This is a period in life not unlike adolescence, when we also dealt with the unknown. We've faced times of uncertainty before and survived. This is a strengthening point to remember. Maybe you have friends who sold the accounting firm they've been running for decades and bought a ranch. They now raise horses and grow grapes to make their own wine. At the local farmers' market, you can see them selling their organic vegetables and blue-ribbon boutique salsas. Friends like these can also be inspirational.

Take action
The point is to view this time of our lives as an asset. It doesn't have to be the winding down of our value or contribution, but rather a new episode of contribution of a different kind in our personal story. Dream, discover, and plan for the years ahead in this truly exciting time of life. Here are some suggestions on what you can do:

1. Assess the current state of your affairs and enumerate your strengths.

2. Imagine future possibilities with the help of your spouse and other family members, if they are affected.

3. Speak with those farther along the retirement path than you are and check community associations for ideas, throwing all potential choices into the ring for discussion.

4. Try on different hats. Challenge, debate, and explore your options. Replace the emotion of fear with a sense of fun and adventure.

In 1991, Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired from the brokerage and restaurant businesses to a life of international travel. Visit their website at RetireEarlyLifestyle.com, and check out their new CD book, The Adventurer's Guide to Early Retirement.