What is it about your typical retirement day that gives you a feeling of accomplishment? Getting out of bed in the morning, is there something on the horizon that adds a little spring to your step and a smile of anticipation to your face? Do you look forward to life or do you just get by?
Listen – are you living only a little and calling it a life?
Retirement is a big change. Moving from the perpetually-fast-paced working world into a slower motion way of life takes some getting used to. Everywhere we read that retired life is our time to do what we want to do when we want to do it. Our Golden Years hard earned and well deserved – we sure don’t want to waste them. But if these years are to be spent just killing time trying to stay busy to avoid boredom, that working world suddenly doesn’t look so bad.
In regards to fulfillment, Marcus Aurelius had a useful perspective:
Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.
Live a good life. Have you heard that one before? The good life, but good for who? What is good for you may not necessarily be good for me. And someone else view of fulfillment may fall short of my own vision.
In the end, we are each responsible to discover within ourselves what fulfills us and ultimately what makes it all worthwhile, life that is.
Is there somewhere a book to guide the way? Perhaps a course of study with CliffsNotes available to accelerate the process? To this point I have found no such thing. But maybe a few ideas of what has worked for others can help.
Do something to help someone – in his recent post Pushing Back Against the Box Bob Lowry shared with us his involvement with a prison ministry where he mentors a convict for six months upon their release. During that time the commitment is no small thing as Bob explains:
“As someone’s mentor I am expected to talk with him on the phone at least 4 times a week and visit him at the halfway house a minimum of once a week for the first four months. I am expected to help him develop a budget, stay away from old friends and habits, help him get a job, buy him clothes, drive him to medical appointments, and meet with his parole officer on a regular basis. I attend church services with him and I help him in his faith walk. I am the person he calls when he worries he’s about to make a mistake.”
Through Bob’s reaching out he is making a real difference in the lives of others. And the personal satisfaction and fulfillment he realizes I find truly inspiring. Although mentoring a convict may not be the path you choose, there are many ways to reach out and help others and as a pleasant side benefit feel good about yourself.
Ongoing projects and hobbies – if in your efforts to keep busy you are actually enjoying yourself with what you do, I believe you are experiencing a degree of fulfillment. According to Webster’s Dictionary, to fulfill is to satisfy, to measure up to, to develop the full potentialities of. Fulfillment does not have to necessarily be a bolt of lightning from above – it can be experienced in smaller doses and still be a good thing. What is important is to do something rather than wait for something to be done to you.
A man may fulfill the object of his existence by asking a question he cannot answer, and attempting a task he cannot achieve. ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes
Get outta bed! Having the resolve each day to get into action by a given hour puts a little routine and direction into your life. Not in a boring way but in an engaging way. Even if your plans do not go beyond a cup of coffee and reading the newspaper at 7 am, you have a starting point, you have a mission that gets you going. An object in motion tends to stay in motion so it is important to get that first push to get things rolling. You will never know what the day holds until you become part of it.
Have longer term plans, something on the calendar – you know when you return from a vacation and feel relaxed but a little bummed that your trip is over? And how wonderful it feels to look at the calendar and see your next trip already scheduled? I think it is important to always have something on the horizon to look forward to – maybe six months down the road, something to plan for, to build anticipation for, and to head toward. And don’t overlook the fact that the entire process of researching and preparing for an excursion is half of the fun – what a great way to learn about something new and then go actually live it!
Go back to work! If you are someone who actually enjoys working, there is no reason why you cannot do so in “retirement”. There is a lot to be said about a positive environment where you are challenged and rewarded for your efforts. And if money is no longer the driving motivator, you can try your hand at a new “retirement career” pursuing a passion that you were unable to while actively employed. If you find fulfillment in work, go for it.
Nothing else matters much — not wealth, nor learning, nor even health — without this gift: the spiritual capacity to keep zest in living ~ Harry Emerson Fosdick
We each need to discover and realize our own fulfillment in retired life. It is a very personal thing. We can share in the experiences of others but until we find our own true path, until we incorporate ourselves and our passions into how we spend our days, we are only scratching the surface of our potential and sadly true fulfillment in retirement will remain elusive.
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