Senior Warning: avoid the “I really should…” trap

Dorothy Cantor in her book “What do you want to do when you grow up?” describes a state of being common to retirees whereby decisions of what to do with their time may be overly influenced by feelings of what they should be doing. Not living and enjoying the long-awaited I-can-do-what-I-want-now-that-I-am-retired, but instead feelings of guilt or duty guide actions. Dorothy describes one retiree who feels she should read all of the books stacked on her shelves even though she is no longer interested in their contents. After taking them down – and there are some heavies in the list – she decides that in fact she does not want to read these, she in fact does not HAVE to read these, and so she follows her wild and free retirement heart and just says no. What a relief!

Your retirement life is your time to do what you want – finally. Feelings of responsibility to do what others think you should do are misdirected. You have the right and the need to live your life and let them live theirs. Your main motivation should be to enjoy retired life to the fullest – you have earned the right. If you don’t want to read it, don’t. If volunteering is not for you, even though it can be very rewarding to some, look down another avenue. Remember, you are no longer working for a boss, you no longer have to complete your job duties, and you answer to no one except yourself. Well, maybe your spouse shares in the “proper management” of your decisions but you run the ship together!

Retirement is no time for feelings of guilt. Retire to the good life! You are focused on living in the present moment and experiencing life to its fullest. Guilt over things not done will not change the fact that they were not done. And if you decide you want to do something now, do it for the right reasons – because you want to, because you are passionate about doing it, because you freely choose to do it. Buddha said “live every act fully, as if it were your last.” Do the right thing because it is right for you. That course of action effectively addresses and neutralizes the “I really should…” trap which, after all, you really should…

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4 thoughts on “Senior Warning: avoid the “I really should…” trap

  1. Well said! I think one of the “shoulds” that sometimes gets pushed onto us is the idea of helping out with the grandkids on a regular basis. I don’t mind once in a while but I avoid regular commitments with them.

    I used to have a list of books I wanted to read when I “had time” but, like Dorothy, I found years later, my interests had changed and there were other, more meaningful books I wanted to read.

    My new mantra is “out with the old and in with the new!” If I have moldy old books sitting around that I haven’t read up til now, I sell them at the Half Price Book Store and let someone else get the use out of them.

  2. You got it Joan! I agree with helping out with the grand kids but not as an expectation. We did the heavy lifting raising our own kids and now is the time to enjoy being the “good grandparent”, enjoying the grand kids and sending them on home after. Once in a while…

  3. Like Joan, I have rooms full of books I’m never going to re-read. I finally decided last week to get rid of most of them at a used bookstore. Any they don’t want are donated to a nursing organization that has a huge sale every spring.To be sure I don’t replace them all I’m getting rid of most of the bookshelves too.

    For too long I kept the books because that is what you are supposed to do. Not true. Someone else will get more pleasure from them than I am now.

  4. I guess it is like that with me too. I have some things that are important to me which have expectations that I do x and y. Somehow I never manage to do them. My set of Great Books sit untouched. What I am doing is making sure that my wife and I dot hings rather than saying we will do them someday, This means taking a day to visit museums in San Francisco (without the expense of staying over night) and planning day excursions. All my life we have put off things and now with the end in sight it is clear that now is better than later.

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