By Bill Storie
It is often said that the retirement years are the best years of your life. While I don’t dispute that, there is a caveat.
In our employment years, we were guided by others. We had a job to do, usually set out by the company or the boss. We simply did it. In other words, our weekdays were mapped out for us. We followed the path as determined by others.
But times have changed. We are now older and most likely not in full-time employment. We may have a part-time job, or we may look after the grandkids, but each day can present the same challenge – “What am I going to do today?”
So, how do we stay relevant? How do we keep busy? How do we avoid the dreaded retirement boredom? It can be a serious challenge for many of us.
The solution is what I call “The three Principles of Activity”:
1. Stay physically active
2. Stay mentally active
3. Stay psychologically active
STAY PHYSICALLY ACTIVE
Without doubt, as we age “up” our body starts to break down. We have medical ailments that persist. We may need medication more. The body slows down and sometimes the knees don’t get started until way past ten o’clock in the morning. Yet the solution is relatively straightforward – keep active.
Brian O’Hara, former Chairman and CEO of the XL Group can certainly relate to this. He says,
“(My wife) Nancy and I love to play golf and tennis and would do one or the other every day but for another issue that comes with age, the body begins to break down on some of us. For me, my knee required replacement and unfortunately it acquired a staph infection from the surgery which required three additional surgeries over the year. This year my hip required replacement which fortunately is recovering very well. Now I’m finally getting back to the golf and tennis plus using the gym equipment to rebuild strength and endurance.”
STAY MENTALLY ACTIVE
The brain is a wonderful organ. It has kept you going for decades, now it’s time you gave it a helping hand. It doesn’t like to be idle. In fact, your brain downright hates to be “asleep”. It needs to be intentionally stimulated because if you help your brain, your brain will help you to maintain purpose and relevance in life.
Brian agrees. “While I read a lot of business articles online to keep up with the latest trends and developments, especially in my industry, I also took on the project of writing a memoir which kept me busy daily during the entire 2019 year. Brian’s book is called “It’s not the Score, It’s the Trip” and is available on Amazon.
STAY PSYCHOLOGICALLY ACTIVE
Perhaps the most important “activity” as we age is being at peace with ourselves, our life, and our approach to life.
We may have to accept that our mind and body are in slower motion these days, but the trick is to essentially ignore this fact and get on with life. Losing interest in life is the fastest way to accelerate deterioration. We need stimulation or what I call “Psycho-Motivation”.
As we approach retirement, we are often convinced that we need a plan. We need a list of things to do, or things we have always wanted to do, such as that Caribbean cruise.
The problem, though, is sticking to the plan. It’s like New Year resolutions – we say we will lose weight this year and by January 15th we’ve forgotten all about it.
The concern is that the resolution only lasted for a few days, but this retirement gig is for the rest of your life. Not a few days but many years – perhaps up to another third of your life.
Brian said, “When I retired in 2010, Nancy asked me to not accept business activities for one year which I did and found to be a great choice. It allowed me to unwind from the intense stress I experienced from the Financial Crisis of 2008 – 2010.
In 2011 I began to be open to accepting Insurance and Reinsurance business activities but only if they involved new and/or original products, or game changing activities which I have been doing with great satisfaction. I also ruled out being on any Public Corporate Boards – Private only.”
But don’t be fooled into thinking that once you have developed your plan that your life is sorted. It isn’t.
Things change day by day. What you thought a great idea when you retired didn’t work out, but instead of finding a substitute, you dropped it completely. Not good.
Your plan must be realistic and achievable. It must be flexible, and you must adapt it to changing circumstances or new ideas or simply mood swings. You can’t beat yourself up for not accomplishing that grand plan from a few years back.
The critical thing is to be aware that things will change, and you must adapt to changes – and seek new things to do, new ideas, new people to meet, new hobbies etc. These changes may be internal – where you decide to do something different – or the change may be external – where actions from other people or events cause you to re-think and re-structure.
Regardless, staying relevant in your later years is essential to your well-being – physically, mentally, and psychologically. Purpose in life provides peace, comfort, and hopefully, lots of joy.