By Bob Lowry
One of the posts I wrote in the first few months of Satisfying Retirement continues to resonate with me. I’ve freshened it just a bit to reflect some of what I have learned in the almost four years since I wrote it. See what you think.
What is the most depressing word in the English language? According to Ernest Hemmingway, it is “retirement.” The dictionary defines retirement as an ending, a conclusion, a termination, seclusion –get the idea? These are not very pleasant connotations. Yet, this is the word we hear every day and it can affect how we think.
What we need is a re-branding. The goal is to change the image of the word. Retirement needs to be positioned in folks’ minds as a period of incredible opportunity. It isn’t a conclusion; rather it is an encore, an additional performance added to an already great event. It is a time when your talents and creativity can reach new heights.
Companies rebrand all the time. They come up with a new product name, or design for the packaging. Old products disappear to be replaced with “new and improved” versions. Why not us? How would your retirement be rebranded? Here are a few thoughts:
Create a vision of how you’d live if you could start from scratch. Here’s a shocker: that’s exactly what happens when you leave the job behind. You are starting again with a clean slate. How you spend your time and energy, who you associate with, what new challenges you take on are all within your power. Obviously, finances or health will create some barriers. But, I contend there are fewer limitations than you had when you were working 40 hours a week.
Set timetables for turning that vision into your life. This doesn’t mean, “By Friday I’ll learn to play the guitar.” A realistic goal for the next year might be to become good enough to play a few songs for friends at a picnic. If your health isn’t where you want it to be, your goal could be to get your cholesterol numbers below 210 by your next physical. Setting goals that are too general and too open-ended won’t work. You must be able to measure your progress.
Tell friends and family what you are doing. “Going public” is one of the best ways to keep you motivated. None of us likes to say we are going to do something and then not live up to the promise. If you keep your goals and vision to yourself, it is much easier to waffle and make excuses.
Don’t accept the marketplace’s definition of who you are and what you can do. Being retired means only what you allow it to mean. For many this is the busiest, most exciting, most fulfilling time of their lives. To them retirement means re-fire-ment: becoming fired up by all that life has to offer.
Don’t be afraid to shake things up. Maybe that means moving to another part of town, or another part of the country altogether. Maybe you want to try living in a small condo in the center of the city instead of the suburbs or try full time RVing for a time. Join a club, volunteer for something a little out of your comfort zone. Now is the time when you can experiment with your lifestyle. Do it.
Rebranding this part of your life into what you want it to be can be one of the most important decisions you make. Don’t allow society to put you in a small box when you feel like a massive storage container.
By Bob Lowry