Many people assert that the biggest challenge of retirement is financial. It is difficult to forgo active income and settle for a lower level of passive income. However, I think the biggest challenge of retirement is redesigning your life, your relationships, and – to some extent – yourself. If you can accomplish this task, then happiness and serenity await. If you fail, the result is a life of chaos and disappointment.
I have always liked the Indonesian monkey trap analogy. In Indonesia, they catch monkeys with a coconut. They cut a small hole at the top; they cut out the insides; and they stock the interior with goodies – nuts, fruit, and other treats. Then they stake the coconut to the ground and wait for the monkey to arrive and fall victim to their trap.
The monkey arrives, smells the goodies, and slips its fist through the hole to grab the treats. But once the goodies are held in a grasp, the fist is too large to fit back out through the hole. The monkey will pull and pull, sometimes for hours, trying to squeeze the hand back through the small opening without ever thinking of letting go of the treats. The villagers wait and return to capture the “trapped” monkey.
People, especially around the time of retirement, are much the same. They will not let go of their own goodies. Those treats might be their profession or the associated respect / prestige or the attached income. Unfortunately, to successfully transition into retirement, you must “let go” of those goodies to become free. You must say good-bye to your life-long professional position and its benefits.
If you can let go and become free, then you are ready to redesign yourself, your life, and your relationships. You start the process by clarifying your twin pillars of passion and purpose. Instead of rushing into a bucket list of activities or trips, give yourself time to clarify (or possibly unearth) new interests and passions. Think of President Bush. Not the sharpest tool, but he deserves credit for finding a new passion, his painting.
Once you have found that passion, then align it with a purpose. With President Bush, he aligned his newfound passion of painting with a desire to create portraits of world leaders, sharing them with the world – his purpose. Let’s say your passion is just golf. Then align your golf with perhaps helping your golf course, or joining some board, or volunteering for some tournament. In short, you take your passion and give back to the community.
When people retire from work, there is one common refrain. They may or may not miss the work, but they always miss the people. With retirement, make the extra effort to maintain those friendships. In fact, make an effort to re-establish any lost friendships while building new friendships. Passion and purpose make life worth living, but it is your friendships that make life so rich and meaningful.
There are three questions that I recommend you ask yourself. Have you lived? Have you loved? Have you made a difference? Those questions were important throughout your career, but they are just as crucial during your retirement. With passion and purpose, and with friends at your side, try to find avenues for giving to others. To stay alive and vibrant, we need more than a good diet and exercise program. We need friends – close friends – for the rest of our lives.
If you can manage this challenge (and this transition to retirement), then life will become far more enjoyable. You will discover renewed health, higher vitality, a sharpened mental clarity, reawakened pursuits, stronger connections to others, increased spirituality, and an enhanced opportunity to share, give, and leave a legacy. Now, don’t those rewards trump money / income?
Give retirement its best chance …
By redesigning yourself, your relationships, and your life …