If you haven’t retired yet, here’s how to set things up so that you ease from full-time work into an activity you enjoy.
My grandfather built a campground from the ground up–literally. The land he bought was swamp, and he had to haul load after load of sand to fill the area, chop down trees and make roads throughout the property. I have vague memories of that time, but I can never remember a time when my grandfather was not working. Even in the dead of winter, he’d spend a good portion of time outdoors. Tinkering with this and that, fixing that, moving this.
Each summer growing up, I spent at the campground, and over the years I got to know quite a few of the many faithful campers. We called them “seasonals”–people who kept their trailer at our place year-round for many years. The wives would be there most of the summer with the kids, and then later grandkids. The husbands would visit on the weekends and during their one or two-week vacation from their job.
Then retirement came for these men and for the first time ever, the husband got to relax for the entire summer with his wife and family. The next year, the wife came on her own, a widow.
This happened a number of times–too many to be a coincidence. It wasn’t too hard to figure out why. Men typically put so much time and energy into their careers, and it’s at the expense of a lot of other things. They fulfill the breadwinner role like the heroes they are. But once retirement comes along, they struggle. During their working years, they confused their job with their identity, and once they retired, they didn’t know what to do with themselves or even who they were anymore.
When we don’t feel useful, our lives can lack meaning or purpose, and that is an essential ingredient for a feeling of well-being. In the Western world, people are living longer lives than ever before. It’s not unusual for people to live 20 to 40 years after retirement. That is a huge chunk of time, which is why it’s called the third life.
So, if you’re nearing retirement, and you’ve spent most of your life immersed in your career, you need to plan your third life now instead of leaving it up to chance or fate.
Here are four ways to transition into a fulfilling retirement. If you haven’t retired yet, set things up so that you ease from full-time work into an activity you enjoy.
- Get Involved. If you’re religious, volunteer at your local church. If you’ve got an affiliation with the military, join a committee at the Legion or find a cause you believe in and give of your time.
- Start or ramp-up a hobby. A friend of mine worked as an engineer. At his retirement party, he was asked what he’d do with himself now. He replied, “I’m going to make Irish drums–bodhrans.” He had only made one at that point, but it was enough to propel him forward into an enjoyable retirement.
- Keep on Truckin’, sort of! My grandfather was one of those lucky guys who got to do what they loved right to the end. He was 76 years old when he died of a stroke, but up until then, he was outside working on the property. Not as much as he used to, of course, but he was at least able to keep his hand in. If you’re in a type of job you love and can do it anywhere, you have the option of doing it for part of the time, and the rest of the time enjoying your family and other pursuits. It’s a win-win situation.
- Get Creative. Many men have hidden depths of creativity that were put on the back burner of life. Learning to play an instrument, paint or write can give you a new lease on life. It’s also scientifically proven to build new brain cells and to be good for general well-being.
Photo: Flickr/ Daniel Foster