When I talk with people who are, or have recently, retired, I’m surprised that so many tell me they’re at loose ends. They just feel disconnected or they can’t seem to find a purpose or excitement in their lives.
This is nothing to fear although It’s uncomfortable. And, potentially, could lead to a serious degradation of our sense of well-being and even our overall health.
We all feel this at various times of our lives…something just isn’t right and we can’t put our fingers on what that is.
If we don’t work on this issue, too often it deteriorates into various stages of depression.
I went through a stage like this back when I was in my early 40s. It was a rough patch that led me to a doctor in search for answers. Fortunately, I found myself in the presence of a doctor whom I will forever be indebted to. He helped me to see that depression is most typically our bodies telling us that something is out of kilter…that our being if off balance. He helped me see that all aspects of our lives — physical, mental, spiritual, relationships, etc. — must be nurtured. If we neglect any one of those parts of our being is neglected we’ll find ourselves headed for trouble.
OK, you say, how does that fit with me being in retirement?
Before retirement, our lives pretty well follow a pattern that gives us a sense of balance. (Of course, this imbalance will still crop up if we neglect, say for example, our relationships, or our diets but we’re talking about this retirement stage of life.) Our jobs typically create a sort of balance. We have a routine to follow. Times to eat and sleep and work are well managed by virtue of the schedules we keep. We have relationships (usually jist casual acquaintances) based around the work we do, etc.
At retirement, things change. There’s no longer a job or routine. Without that, a vast void is created. Jobs can be deceptive, after all. They keep us so busy at times, that we just don’t have the time or energy needed to take care of our whole being. When the job no longer exists, a hole is left in our lives. The space in our lives that the job filled (and sometimes masked) gives us time to, finally, establish who we are and what our purpose in life really is.
Retirement is a gift! It allows us to find out achieve new – real – balance. Suddenly we are no longer a cog in the wheel of the economy. We can define ourselves as something so much more than a business or s vendor or a consumer.
Unfortunately, the way our current society is structured we are given very few tools to handle this new reality. That’s why men and women who defined themselves by their jobs for 30-50 years suddenly fall apart when retirement comes…health deteriorates and death soon follows.
But it’s not really that difficult to resolve this issue. Look for the BALANCE. Take time to decide who you’ll be in this next stage of your life. Think about all the various things in your life that you want to improve and fill the void of time and energy with healthy interests that satisfy your personal interests.
Hobbies, old and new, help when trying to find a new purpose and a real passion that you can pursue. The library and the internet open new doors if you need help. Focusing on ways to create something new is a powerful approach. It doesn’t matter which tools you use. You don’t need to spend a lot of money. And it doesn’t matter what your physical limitations are. You can start from scratch with a new endeavor or you can build on things you’ve enjoyed before. Simply start from where you’re at.
Just a word of caution. When first exploring your new interests, it’s very easy to get caught up in activities that will hold you back. One of the biggest challenges I’ve found it the belief that you don’t have enough information.
Too often we think we need more training in order to accomplish what we have in our minds. So we get caught up in perennial search for knowledge. Especially now that we’re firmly in the information age, we keep seeking out the latest and greatest training programs. The latest YouTube, Podcast, book, demonstration promises to teach us everything we need to know about our area of interest. They’re all good and will help sometimes, but the real growth and satisfaction is in doing.
The trick is to buckle our backs, get our hands dirty and experiment knowing that what we do may not be perfect yet. But we will get better. There is no right or wrong way to do anything that is remotely challenging or creative. And, the worst thing we can do now is focus on imitating or comparing ourselves with anyone else. Retirement is the time and place to tap into our own unique genius.
Retirement also allows us to focus on our relationships. We no longer fill a desk or satisfy our need for relationships at the water cooler and our children most likely to have embarked on their own life journey with less need for our involvement, we can, finally, look for new relationships that are in keeping with our new focus in life. It may take some time and effort but, oh, how liberating when we can become all we can be instead of a bookkeeper, an engineer, a teacher, a mother.
Ask now, “Am I getting enough rest?” “Can I get out and exercise – am I doing it enough? What is the diet that gives me the most bang for the buck?” Of, course, unless a routine is established, it’s easy to overdo or underdo these needs. It’s important to stay tuned in to what our bodies are telling us. A ltittle practice and work toward these needs will go a long, long way toward how we feel and how we live at peak performance.
This is a very individual aspect of balance that we can, finally, really explore in depth. Left to our own devices and without worry of what others are thinking, we can define our core beliefs. We can revisit all we believe based on our personal life journey what we really believe. This applies to structured religion and atheism but it’s much broader and allows us to move into areas of ethics and philosophy, the universe and more.
And so it goes. Let’s redefine the stage of retirement as the opportunity for balance and begin our exciting new lives of exploration.
It’s a great time to change our thinking and our vocabulary. Yes, vocabulary helps, too. Never again do we need to say “I can’t” or “I don’t have time” “May I”. Make “I can”, “I choose”, “I will” and “What if” be your mantra as I have.