Most people fantasize about living their dreams in retirement. We don’t always know exactly what those “dreams” are. We just know that our retirement will involve the pursuit of said “dreams” … in some great big, exciting, spectacular, vague kind of way.
I think one of the reasons people sometimes feel dissatisfied in retirement is that they have not created any concreteness around their idea of “dreams.” It is almost like we set ourselves up for failure because we don’t set and manage realistic expectations. Nobody is suggesting that we “settle” for a less-than-wonderful retirement. I am merely suggesting that people sometimes don’t think hard enough about how they define “wonderful.” I think it is a whole lot easier to create something wonderful than most people believe.
Many of us plan and work for retirement throughout our whole careers. The planning and strategizing for retirement isn’t just about making sure we are financially stable when we are physically unable to work for a living. We all hope we are not going to retire because poor health forces us to do so. Most of us look at retirement as a choice to pursue a different kind of lifestyle than we had during our working life. In a perfect world, retirement is a choice towards something rather than a choice from something.
Still, once we retire to that Dreamworld, our vision tends to get a bit muddled. We aren’t sure what our new goals are or what we should be doing to achieve those goals. Throughout our careers, we hear stories about smart, creative, ambitious, philanthropic retirees who transition into retirement to become illustrious artists, successful business owners, and spectacular world-savers. Some people get discontented before they even give themselves a chance to forge a concrete post-employment life. I’ve always said that it is the process, not the goal that makes a satisfying retirement.
I’ve found that the stories we hear about the “chapter two phenoms” (as I call the folks who become famous in retirement because of their achievements) can make us change the focus of our dreams. I think we can be much happier and more satisfied if we concentrate on what we want to do, rather than what we want the results to be. After all, we don’t have control over the results. We do have some control over the doing.
For instance, if you dream of being a rock star in retirement, chances are you won’t achieve your dream. On the other hand, if you dream of making music, there is every chance you can make that happen. If you dream of winning an Academy Award for Best Actor in A Lead Role, you may be in for some heartbreak. On the other hand, if you dream of immersing yourself in theater, there are plenty of opportunities to immerse yourself in your dream. If you dream of winning an Olympic gold medal in an equestrian event, your dream may become a nightmare that sucks away any joy you take in horses. On the other hand, if your dream is to spend more time horseback riding, you are free to take pleasure in your time in the saddle. In all the “on other hands,” you are successfully and satisfyingly fulfilling your dreams. Sure, fame and fortune would be nice. Let’s face it, though…. If the actual “doing” isn’t the stuff that dreams are made of for you, you probably shouldn’t be doing that particular thing, regardless of the possible external rewards.
As you consider retirement, you don’t need to know exactly what you are going to do with yourself or what your every waking moment will be like. After all, retirement is the opportunity to explore new paths. However, it can be helpful to have some idea of the scenic route you intend to travel. It jump-starts the exploration and exercises your excitement muscles. What activities put the spring in your step and the float in your boat? What have you always wanted to do, but never had the time? What core values and philanthropic causes speak to your heart in a way that spurs you to connect more fully with them?
In my case, the springing and floating that I never had time for is writing. In addition to providing entertainment to myself and others, I find writing also gives me a way to connect and share the values and ideas that are important to me. My dream was to write, not to publish a bestselling book. After recently publishing my far-from-bestselling book, I am not dissatisfied or disheartened by the slow and rather sludgy sales. Far from it. My heart is still high and my spirit is still several miles over the moon because I am immersed in my retirement dream. My dream is in the doing.