By Bob Lowry
Most of us have been taught that a shark must remain in constant motion or it will drown. Because of its gill structure a continuous flow of water is required to absorb enough oxygen.
More recent studies have shown this belief to be only partly correct. While there are some sharks that must move all the time, several other species spend much of their time lying on the bottom of the ocean, quite content and very much alive. The difference is in their muscle structure and ability to force water through the gills as needed.
Originally, I was thinking of the first type of shark while considering the parallels between sharks and retirement. If we don’t keep moving forward we may not physically die right away, but the quality of our life is affected and our exploration of all our opportunities is cut short.
Learning that not all sharks are swimming forever actually makes the idea behind this post more on target. Just like sharks, retirements take different paths depending upon the person.
Some like to be in constant motion. Exercises, hiking, biking, book clubs, on-line or on-site continuing educational classes, travel and exploring, volunteer work, meeting friends for meals, coffee and conversation…..their schedule is full and their retirement is very active.
Others find a blend of activity and relaxation to be best. Like a shark that swims for part of the day and settles on the bottom for awhile, this approach to a satisfying retirement mixes stimulation and times of calmness. A hike or brisk walk is followed by time on the back porch with a book or Ipod playing some favorite music. An active day spent with grandkids is balanced with a day spent with friends at a movie and relaxing dinner.
Still others are decompressing after a hectic life of career and family. A schedule that is open to whatever feels right today works for them. There may be extended periods of little physical or mental exertion, then a burst of action. But, the decompression means no pressure to “perform” and no guilt in that lifestyle choice.
This ability to be the type of “shark” that suits you at this stage of life is what is so satisfying about retirement. During much of our life we are not in control. Jobs, family, parents, soccer practice, business travel….whatever your life components there were responsibilities that restricted your freedoms.
Now, you are more likely to be restricted only by your own choices and decisions. Granted, health and financial concerns, maybe dealing with aging parents mean you are not completely free to do what you feel when you feel.
But, few would argue that retirement gives you a much greater ability to craft a life that is more to your liking. And, the type of “shark” you are can change as your circumstances and desires change. A constantly moving shark today may become a “bottom dweller” for a period of time, then become partly active again.
The next time you watch “Jaws” think about that shark and your approach to retirement! Are you going to need a bigger boat?
By Bob Lowry