The value of life lies not in the length of days, but in the use we make of them.

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592)


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This month:

  1. Article: No, you will NOT have plenty of time after retiring
  2. This month Free offer: “How to start creating the structure you need in your life after you've retired”

No, you will NOT have plenty of time after retiring

to consciously decide what you will be doing after you have retired.

The 70's, Paris France

Midnight in the subway.

Running down the stairs, through the halls, and in the distance you hear the rumbling of the last subway.

Your heart misses a beat, you run faster in the deserted corridor.

You see the gate ahead which slowly starts closing. Are you going to make it? Will you be able to squeeze by the gate before it closes? Are you going to miss the last subway?

What does the old gate system in the Paris subway has to do with retirement?

There is a time window which closes fairly quickly once you are retired: this window is the period when you are most likely to really commit yourself to creating the life you want to have for the next 10 or 20 or 30 years.

The key moment

So you have retired, you enjoyed for a while an unlimited holiday of not having to go to work, which is something you really needed, no argument there. However, soon the excitement and the enjoyment of a perpetual holiday wears out. At the same time, the system which was organizing your life does not exist anymore. Unlike when you were working and holidays were limited, there is nothing to get back to.

After the retirement holiday is when you need to either have “something” important on which to focus your energy, or at least to start working on creating that important something which will give meaningful structure to your life.

Several factors will determine how well you succeed in creating your own system and your own directions.

What are the main factors in creating a successful life after retirement?

There are 5 main factors involved :

  1. Your openness and willingness to change
  2. Your capacity for taking pro-active initiatives
  3. Your existing knowledge and continued willingness to learn
  4. Your self-confidence about your capacity to be in charge of your own life.
  5. Your beliefs about what being in retirement age means for you

Let's look at each of these factors in turn.

Openness and willingness to change

A main characteristic of change is that it brings a certain amount of chaos into one's life. It doesn't matter whether you created the change yourself (for example by deciding to be married) or that you were forced to change (for example by becoming retired on reaching the mandatory retirement age.

When change happens, parts of or all of the pre-change system disappear and new parts or a whole new system are put in place.

Even if the change is one you’re looking forward to, there will always be a certain level of resistance to the disappearance of the old system. Of course, the more the change is imposed, the greater will be the conscious or unconscious resistance created to fight back against the change.

This resistance component is why it is so important to accept a truly inevitable change as early as possible, to accept the end of the old system and start putting your energy into creating the new.

Accepting that change is real and won't go away helps you to have an open mind in looking for the opportunities in the new system, and to be able to act appropriately making sure your really essential needs will be satisfied. The speed of your acceptance of the inevitability of change is perhaps the major factor determining your level of adaptability to that change.

Capacity for taking pro-active initiatives

The less resistance you have against change, the more likely that you will be the main actor in creating the new system in which you will live.

Once you are able to see or create new opportunities, you become the master of the on-going change and can mold it so that it fits you as much as possible.

People who are only reactive to change harvest only as much as they have sown, which is not much. They are more likely to be unhappy with the change and thus become even more resistant to change in the future.

On the other hand, being unhappy may be a source energy for change, depending on one's tolerance for unhappiness. The bigger the unhappiness – once recognized and acknowledged by oneself - the higher the level of pro-active measures one will take to change the situation. Basically, if the stress from feeling unhappy is greater than the expected stress from carrying through a change it becomes a lot easier to initiate changes yourself.

Attitudes towards change are also very much conditioned by the beliefs and thoughts which guide one's life, the willingness to learn, and one's self-confidence.

Your existing knowledge and continued willingness to learn

Whatever your age, learning something is always hard at the beginning. New ways of doing and of thinking need to be integrated whether you are 5 years old and learning to read or you are 60 and want to learn to be a writer or a business person. There is always a steep learning curve, but after the difficult beginning you start mastering the new craft - whatever your age. - and it then becomes much easier. Everyone has domains of learning which they find really hard but they have also other areas where they just learn quickly. So it is a question to hanging in there if it is difficult and helping your strong points to carry you through.

Every day in life you learn something new because the environment and your interactions with it change, and you need to adapt to these little changes. By looking for new knowledge and consciously being willing to learn you increase both your quality of life and your opportunities to find something.

It’s true that at 5 years old some things are learned more quickly, but it’s also true that at 65 years old a lifetime of experience is a tremendous help in learning more. You can, for example, easily understand some things which would be totally incomprehensible to a 5 or even a 20 year old.

Self-confidence about your capacity to be in charge of your own life

All the positive aspects of the above elements reinforce your self-confidence, in turn making learning and being proactive much easier. The more confident you are the readier you will be to take some risk in starting a new life.

Strongly influencing all the other four elements are your own beliefs or thoughts about age and retirement.

Your beliefs about what being in retirement age means for you

Your beliefs about what being in retirement age means, if positive, boost your energy and determination or, if negative, get in the way of doing what you really can do with this period of your life. Four common negative beliefs or attitudes about being retired are:

1. "I’ll take a long holiday and then see what comes up"

Behind this very common reflection of people nearing retirement is the hope that some kind of a really good solution will sort of magically show up. While it is possible that a nice fat rabbit will unexpectedly just happen to cross you path, the reality is that this is much more likely to happen if you actually go looking for rabbits. And if you're consciously looking, you're much more likely to correctly recognize a beautiful opportunity when you see one.

2. "It’s normal not to have much energy because I’m getting old".

If the energy comparison is with the 5 year old kid one used to be, well yes. But already when you were 20 years old you had less energy than when you were 5 years old.. However, if the comparison is between the 5 years pre and 5 years post retirement period, the statement is likely to be false. Most often the feeling of reduced energy is just a sign of unhappiness and lack of enthusiasm for one's present life.

3. "From now on it’s all downhill," and

Yes, it is the last years before the end. But as a matter of fact, it started to be the last years before the end on the day you were born. People reaching retirement age are the ones who have avoided the deadly things which stop the life of many people at a younger age.

In this sense there's more of a quantitative rather than qualitative difference between now and when you were only 25 or 30 years old. When retiring one is at an age to be more aware of the passing of years and that they are counted. But these days the count left is 20 or 30 more years, so it's really important to make good choices now for what you will be doing with this big remaining chunk of your life.

4. " I am too old for..".

This is just an excuse for not doing something. There are thousands of good examples of people doing things which others might say they are “too old for”. If you have a dream, something very close to your heart, something important to YOU, and you are willing to put your heart in doing it, you can succeed. And when will you get your next chance to try?

Saying or believing that one (being too old) is the most common excuse used for not continuing to grow and learn.

OK you say: I do not have (anymore) any of these beliefs,

I consider myself to have a good level of adaptability and to be self-confident, so why shouldn't I have plenty of time after I’ve retired to decide what to do?

Two reasons.

The first one is the unfavorable social environment. Lot of things you and others hear about retired people is rather negative. In addition, in Western societies the status of retired people is not high, nothing there to inherently boost your self- confidence, unlike in more traditional society where the elders are highly respected.

With all the baby-boomers coming into retirement age there are lot of concerns about who will pay their pensions and medical expenses. Retirees are presented as major sources of problems. Very little is said about being thankful to them for the improvements they have brought to life in general over the last 60 years. In addition their knowledge and wisdom (which would be highly valued in traditional societies) is considered to be more or less obsolete. Formerly seen as the guardians of tradition and knowledge which allowed society to live, they are now seen as anchors holding back progress.

The longer you stay in the zone of ‘generic’ retired status, the longer you will be running down your pre-retirement store of self esteem without yet having established new sources for a continuing renewal of your supplies of self-confidence.

The second reason why you can't wait too long is that nature hates void.

Something will fill up your life.

The more time you allow for other systems not really chosen by you to establish demands or habit patterns on your life and time, the more work you will have to eventually do to change things. There is always resistance to change, even when you want the change: your own inner resistance, resistance from the environment, and social resistance. It doesn't pay to allow a new system to haphazardly establish itself and with it a new layer of resistance to change. If there's just too much resistance to cope with, most people just give up.

The time of least external resistance to putting your system in charge is just when your whole old system of life has been destroyed, i.e. when you retire. . There’s an open space ready there and then to receive a new system. It’s better for you if you choose to create your own new system then, rather than waiting to be progressively ‘captured’ by a system of things you haven’t really chosen.

You've seen pictures of just burned forests: nothing there almost , it is an empty space, ins some ways rather like your life after you retired, the structure formerly given by your work having been reduced to ashes.

You've probably also seen pictures of the same forest a year later: small green things are sprouting up all over the place, starting to hide all the dark burned color. NOW is the time for those new and different and maybe sometimes exotic plants do grow which didn't have a chance under the established shade of the old established forest.

The question for you here is whether you decide to just leave to chance the determination of what new plants will grow in your now open soil and life, or do you have some good ideas on what you'd like to see growing there?

"When do I work on creating my new life?"

As soon as possible. ASAP. Best if it's even before you retire if you can manage to find the time and inclination (though this is admittedly rather rare). Next best, and the alternative which most frequently successful, is right after your retirement honeymoon, that is, after the first 3-6 months or so of retirement, thus getting to work on the matter before any system not created by you can just sneak in.

"My retirement honeymoon was months ago, and I am now very unsatisfied with my present life. Is it too late?"

No, it's not too late. It's never too late. But it is more difficult and requires more will and energy and a strong supportive environment. It is true that the longer you wait the harder it will be to break the new habits, but it’s never impossible.

What do you need to do?

  1. Decide that you really want and deserve to live your life fully.
  2. Create a system which is going to support you in your search for creating your life.
  3. Dare to be open to any dream or opportunity
  4. Set up time in your schedule for actually working on making it happen.

By being adaptable, pro-active, self-confident, willing to learn, and understanding your own beliefs about retirement you will be better prepared to launch yourself into determining what will be the experience and results of the next few decades of your life.

The take-home lesson is that there is a critical period after you retire for doing this. The easiest time is right after your retirement honeymoon - be ready for it and you’ll make it through that gate before it closes in front of you.

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No, you will NOT have plenty of time after retiring by Catherine Marechal is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.

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