Is your retirement fulfilling?

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.

Don’t forget to pick up a free copy of Navigating the Retirement Jungle, available upon request by mailing to lovebeingretired@hotmail.com.


Are seniors afraid to ask for help?

The world rewards strength success.

We are taught from our early days the importance of winning and succeeding and being the best. Few stories are told at bedtime of second place achievements – first is what matters. And in our climb toward the top of the heap, there is no place for weakness, no tolerance for failure. Even the Bible reiterates this explaining that God helps those who help themselves. We are the master of our own destiny and should not need to ask for help.

Is it any surprise then that we seniors display a reluctance to reveal any chink in our armor, anything that may be perceived as weakness, anything that makes us appear less than perfect? No matter what our age, we often believe that we can handle whatever is thrown our way and do so all by our self.

Old age is the most unexpected of all things that can happen to a man ~ Leon Trotsky

Humans as a species are not at the top of the food chain based on our physical attributes. There are a lot of bigger and badder creatures in the jungle that could make a quick meal of us. It is our brain not our brawn that set us in control of our fellow creatures. Thinking and reasoning, using our experience and education, analyzing the situation and taking appropriate action – that is how we survive.

And yet when it comes to using that same brain to realize that we are not perfect and that we may need to ask for help from others things tend to get a little murky. The reality is that if we lower our guard, if we let someone get close to our true feelings and fears, we could be better off. We could use their help. All we have to do is let them in and be vulnerable. How big of a risk can that be? Big enough that many senior citizens prefer to struggle and suffer and often times fail rather than risk revealing a need that shows us to be less than that strong, self-sufficient person that we feel we must be. Superman to the end, even when kryptonite is in the room and someone else can easily save us if we just ask for help.

All would live long, but none would be old ~ Ben Franklin

As we age like it or not we become more dependent on those around us, subject to frustrations, insecurities, and a loss of control that comes with old age. Little things begin to be not so little anymore. Try though we may to do it ourselves, senior citizens need help to get by. We need to acknowledge the limitations of our aging bodies and not be afraid to ask for help. How much easier that is to say than to implement! We treasure our independence and will not surrender it without a fight. But in the end, who wins the war?

How to ask for help

  • Acceptance – there is no denying it – aging will eventually take its toll and we will no longer be the spritely young whipper-snappers we once were. No fault of our own – it is just the nature of things. Accepting our old age is like a marriage – we are committed to it for life for better or worse! And like a marriage, there will be good days and bad as well as times when we will need the help of our spouse and others. We cannot get through life without the help of others. If we choose to deny this irrefutable fact, we are in trouble. Once we accept our state of affairs and embrace our “elderliness” along with its inherent needs, we can begin to move forward. How pleasant is the day when we give up striving to be young — or slender. ~ William James
  • Realization – yes I am getting older, things are not as easy as they used to be, and I must face my retirement fears – I grudgingly accept this. Now it is important to realize that I can benefit from the help of others. Now is the time to realize that alone, I may struggle but with the help of others, I am made stronger. I am not an expert in all things and only appear the fool if I pretend to be so. If I am smart, I realize that a little humility goes a long way.
  • Willingness to ask – accepting my inevitable situation as a senior citizen of the world and realizing that there are others who can help me through difficult times along my life’s journey, now I must simply be willing to ask for help. I am vulnerable at this time as theoretically I may be refused or my “perfect image” sullied by a self-confessed weakness. But it is truly worth the risk.

I do not believe that we were made to go it alone. We are a social animal and we enjoy being with others.

I believe that people are by default good and if asked, more than willing to lend a helping hand and support us.

I believe that there is no reason to be afraid – all we have to do is ask.

Why Boomers Need To Accept Impermanence

Nothing lasts forever. Given enough time, colors fade, buildings crumble, continents shift, even suns grow cold. People around us grow up and grow old. We grow up and grow old. It is the nature of things; it is the way of life. At a logical level, we realize this. After all, boomers are smart people! And yet, despite accepting reality and despite our logical thinking, it is not always easy to remain positive as we witness and participate in this gradual decline all around us. A loss realized is a loss felt.

Why love if losing hurts so much? We love to know that we are not alone. ~ C.S. Lewis

If boomers are not careful, it is possible to become obsessed with the impermanence of life and what is taken from us, fixating on the negatives. If in the end I am going to lose everything, what is the value of anything? I don’t want to become attached since I will ultimately lose it. Relationships and commitment scares me since 50% are destined to fail – why put in the effort?

On the flip side, boomers knowledge and acceptance of the impermanence of life can be a way for us to focus on today, appreciate what we have, not take for granted our loved ones, and generally live a more complete and satisfying life.

The Challenges and the Promises

If not for the impermanence of life, I would not be able to witness my daughter growing up and becoming the beautiful woman she is. Ever changing, ever progressing, we go through the process together. It is important to remain consciously aware of what is happening and appreciate each step along the way. Together we experience her first words spoken, her first unsure steps, the start of her school career at the wise age of five, school plays where she sings her solo and I in the audience with my heart pounding in rhythm to help her succeed, graduation from high school, and so quickly after that graduation from college. Each step along the way a distinct memory and one more piece of the final puzzle that will be her life. Without change and evolution and impermanence none of this could take place.

It is through impermanence that we start each spring observing life busting out as trees bud and bloom. Leaves grow and fill out the branches and life is abundant. Then as the months pass, we notice the greens fading to yellows and reds and oranges in vibrant displays of magnificent color. We know that this change in colors indicates the coming end of summer and the arrival of winter. And ultimately, leaves fall and trees are bare and life seems to stand still. But were it not for this cycle of life we would not have colorful autumns to populate our memories.

If I can learn to appreciate the impermanence of the world, hopefully I will stop taking for granted what happens to me each day. I will wake up next to my wife and truly appreciate her for the wonderful person she is and hug her close to me. When my uncle begins his rambling discourse on the topic du jour, I will pay attention and hear what he is saying. As I drive down the road with my wife in the passenger seat, I will be conscious of her presence and the blessing of our togetherness and I will not take it for granted.

Nothing is forever so we boomers need to appreciate now:

  • Enjoy every moment with those we love
  • Respect and value every experience and everything around us
  • Appreciate what we have now – good health, a roof over our heads, enough to eat, water to drink, warmth on a cold night, protection from the storm
  • Do not take friends and family for granted
  • If we have something nice to say, say it now
  • Don’t save all of the good wine for later
  • Live your life so at the end you have no regrets

Because I could not stop for death, he kindly stopped for me. The carriage held but just ourselves and immortality. ~ Emily Dickinson

Because of impermanence and the ever-changing world in which we live, bad weather storms in and then moves on, anger rises and abates, tears well up and then dry, and hope springs up in the most unlikely of places. Boomers need to learn to appreciate the value of impermanence. If I am healthy now, I will do what I can to maintain that health. Knowing that life itself is impermanent, I will appreciate each experience that much more. For each moment, I will be thankful, engaged, appreciative, and above all I will live and love that moment.