What you need to know for a fulfilling retirement – San Bernardino Sun
In last week’s column, KM had recently retired from his executive position in Iowa and moved to a retirement community in sunny Southern California. She had given little thought to what she would do with her time: she finds the pickleball, clubs, and other activities at her resort less than satisfying. She asks, “How do we create a more fulfilling life?
Having a purpose is part of the answer to a fulfilling retirement experience. The research is extensive and there is no shortage of resources that include retirement coaches, life coaches, workshops, seminars, podcasts, films, retreats, and courses. Google lists millions of books on the subject.
The bigger question is how to define, understand, and take action to create that fulfilling retirement. Although different for everyone, there are common elements that apply to most people.
This first is to have a purpose, a reason to get up in the morning. In a study of centenarians, Dan Buettner, author of “Blue Zones” (2012, National Geographic), found that having a purpose was a characteristic of people living long in Okinawa. They have a word for it: ikigai. This finding is supported by research by Celeste Leigh Pearce and her colleagues in the study published in “JAMA Current Open”. The results indicated that those who did not have a strong life goal were more likely to die, especially from cardiovascular disease, than those who had a strong life goal. This was true regardless of gender, race, or upbringing.
If having a purpose in life is so important, what is our problem in finding it? Tony Robbins, renowned American author, trainer and speaker identifies two hurdles.
The first is our human need for certainty and stability. As I mentioned in last week’s column, retirement is a time of change; it is dynamic and not always predictable or consistent. The second reason is that we often limit our beliefs in what we can and cannot do, especially with the stories we tell ourselves. This can lead to getting stuck without being able to move on to the next step. Addressing these obstacles is a matter of attitude. We must embrace change and be open to new possibilities.
One way to get in touch with purpose and priorities is to reflect on our work experiences. For example, think about what you enjoyed or liked about your job and what you miss. Was it the people that made the difference, the income or the learning opportunities?
Not everyone is thrilled with their work experience. It may have become boring or too demanding, the journey too strenuous and the stress, especially with the new working and management arrangements, just too much. Add to that a heightened awareness that there is more to life than work. Whether or not individuals like their jobs, it might be time to explore something new, such as creating a booster career, engaging in the arts, taking a course, or even running for office. Volunteer opportunities exist to work on political, climate or homelessness issues or to become more involved in one’s church or synagogue.
Finding commitments that provide some level of satisfaction can happen by having lunch with someone who is doing something that interests you. Think of it as an end-of-life informational interview, similar to the informational interviews used by students and others when looking for a job.
Some can expect to wake up in the morning and know their goal. Most often this is not the case. Purpose can be revealed by simply participating in a business. For example, Margit Novack, author of “Squint” (2022, Extra Step Media) is a pioneer in building a move management company that helps seniors move from their homes typically to smaller neighborhoods. She only realized that seniors were her passion after entering the business. Its purpose has been discovered.
To recap, having a sense of purpose is an important part of a fulfilling retirement experience. The second is connection, which we’ll talk about next week. In the meantime, stay safe, be well, and be kind to yourself and others.
Helen Dennis is a nationally recognized leader on aging, employment, and new retirement issues with academic, corporate, and nonprofit experience. Contact Helen with your questions and comments at Helendenn@gmail.com. Visit Helen at HelenMdennis.com and follow her at facebook.com/SuccessfulAgingCommunity.