Adjusting to leisure after a lifetime of work requires a fundamental change in the value system by which we have lived. The basic concepts that motivated our actions for so long no longer apply. Working hard won’t get us ahead. Our earning capacity has reached its peak. There are no more raises, promotions, or titles to strive for. We don’t need a big house or two cars. How do we measure success now?
A successful retirement has little relationship to how much money we have tucked away. Of course it is important to be comfortable but even if you had all the money in the world and had not found meaningful activity for the hours that work once occupied, you won’t be satisfied. You are still a vital, active, creative individual with a desire to remain useful.
Discovering what activities can replace the satisfactions once derived from work such as direction, challenge, accomplishment, recognition, and companionships, takes some self-searching. While making a living you probably never had the time to ask yourself what you really like to do, what you truly value, what brings you joy, what legacy you want to leave?
Coming from a work orientated background your concept of leisure may be limited to its relationship to work; the time away from work, a reward for work well done or time to refresh yourself for more work. Subconsciously you may feel guilty having all this free time while others are working. The many negative messages you probably received in childhood about playing; “Don’t spend your time on such foolishness.” “After your homework you can go out and play.” “That hobby may be fun but you’ll never earn a living at it,” may have left an impact on how you feel about enjoying yourself.
The work ethic inherited from our founding fathers served us well when all hands were needed to clear and till the soil and everyone worked until his last ounce of strength was spent. But in an age where leisure belongs to many of our most experienced citizens, this orientation limits our potential. To find a concept of leisure that serves us well today we need only to turn to the Greeks who believed that the purpose of work was to obtain leisure and that happiness was only possible in leisure. Leisure to them was a state of mind in which one is free to do what one wants to do for its own sake and own end. The contributions the Greeks made to culture in the form of drama, art, philosophy, music, literature, government and architecture proves that that leisure is far from idleness.
Retirement gives you the freedom to do what you want to do for no other reason than you want to. What will you do with this gift of leisure? The options are unlimited.