It won’t be what you think it’s going to be…..
It’s highly unlikely the bliss you fantasize about when you leave work will be what actually goes on day to day once you do. Some of that has to do with how realistic and complete you were in your planning. But some of it is just that life is unpredictable. Especially at this stage of the game.
Fun is good—to a point. Having the fun you haven’t had time for is definitely part of it. But after a while, travel might become less exhilarating. Playing golf or quilting five days a week might get boring. Even new fun might not improve the situation.
Relax. You’re normal. We aren’t geared for just fun. It’s like having a diet of all salt. Too much of a good thing is…well…not good. If you want to be happy, find something to be involved in that matters but that will also be fun for you. Being a part of things is a basic human need.
It’s not about “finding a little something” to occupy your time. Go after the thing that makes your heart leap, that makes you think “Wow! Doing that would be so cool.” To thrive, we need to be willing to take risks–to face little fears. Doing the challenging thing gives you confidence and a sense of self worth. When you take a risk to make a positive difference, you check a lot of the”good health” boxes all at once.
Focusing on your health is good—to a point. Most of us focus on being healthier when we finally have the time. That’s a great idea, but you can’t stop there. If everything you do is about “staying fit” and “not aging,” you’re missing the point. We’ve been aging since the day we were born. Being healthy is is a prerequisite for doing other things. Live a big life. Focusing primarily on your physical health can can actually be unhealthy if it’s coming from your fears.
Being preoccupied with maintaining your body is a bit like being proud of brushing your teeth. It’s a starting place. What are you getting healthy for?
Being carefree is good—to a point. Your life has value (meaning) when it’s driven by the sense that you’re alive to accomplish something. Purpose varies over a life, but it’s always there. Whether or not you see it and can put it in words is a different story. What would you never dream of NOT doing? What makes your eyes light up? What creates such a sense of outrage that you feel compelled to do something to improve it? Finding your purpose is not optional.
Here are some other resources if you need them….
Having a partner is good—IF….. One of the biggest surprises for many is how hard the retirement transition can be on a primary relationship. If there hasn’t been solid conversation between the two of you all along, the changes in roles can be too much. Guys away at work for decades are stunned when their stay-at-home wives aren’t willing to drop everything to do something spontaneous together. Gals with a three-page Honey Do list ready are frustrated when he doesn’t even look at it once he’s home all day. Keep talking and being honest about what’s working, what’s not, and what dreams you have that need attention once you’re retired, too. This is especially important when the situation includes significant stress.
If you end up solo, finding a new love is very different, too. We know who we are and what we want and that makes us more selective. When you find the right person, the relationship has more chance for success. But the intricacies of finding that person these days can be maddening, and the odds feel disheartening. Do it anyway. Even online dating.
Having a packed calendar is….not good. Period. One of the scariest prospects of retirement is an empty calendar. It’s tempting to jam the days full of unimportant stuff to make sure you don’t have one. Don’t do that. Leave openings for what comes along at the last minute. And for time on your own for a walk or a day at the beach or just putzing. Leave a lot of white space for the stuff that will make you happy–that you don’t know about yet. Of course, there will be things you don’t want to do that you still have to commit to. (The dentist….taking your overbearing aunt to lunch…) But each time you commit to doing something, consciously decide if you really want to.
Being financially secure is good—however…. Society’s standard for a good retirement is having enough money. It’s not that simple. Just sitting around because you have enough money to do so is not the brass ring. What do you want to DO?
It’s also hard for many who were good at making money to get used spending it. Some get so wound up in the cost that they don’t even notice the fun they’re supposed to be having when they do spend money. Some are so obsessed with how to save money, they drive a spouse away with pathological frugality. Some spend out of boredom. Some spend in a fervent attempt to find meaning in “things.” Pay attention what you and your partner are thinking and doing on this.
Money is a tool. Having done well earning it doesn’t make you automatically good at managing it once you retire. Much as you now rely on passive income, your involvement with money is not passive. Striking a good balance between having enough to last your entire life and spending to enjoy that life takes effort and wisdom.
Stepping out of the limelight is okay. Stepping out of life is not. One of the hardest things about retirement is the invisibility it can involve. If you don’t work at it, no one will notice you exist. If nobody cares, it’s easy to convince yourself you don’t either. Days drag on while you eat Cheetos and watch Days of Our Lives. Your world gets smaller by the second and eventually nothing matters at all. You died before you stopped breathing. Find a way to get yourself “out there.” You do matter.
Being able to do whatever you want is good—some of the time. When you boil it down to the very basics, this stage of life has a three word mandate–give and live. Sometimes you do what you want, and sometimes you do more. When you get involved in what you truly believe in, you do the thing that needs to be done. Every time. Even when the task at hand is unpleasant. Even when it’s the fifth time you’ve tried to pull it off. That’s giving.
Then there’s the living: Exciting adventures. Not getting up in the morning. Learning to paint…or slackline…or drive race cars…or grow dahlias. Time with loved ones. A walk through the woods alone. This part is about savoring that single tiny speck of time called NOW and being grateful for every one of them as they occur. (Even the yucky ones.)
THIS is the Good Life. It can be yours if you work at it.