This is a tale for all you former working stiffs who have recently retired and wonder……. well, you wonder about a lot of things, but generally about what happens next. For those who are enlightened and evolved, it is a happy and exciting question. For the rest of us, it may be exciting, but it’s also a little scary. There is the immediate good stuff like not setting the alarm in the morning, taking a walk whenever you feel like it, starting in on the books you have had on your list for soooo long, visiting your grandkids more than their parents ever expected, or planning that big trip you now have time to take. If you have a hobby, it now can take front and center.
Sounds great, huh? Well yeah, but how do you feel about drawing down, as opposed to building up, that nestegg? It’s a weird feeling, isn’t it? Or where do you get your ego stroked now that the workplace is gone? Your kids are launched and living their own independent lives. Can you be comfortable filling your days with puttering around? What about the too many hours spent talking with friends about your own health or someone else’s? And how about the twinge of guilt when you know you have it really good, but somehow life seems a little dreary? Is this all there is?
If you have not had any of those discouraging thoughts, well good on ya. I, for one, have had most all of them. Nonetheless, after three years out of the workforce, on most days I am really enjoying retirement. I got there with a little help from my friends. Four women, including me, decided to tackle the transition head on. We have met four times in the past two years and come up with a number of strategies to guide and encourage us as we move through this major life change.
Early on, we talked about our values and how they might direct our choices about how we spend our time. I’d like to say that I have always lived my life in full alignment with my values, but maybe not so much. Getting through the day doesn’t really count as a value, does it? It’s interesting to think about your own values, not those that some person or institution told you to have, but those you choose. The real challenge is to make those values drive how you actually spend your time. So, in the spirit of full disclosure, these are my values: practice generosity, build community, create home, and appreciate the beauty around you.
The values are a good start, but the biggest AHA our group of four came up with was realizing that we need new measures of success for this new phase of our lives. In our income-generating and/or childraising years. the measures of success were things like: earning enough money to support your lifestyle, creating a safe, stable, and loving home for your kids, receiving recognition from your peers for good work done, and contributing to make the world a better place. Our new measures of success are simpler and easier to employ on a daily basis….… have you had some fun? have you done some good (for others)? have you learned something new? have you done something for yourself?
So these days, every Monday, I make a little list of things I want to do during the upcoming week. I sit at my desk with my values and our measures of success posted and inspect my list against them. Sometimes I adjust the list, but more often these days it aligns okay. You might try it. It’s January, the time for resolutions and new beginnings after all.