Most people work long years to retire comfortably. The earlier the better, because work gets in the way of fun, travel, and sleeping in. The day finally arrives. After a big celebration, a trip perhaps to kickstart the endless vacation, life begins to hum along without the Monday – Friday routine, the responsibilities that defined your professional life, and the challenges you had to solve on daily basis. If this is heaven, why do so many people lose their whoomph?
At least initially, going from always stressed to nothing happening feels like a void many choose to fill with drinking, watching TV, and bickering with the neighbors. Working is a huge part of everyone’s identity. It occupies at least one-third of your daily life. You have a title. You sweat for your paycheck. People report to you. You are important and needed. Perhaps, you built the company. Perhaps, you rose through the ranks. Perhaps, you’ve had several interesting careers. Perhaps, you earned awards and recognition. Now, you’re home. With nothing to do. Well, you could do whatever is on the “honey-do” list, or finally finish that sewing project, or clean the garage, maybe even write that book you used to think about during lunch break when you were working. But trading your lustrous, hard-earned identity for bumming around the house doing things you can pay someone to do could feel like getting downgraded.
What makes this feel worse is that suddenly you have at least 10 extra hours a day to keep thinking about the way things used to be. You get stuck in your head feeling out of touch, out of use. To get out of your head, you pour a drink, open social media, and start chiming in on people’s conversations. Before long, you’re deep into a discussion you can’t remember the beginning of. Meanwhile, your significant other and many, if not all, of your friends are still at work doing important things.
Here you are, made it to retirement to find out you are not happier that you used to be. Perhaps, you’re a little less happy and you start wondering if this is all there is to life. Even the kids aren’t spending more time with you.
If all of the above rings true, it’s because you are one of the people who assumed that once you retire, you’ll be doing so much more, but you never actually thought about what that means and didn’t prepare for it. Those who thought about it and prepared, hit the ground running with their plans and projects. I often hear from retirees that they have less free time than when they had jobs. Those who have found a purpose, an outlet for their creativity, and a new learning path have also found a new identity and a way to contribute. They love being retired.
Retirement can be a new beginning, an opportunity to grow, a space to explore your interests. It’s not an endless day on the beach with a margarita. There are only so many margaritas you can drink before you’re drunk or bored or both. If you struggle with where you are, consider calling me. I’ve helped others figure things out and ride happily into the sunset. I also know what I’ll be doing when I retire…working. Not because I have to, but because I want to. That’s an option too. Working on things – a business, a project, a goal. For pay or not. Because being productive is the same as being useful. And when what you do has a positive impact on others, it’s hard to give it up.