Tag

meaningful life

What Will Get You Out Of Bed When You Retire?

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I attended a funeral this week. The gentleman who passed away was 96 years old and by all accounts enjoyed a long and happy life. While the sadness at his passing was palpable in the room, I came away with a newfound admiration for this man after listening to the eulogy delivered by his sons.

In my retirement coaching practice, one of the most common worries expressed by my clients is their fear of being bored and feeling they will be of little value in their retirement. For sure, some continue to live very full lives and know exactly how they will spend their foreseeable future. However, the loss of status and the ensuing social isolation that often comes with retirement continues to plague many long after they cease working.

Study after study shows us that those with a purpose do better in all stages of life. These people express deep satisfaction with their life because they engage in activities that provide meaning and fulfillment as opposed to ones that just fill time. We are all unique and we will each have different activities that satisfy our need to be purposeful. For some, it is spending time with family, or it may be travelling and discovering the world. And for others, continuing to volunteer or work in some capacity is what drives them. Clearly, those who report the greatest satisfaction in their lives are the ones that get something from the activities that they choose. Frequently those activities are charitable in nature, where the volunteer feels a sense of pride and accomplishment in helping others. The ones who struggle are those who have yet to land on activities that provide that wonderful feeling of satisfaction.

So my recently deceased 96-year-old friend spent almost as many years in retirement as he did in his formal career. He retired at 65 from an illustrious career in the financial industry. Not one to sit idle, he embarked on a series of trips that had been sitting on his bucket list for a long time. Once the travel bug was satiated, he accepted a 2 year consulting contract position on a Caribbean island. Not only did this satisfy his travel urge, but it provided a welcome source of income, and his desire to continue to do meaningful work. When that ended he did some pro bono work for aboriginal groups. Now into his 70’s, he was feeling the urge to spend more quality time with his large extended family. He purchased a summer cottage where he hosted many family events and was able to satisfy his life long love of the outdoors and embrace his inner “Mr.Fix-it”.

His sons regaled us with tale after tale of how their father joined service groups, sang in choirs, and even earned how to play a variety of instruments. I marvelled at how this man was able to live his retirement years with joy and deep satisfaction. My favourite image was one in which his son said that at the age 86 his father was frustrated that his alarm clock had quit working. When it was suggested to him that at his age he shouldn’t be jumping at the sound of an alarm clock anymore, he fired back that the ladies in his bride club would be extremely disappointed in him if he showed up late! I love the image of a life so filled with meaningful activities that missing any of it due to a broken alarm clock could indeed be a catastrophe.

I came away with deep respect for a life well lived with both purpose and pleasure. This is the goal that I hold for my clients entering retirement. The secret lies in discovering the activities that provide a sense of self worth, nourish the soul, and perhaps most of all, provide happiness. This gentleman found a compelling reason to get out of bed everyday for 96 years. Do you have a compelling reason to keep your alarm clock? What will it take to get you to leap out of bed in your retirement?

What My Broken Arm Taught Me About Retirees

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Today I went to the emergency room. A pleasant, early evening bike ride quickly turned bad when a little girl on a shiny pink bike suddenly veered into my path. Forced to make a split second decision, my option to dive into the bushes rather than collide head on with the tyke, left me with a bruised ego and a broken arm. Consoling myself with the notion that sacrificing my well being for hers was a noble act, kept me distracted for a little while. However, that warm fuzzy feeling began to dissipate as a dull ache proceeded to spread up my arm. After five hours in the emergency room, I emerged with a bright purple forearm cast and strict instructions to stay off my bike (and pretty much everything else) for the next six weeks. Definitely not how I had intended to spend the first weeks of summer!

So, why am I writing about this on my retirement blog? True, it’s not directly about retirement. However, my visit to the hospital brought home for me a point that I’m constantly putting forward to my clients. In my retirement coaching practice, I urge retirees to find meaningful activities to fill their time. In fact, I aver that this must be started from the children in the neighbourhood and should be implemented as a must have for kids. So often, people miss the point, and strive to simply fill their days. Of course, filling your day with activities for the sake of being busy is a vastly different thing than filling your days with things that provide meaning and a sense of accomplishment.

During my long wait in emergency, x-ray and the fracture clinic, I had ample opportunity to observe the goings-on of a major hospital trauma centre. Pretty much everybody there was experiencing some sort of distress. Patients were dealing with pain, anxiety and fear over their injuries and illness, and family members were struggling with anxiety and concern for their loved ones. Tempers run short and anxiety runs high in these situations…especially when the wait is long. Hospital staff worked hard to see patients as quickly as they could, offered ice and other assistance as needed during the waiting period. However, it soon became clear to me that the quick smiles and ready offers of assistance from the army of volunteers made a huge difference for many. What struck me most was that the vast majority of these volunteers were retirees.

The work that these volunteers were doing falls squarely into what I call “purposeful activity”. It’s the kind of activity that offers a service to others and provides them with a great feeling of satisfaction. Each and every retiree that was volunteering during my hospital visit was friendly and more than willing to offer a helping hand. My personal favourite was the gentleman who saw me struggling to get my credit card into the parking machine.   After dropping it twice, he politely asked if I needed assistance. While my first instinct was to say no because of my desire to be independent, I saw how much this man wanted to help me. With my aching dominant hand all wrapped up in my pristine purple cast, I reconsidered and accepted his offer. Just like that, he made my day. I got help and a smile. It was a genuinely lovely interaction at the end of a long, uncomfortable day at the hospital. Now that’s what I call purposeful activity!

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