What does it mean to retire? Let’s expand the definition beyond “to stop working”. After all, maybe our grandparents wanted to stop working entirely, and they could. Do we?
Some of my clients have retired at 45, 50 or 55. Some left the military with a full pension, or did their 25 years as a schoolteacher, nurse or public employee. Some sold their businesses, bought real estate or invested their money so sagely that – at a relatively young age – they didn’t need to work (for money) anymore.
When you are able to retire that early, what do you do with the rest of your life?
I think it’s time to redefine retirement. A definition I like says that to retire is to repair. This makes sense. After working for many years, we probably need to repair ourselves. We may be worn out, tired, bored or not excited about the way we made our living. Repair may be just the ticket.
How do we repair ourselves? We restore, mend, overhaul. We want to RESTORE our enthusiasm for our life. We want to MEND ourselves where we’re physically, mentally or spiritually broken. And we want to OVERHAUL our life to get rid of old, outdated stuff (people, places and things) and replace them with something much better.
Let’s look more closely at the restore/mend/overhaul (“R-M-O”) method of happy retirement: whether you love your job or hate it, how can you RESTORE your enthusiasm for living? If you don’t like the work you’re doing, can you spend less so you can work less? Can you create time to do things you enjoy? Maybe you don’t even know what makes you happy. Well folks, now is a great time to experiment and find out.
Where are you broken, wounded, cynical or unhappy? These are the parts of yourself you want to MEND. Take a good look at your body: is it working really well? Are you strong and flexible? If not, your body needs some help. For many of us, yoga is a big piece of successful aging. Finding a form of exercise you enjoy is crucial. A happy retirement is about enjoying your life: don’t force yourself to do some physical thing that you hate. Are you ready to enjoy moving your body? All those machines and treadmills in over-crowded gyms may not work for you anymore. How about running, biking, rollerblading, hiking, dancing or swimming? Your body will mend if you give it something it likes, it won’t mend if you force it to do something it hates.
Is your mind peaceful and happy? Do you easily forgive people? Are you willing to be wrong? If not, your mind needs some mending too. Meditation, psychotherapy, workshops, books, movies and music are all good tools to help heal your mind. A spiritual path may be your next step toward a more peaceful mind. Religion could be helpful too. A silent retreat may be just the ticket to start the next (better) part of your life. Find something that brings you contentment.
When it’s time to OVERHAUL your life, it’s a major task that unfolds over time. It’s not something you do only once. Retirement is a great time to make a list of the people you really love who love you just as you are. It’s time to dump people who mistreat, manipulate or use you. Get them out of your life! Make space for some great new people (yes, that’s how it works). Try new things. Go to new places. Get out of your rut. You may be a bit anxious at first, but, do you want to live the rest of your life as you did the first part? I didn’t think so.
Retirement isn’t about how old you are or whether you work or not. It’s about restoring, mending and overhauling your life. You can do that at any age, but when you hit the halfway mark (ages 40-50) is a great time to start the process.
And it IS a process.
Don’t wait until you’re 65! That’s way too late to put off being happy.