3 ways to avoid retirement burnout

When you meet someone for the first time, how many minutes pass before someone asks “what do you do?” Many people for better or worse see their lives from the point of view of their job. Too often, you are your job. At work, we interact with co-workers, face and conquer challenges, get recognition for a job well done, are admired, in control, and have a genuine feeling of importance. All of these things can be deeply satisfying and become part of the person we are.

So when we decide to retire – either our choice or the company – we enter an unfamiliar place. As the rock group Seisonic so sagely says, “every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” Living retired, rather than having specific to-dos each day, we are free to choose what we want to do or even do nothing at all. Deadlines no longer fill our waking hours but neither that feeling of a job well done upon completion of an assignment. 10-12 hour days where we were so busy we hardly had time to get a cup of coffee are replaced with 16 hours of “free time” that needs to be filled, each day, every day. And there is no one to fill the schedule except for you.

Venturing into retirement without a plan risks poisoning a life where you finally have the freedom and time to do what you really want, to become the person you have always wanted to be. And yet that is what many senior citizens do. Retirement planning too often starts the day we retire.

Many retirees find the first six months of retirement to be just what they expected. Finally, some time to catch up on reading, complete those tasks around the house that have gone unaddressed for years, to do some traveling to those places you have always wanted not worrying about weekend travel since the whole week is yours to enjoy. Little things keep your attention occupied and you have the genuine feeling of being busy, sometimes VERY busy!

However after that initial retirement introduction, when the to-do list is done, now what? To successfully and happily retire, you need to have some retirement goals and purpose in your retired life that goes beyond just keeping busy.

Activity with a purpose

(1)  Identify meaningful endeavors that on a daily basis engage your skills and mind. I am not talking about something that is completed in a week or month but something ongoing. Short term projects keep you busy as they are intended – for the short-term. What you want to find is ongoing purposeful activity – something that you are excited about, something you are passionate about, so you will look forward to getting each day under way. This grand purpose could be writing a book, it could be volunteering on a continuing basis, you might want to learn how to work with textiles and create personalized pieces of art for gifts or even sale, learning a new language and then traveling to the country where you can immerse yourself and really learn the culture, playing the piano has always intrigued you and between lessons and practice, you can expect to keep busy for years to come, or even blogging about something that you are an expert in or are passionate about. Find something that will not start today and be done tomorrow but instead has a long-term horizon.

(2) Continuing lifelong learning – learning is for a lifetime. It engages our imagination and broadens our horizons, making us much more interesting people to be with. And don’t let the fact that you are retired scare you. Finally you have the time and now even the freedom to study what you WANT not what you need to earn a degree. Remember how much fun you had as a kid memorizing the names of all those dinosaurs? Or the burning interest you felt when learning about various painters and their unique styles of artistic expression? Retired life is the perfect opportunity to follow those passions. Local junior colleges offer a myriad of courses. Some universities allow retirees to audit courses for a nominal fee. Keep on learning.

(3) Stay connected – the internet offers tons of ways to connect with others with similar interests. The fastest growing users of social networks are those over 50. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Report, 47 percent of internet users age 50-64 and 26 percent 65 and older use social networking. Having someone as passionate as you about dogs or travel or collecting plates or growing roses keeps it interesting and you always have something to talk about. And should you feel the urge to dig deeper to learn more about anything – ANYTHING – information is just a Google or a Wikipedia away.  Multimedia adds a whole new experience as you can view videos and recordings along with descriptive text. There is some truly amazing stuff out there.

In retirement living, it is not too challenging to stay busy for the short-term. The challenge is keeping busy and engaged and challenged and excited for the long-term. Once you leave the working world, the responsibility is yours to find meaningful, purposeful activities that stimulate your mind and body. If you succeed, you will steal all of the positive elements from the working world while leaving behind everything that gave you sleepless nights.

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

Why Wisdom Comes with Age – a Senior Gift

As is our destiny playing this aging game, we may on rare occasion find ourselves in the middle of doing something and no fault of our own, experience a “momentary lapse”, forgetting where we left our reading glasses or questioning if we turned off the stove or double checking to see that our suddenly seemingly emaciated cats were in fact fed this morning. It happens to the best of us and there is no one to blame (well maybe those cats…). Some accept this inevitable state of affairs while others deny it, but few remain untouched.

Thankfully there is a bright side to this aging process, something to take to heart and happily anticipate as we amble down the retirement path. With each event that contributes to the landscape of a life, good or bad, happy or sad, comes valuable experience. Not something that can be taught, each experience must be lived, shaping an individual’s character and allowing real wisdom takes root. Remember the TV series “Kung Fu” where David Carradine inevitably sought counsel from the old white-haired blind guy in matters that were beyond him? And have you ever found yourself asking advice from your parents or others with more experience? We accept, often unconsciously, that by virtue of their many life experiences, older people can provide us with quality advise and guidance. Their many experiences compiled throughout all their years on the planet have endowed them with something that only comes with time – wisdom.

Experiences make the difference

Wisdom outweighs any wealth – Sophocles

True wisdom is not learned in school. It is heavily influenced by our life experiences. And seniors have been through it all – sometimes more than once – so we can most definitely benefit from their experiences. What is it in the normal course of events that builds the wisdom we find in our elderly? Where does it come from if not from a book?

(1) Work experience – assuming a 40 hour work week (I know that is not always realistic these days), one year contains 2080 hours. If you begin full-time work upon completion of college – age 21 – by the time you reach 65 years of age, you have “experienced the working world” for 91520 hours. And with the economy as it is these days, the likelihood that you worked at one job these 44 years is pretty slim. I have moved through 8-10 companies – and counting – over the years. No wonder retirement sounds so good!

However, it is because of these cumulative hours and multiple jobs, with exposure to diverse people over many years, that lasting skills evolve to make you ever better at what you do and as it turns out, at life as well. You can thank your work for:

  • Making you an expert at conflict resolution which translates well into family and personal life. All of the negotiating and give-and-take from the job environment adds to your ability to reach a common ground and offer sound advice.
  • Teaching you how to smile in the face of adversity and even at a bad joke told by a superior. Bad jokes are not limited to the work environment.
  • Educating you to make decisions based upon imperfect information, just like you have to do in the “real world”.
  • Teaching you how to ask the right questions to get to the heart of the situation.

(2) Life experience – by age 65, most people have lived a life of various highs and lows. All of these experiences build character and add to the total life-expertise of the individual. Their wisdom is based upon history lived, not learned in school.

  • Economy – financial cycles and random events influence perspectives on security, risk and the future. Just as children of the Great Depression tended to be more conservative in later life and likewise with their advice, so will the wild 20th century leave its imprint. What will tomorrow’s sage advise after living through the OPEC oil crisis, the dot-com bubble of 2000-2001, the recent and ongoing housing bubble, and Mr. Madoff and his Ponzi scheme. How individual sharers-of-wisdom assimilate these events will dictate what direction their advice will point future seekers.
  • Family and friends – as we age, we are more likely to experience trigger events in our personal lives. The death of a loved one, a sickness of a close friend, an aged relative experiencing dementia as her days advance. Sometimes these events make us tougher, sometimes they throw us for a loop, but whatever the result, they become an intimate piece of the person we are. Advice and counsel will reflect  the effects of these events.

Younger people should always be able to elicit the wisdom of their elders, to benefit from their knowledge, experience and advice. What would we do if we did not have our “life experts ” to turn to? And remember that as we approach common ground with those we today call elderly, others will soon come to us seeking our words of wisdom. That wisdom that is a reward and valuable gift of the life we live. As Mark Twain said, “The exercise of an extraordinary gift is the supremest pleasure in life.” So don’t waste it…

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

3 Steps to the Good Life in retirement

From an early age we hear rumors of a state of all encompassing happiness that though elusive is a worthy goal of all beings – the Good Life. All of our efforts and sacrifices directed toward achieving this magical state are well worth the cost. And who in their right mind would not want to live the Good Life?

Richard Leider, renowned coach and author of “The Power of Purpose” defines the Good Life as having the following four key components:

(1)  Financial freedom (money)

(2)  Being mentally and physically healthy (medicine)

(3)  Creating deep relationships and a sense of purpose (meaning)

(4)  And feeling like you belong (place)

To maintain the Good Life, we need to constantly adjust, tweak and modify these variables to deal with changes in our lives and the lives of those we love. But it seems reasonable that with these elements in place, we would be pretty happily retired, entering each day with a positive attitude, motivated and glad to be alive. The Good Life = Golden Years – a natural extension. So how do seniors get there?

Recipe for the Good Life

As discussed in numerous prior posts, planning NOW is critical to achieving your goals in retirement life. The more time and effort you put today into what your retirement will look like tomorrow, the better prepared you will be to enjoy your time with less anxiety and stress. And it is not just me saying this: AIG Sun America found that those who prepared for retirement regardless of wealth or income tended to be the most satisfied. Without planning and preparation, you are gambling with your senior quality of life, effectively rolling the dice at a very bad time to roll craps.

In 2009, MetLife did a study focused on a group age 45 to 74 called “Discovering what matters: Balancing money, medicine, and meaning”.  Some helpful highlights from the study include the following:

  • The importance of purpose – people who believe there is purpose in their lives are happier and describe themselves as living the Good Life. “Having a reason to get up in the morning is associated in numerous scientific studies with better mental and physical health and greater longevity. Purpose can add not only to your life but life to your years”
  • Meaning-related activities are most important to people, and spending time with friends and family is at the top of the list. A busy career can stand in the way of nourishing important relationships but in retirement, you have the time and the need to grow them more fully. “If we had to name what makes life worth living, what gives meaning and purpose, most of us would probably say it’s the people we love. Relationships, along with work, are the core differences in quality of life at all ages. Whom we love and how we love them are in a way the core reasons we get up in the morning.”
  • Trigger events – along the way, most people experience challenges whether financial, medical, or spiritual. These trigger events require us to take a second look at our goals and vision of retirement and make adjustments. This ability to adapt is essential to dealing with bumps in the road and enables us to get back on track and move forward.

It sounds like the Good Life does in fact exist and with some effort on our part, we can hope to achieve it. And what a worthwhile goal to strive for! So today, not tomorrow, start down your path to the Good Life. It is not an easy journey and there is no guarantee. But when you do arrive, make sure to enjoy the ride.

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