Friday, May 18, 2012

The Obsession

What would you call a routine that you perform over many years -- let's say 50 years -- and then cannot stand to cease? A really bad habit? An obsession?

Why not think of your occupation in that way? It just might shake you into reality enough to help your decision to retire.

A job, employment, a career -- there are many names for a ritual that you perform most of your waking hours for most of your life. When you factor in the time it takes to get ready for the work day, travel time to and from your workplace, thinking about the job including things that you failed to complete or upcoming tasks, etc., there are very few hours remaining each day. If you have inordinate responsibilities or other duties, the time in which you can do what you want to is diminished even further.

This is a rather daunting statistic. The years of your life spent doing what you want are miniscule until you are able to retire. With the exception of the very wealthy, that's a fact. And it's a rather imposing fact.

So when you are facing retirement, you suddenly have to figure out what to do with yourself for the foreseeable future. There are plenty of options out there to tempt you and now you have the time to follow your dreams.

Why then do people avoid retirement?

Several people I know are well past retirement age and yet continue to work full-time. One man I know worked until the age of 92 despite having a full pension from an earlier career. When I saw him last year (after approximately two years of retirement), he told me that retiring was the worst mistake he had ever made. Go figure.

There are some folks who are intimidated by the present economic downturn and want to work as long as possible. That's understandable. But the majority of folks I know who continue to work will admit the real reason is that they don't know what else to do with themselves.

Life lessons don't prepare us to think outside the box. We attend school, sit quietly in our seats until told what to do next. Behave, work hard and all goes well. Then we find a job that either pays well or interests us and again fall back into familiar behavior. Sit at your cubicle (or come to the worksite or the hospital -- whatever setting is appropriate) and do what you are told to do next.

We need to begin thinking what we would do if we had time and opportunity. Begin making a plan to open a boutique or restaurant, learn another skill, or become a volunteer. But think about it and DO SOMETHING.

In this economy, there is little that can be taken for granted. Workers who lose jobs often have to struggle to find another and then fall back into the same pattern.

I enjoy hearing stories about unemployed people who follow their inner voice and turn their energy toward something they wish to pursue, even if that thing is a little uncertain and may not sound logical to their friends. These adventurers are people after my own heart, who are willing to try something new. Often they are not only happy with the bend in their path, but want to encourage others to follow suit.

For those who are still punching the time clock for a 40-hour week and are past 65, you need to stop and smell the roses. Begin thinking about what you would do if you become unemployed (it does happen) or retire.

Life goes on and so should you.

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