Get To Know The Retired You

It is not always easy to get retirement right from day one. The business that has occupied our days for the past 30 plus years as we navigate our careers and family life is not the best training ground. Where our working years tend to be dominated by perpetual responsibilities resulting in the daunting challenge to find enough time in the day to get everything done we must, retirement for many can be the polar opposite. Instead of others directing us to do what they want – be that boss or child or spouse – living our second act finds us much more in control of our time and choice of activities. Retirement can be the best of times if you understand yourself, are aware of your motivations and passions, and have a clear view of the path ahead.

Before I “officially” retired, I often imagined what it would be like. Free to manage my time howsoever I envisioned days of leisure slowly unfurling as I enjoyed the new found freedom from stress in pursuit of what mattered to me. Without deadlines and quotas shadowing my every step I planned to find the perfect pace at which to live each day – goodbye rush and hustle. No more taking one for the team, no more heroically grinning and bearing it – I would finally be able to do what I want. I was ready to get the party started.

I optimistically (perhaps a bit naïvely) considered all the good that lay ahead, the positives rather than any potential negatives. After all what could possibly be negative when it comes to living in retirement?

It was not too long before I came to discover this retirement game was not always a bed of roses. I occasionally found it challenging to think of some inspirational activity to dedicate my efforts to. Once my initial list of to-dos was done, I found myself with an awful lot of free time on a calendar ominously populated by empty squares. Since most of my friends were still working they were not able to join me in my spur of the moment pursuits. There were a lot of factors I had not considered but for better or worse I was retired.

Knowing a bit about yourself and how you will react to retired life can help smooth your transition and ideally facilitate a first rate retirement. I just finished reading Hello Someday, a collection of thoughts and exercises aimed at helping you better understand the nuances of preparing for retirement. Rather than merely a read Hello Someday is an interactive workbook with prompts to help you dig into a myriad of topics all relevant to a living a fulfilling retirement.

One section focuses on identifying some of the most important things that have influenced and shaped who we are. The questions are relevant to ask at any point in your life but particularly so when it comes to planning for retirement. If you can get yourself thinking about those important things before you retire you might better prepare for the decades ahead. Here are a few of my favorite questions:

What is your proudest moment so far?

What always brings a smile to your face?

What would you like to have happen in your life this year?

What things would you like to stop doing?

Identifying and understanding what makes us happy, inspires us, and gets us fired to live each new day can help target our efforts toward achieving those things most essential to our individual happiness. If you know what to look for, if you know what you love retirement can be your chance to go for it. Many new experiences await some to be enjoyed for the first time. As Pliny the Elder said, “What is there that does not appear marvelous when it comes to our knowledge for the first time?” The retirement each of us live can be marvelous. We just have to know where to look.

What Do You Want From Retirement?

If you retire at or around age 65 it is a reasonable hope to live a second act that stretches out for multiple decades. So long as you have saved enough, planned as best you can for various contingencies and are of general good health what you choose to do during that time will be for the most part up to you. It can be quite satisfying to realize you have made it this far and are now free to embark on an entirely new chapter, one that you control.  After all the effort it took to get here it would be a shame to waste a single day.

It is not unheard of to arrive at the doorstep of retirement without having dedicated sufficient time to figuring out exactly what you will do to make the most of your days. Some spend more time planning for a two week vacation than they do for two decades of retired living. Without that insight, new retirees risk quickly finding themselves confused and disillusioned. We have waited for so long – now what?

One of the beauties of retirement is it can be different things to different people. Each of us has the opportunity to create a retirement best tailored to our personal tastes and likes. A little customization goes a long way to start us down the right path and can assist in our successful navigating the retirement jungle.

What do you want in your retirement?

Make up for lost time

Some are forced to neglect passions and interests they could not make time for during busy work lives. Now that you control 24/7 of your day you have the opportunity to take another shot at those illusive past pleasures. For example, if you have always dreamed of travel this is your chance. Not only do you have time to look for the best deals perhaps taking advantage of last minute specials as they pop up you also have time to research in depth where you are going. Understanding a little something about the history and culture of a destination can make your trip that much more memorable.

Whatever the dream put on hold retirement gives you a second chance. Discover the artist inside, release the musician denied, loose the architect or landscaper or gardener previously held at bay, or free the creative quilter locked away. Whatever you may desire, here is your chance to make up for lost time.

Build a better you

Living in retirement affords us time to think, to contemplate who we are and consider our place in the world. Without the rush and stress of a job, we can better control the pace of our day. Not all days are the same. Some we feel ready to tackle the world head on. Others we prefer a slower more gradual immersion. In retirement we have more control to live each day in a way that best mirrors our personal mindset.

As you spend more time with your own thoughts it is conceivable you may discover small quirks and imperfections in the person you are. A bad habit here an undesirable tendency there – none of us is perfect. With this knowledge in hand and empowered by a new control of your time you can now take steps toward self-improvement.

Stride travel2

Spend time with people you want

For me, one of the least desirable aspects of the working world was spending time locked away in “strategic” meetings. Typically these meetings included one or two particularly verbose people who felt it their duty to monopolize the discussion preventing those captive from doing meaningful work elsewhere. If I wanted to keep my job I had no choice but to grin and bear it, patiently waiting for the blessed end. These days I choose who I spend my time with. A couple of our kids just left after spending the weekend with my wife and I. We had an awesome time alternating cooking of tasty meals, hiking Point Lobos, playing dominoes and just hanging out. I laughed harder than I have in a long time. We caught up on life and just enjoyed being together. It is this type of moment I want to foster. And now that I am retired that is exactly what I plan to do.

Make a difference

The world if filled with people and organizations and causes that can use help. Retirees have the luxury of free time and so the fit is a natural. Many find satisfaction putting their time to productive use as a volunteer. Some prefer being part of an organized entity. Others possess skills and passions to share including experience gleaned from careers or helping those whose life challenges in some way mirror their own. The level of help you offer need not be deserving of the Nobel Peace Prize. A little goes a long way. The important thing is you can make a difference if you choose to.

Go along for the ride

It is possible the specifics of your retirement-to-be remain a bit nebulous. Perhaps you are just fine with taking each day as it comes, going with the flow. Maybe you achieved all you needed during the life leading up to retirement. With no impetus to strive for additional notches on your belt you find yourself happy without adhering to a detailed plan. It could be the simple act of escaping from day to day career life is in itself rewarding.

This “along for the ride” mentality can work. I happily follow this motivation part of the time, letting each day evolve as it may. But I find it equally important to try new things and find some meaning in the hours lived. The ride is ours to choose – the right combination of excitement and relaxation can be just the ticket.

Whatever your personal preference, retirement offers a variety of ways to find satisfaction, fulfillment, excitement and meaning. It is all about the journey. Good luck finding your way and enjoy.