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.


Keep Busy with Senior Activities and Projects

To fill the hour – that is happiness ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

It can be the greatest joy or just as likely the dreaded curse of retirement life. After years of working in a profession and at a career that we may or may not be enthralled with, we finally graduate into retirement. No more doing what the boss demands or stressing out as we struggle to meet project time lines. Our time now belongs solely to US! Retirement is our time to do what we want to do when we want to do it, answering to no one other than our self. What a glorious feeling of freedom.

So, now that we have arrived, what is it that we are actually going to do to keep busy? How do we plan to spend approximately fifteen hours each day, seven days each week, 52 weeks each year retired?  Our time to play is finally here – now what?

Most of us have some ideas of what we would LIKE to do to stay busy once the chains are severed and we can disembark from the slave-ship-galleon that was work. But we discover that there is a LOT of time in each day and it may not be quite so easy to keep busy and stay entertained.  Could this free time be more than we are capable of handling?

Thinking along these lines over the past year, an idea began to take shape in my mind. Since retirement is our time to do what we want to do, it makes sense that step one would be to figure out exactly what it is that we want to do.  We don’t want to waste our valuable time and keeping busy will not be a chore if we are in fact doing what we want to be doing. Choices for senior activities are many and vary according to our individual interests and imagination.

What if what I find interesting and am passionate about turns out to also be intriguing to you even though you have never thought along those lines prior? And what if your pursuits and your hobbies and your passions open up new avenues for me to explore as well? Suddenly our list of rewarding senior activities triples in length, our interests are piqued, creative juices start flowing, and it is not so much a matter of keeping busy as much as it is finding enough time in our retirement day to get everything done.

Probably the difference between man and the monkeys is that the monkeys are merely bored, while man has boredom plus imagination ~ Lin Yutang

Senior Activities to Keep Busy

Over the coming months, I will periodically focus my blog on various “senior activities” that may be of interest to readers. These projects can be one-time-events or on-going endeavors. They may focus on specific hobbies or general ideas. But the aim is to identify specific activities for us to keep busy in retirement.  And not just identify but investigate, highlight and provide some guidance to allow us to get started. And not just projects to keep busy but that are enjoyable, engaging, and rewarding.

I have some ideas stirring about and I happily welcome your input to identify others. In addition, I have created a new category called “Keep Busy” which will be the repository for posts specific to senior activities and projects.

I look forward to uncovering new ways for us to keep busy in our retirement life.

Stay tuned for the “first edition” where we will provide you with a plan to archive your family memories to share and enjoy across your entire clan.

Keeping Busy in Retirement Life

One fear that many retirees must face early in their retirement career is what to do each day to keep busy and avoid becoming bored. Having left the working world behind where daily activities were dictated by our job responsibilities, senior citizens are on their own when it comes to entertaining themselves and staying active. Once the initial retirement honeymoon period is over – usually after the first six to twelve months – there is a lot of vacant time in the day and a lot of days in the year. Retirees must stay active, engaged, and challenged to enjoy a healthy and satisfying retired life. Is there somewhere a recipe for keeping busy?

A Couple of Case Studies

My parents have been retired for twelve years now. Both are in good health and they have saved enough money to live comfortably and do the things they want to in retirement. And there is surely no moss gathering under their feet! They maintain a schedule that would quickly tire someone half their age. Looking at their calendar, I am amazed at how busy they are, month in and month out. What exactly is on the schedule for this 78 year old retired couple? I took a look and selected a month at random. Here is what their month of May looked like:

Bridge – ten times for the month, on more than one occasion twice in a day – Mom and Dad both play bridge and are a dynamic duo when playing as a team, but it is typically Mom whose schedule is packed with bridge games galore.

Golf – eight times – Dad is the golfer in the family and likes to make time to hit the greens. And it is not about the score (although obviously less is better) but rather about the beautiful surroundings and the people he is playing with. Just last week he shot 44 on the front nine and others in his party were rubbing him for luck. The back nine – I forget what the final total was…

Family visiting them – two times for the month.

Travel to visit family – three times in May.

Tennis – four times for the month.

Theater and symphony – three times including “Barefoot in the Park” at the local civic theater.

Band practice – three times which is actually one less than normal – Dad plays the trumpet and a typical month includes rehearsals every Monday evening. Practice makes perfect as he is a fixture in the Christmas, Fourth of July, Veterans Day, and other concerts each year.

Lunch and dinner dates – eight events including a museum reception, a senior luncheon, and a dinner dance.

Miscellaneous appointments for the month (termite inspection, some I could not decipher, etc.)  – eleven for the month of May.

WHEW! And you can bet that June and July and each subsequent month is just as packed. With this kind of a schedule plus the time they take to walk the neighborhood, read their favorite tomes, enjoy a Netflix moment viewing favorite old movies,  and debate their political point of view with all comers, they do not have to be concerned about what to do to stay sharp, active, and with it. They are already doing it big time!

A second retired member of the family who refuses to sit still for very long is my Aunt. She has always been adventurous with regular house swaps that allowed her to travel the world and experience numerous cultures and exotic locations that the rest of us only read about in National Geographic. For example, her honeymoon was spent in Egypt where her husband x-rayed the pyramids in search of hidden chambers – not likely to be offered anytime soon as one of Rick Steve’s package deals. Retired now for a handful of years and living in an upscale retirement community, she is still that favorite Aunt that you have to schedule time with FAR in advance since available days are at a premium. But she is well worth the effort.

Here is a partial list of some of her retirement activities:

–      Publicizing concerts by professionally trained musicians who actually chose medicine, computer science, teaching, etc. to earn a living but still like to perform for the public.

–      Member of numerous clubs in the community including Computer Club, the Nature Club, and the Wine Tasting Club.

–      Regular workout and exercise at the local facilities.

–      Avid Folk Dancer who travels widely to participate in events.

–      Traveler of the globe whose wanderings this year included New England and Maine for the colors, plus Atlanta to visit and walk among the plantations. Plans for 2011 so far include a 10-day-driving journey through Montreal and Quebec, a return visit to Maine, and a walking tour of Eastern Europe!

It is not enough to be busy; so are the ants. The question is: what are we busy about? ~ Henry David Thoreau

What can you do to avoid boredom in retirement? Get out there and experience the world. Don’t wait for a knock on the door or a bolt of sudden inspiration – just do it. Find those with common interests and share those interests. Step outside of your comfort zone and you will be surprised just what you are capable of doing. And plan on enjoying yourself along the way. There is so much out there waiting for us. But our waiting will not get it done and patience in this case is no virtue. Fill your calendar, fill your spare time, fill your experiences, and live that full life that retired people not only deserve, but finally have the time to live.