By Dave Hughes
Think about what your retirement will look like, on a day-to-day basis. Do you think you will be happy?
Are you concerned that once you leave work, you will feel that you’re not contributing anything of value?
Are you worried that retirement will be boring and depressing?
There are four components to a happy retirement: physical activity, mental stimulation, socialization, and fulfillment. The first three are pretty easy to understand, and it’s pretty easy to find activities that satisfy those needs. But the fourth one, fulfillment, is a little less tangible and may seem more elusive.
Fulfillment comes from many sources, internal and external. It means something different for every one of us. It may be hard to define, but we know when we feel it.
What is “fulfillment?”
To me, fulfillment means anything that makes you feel happy, alive, and complete. It’s whatever makes your heart sing. It’s how you feel when you are “in your zone.”
Fulfillment may come from expressing your thoughts by writing or speaking.
It may come from expressing your creativity through art or music.
It may come from helping others by volunteering for a service organization, a museum, a school, or your church.
It may come from gardening.
It may come from exploring and discovering new places.
Perhaps you feel most alive when you’re connecting with nature by hiking, strolling along a beach, or watching a beautiful sunset.
Maybe you’re most happy when you are spending time with good friends and loved ones.
Fulfillment may come from simply relaxing with a good book, listening to your favorite music, visiting a museum, or watching a movie or play.
During retirement, you no longer have responsibilities to your job. If you have children, they are probably grown. You have been so accustomed to focusing on others’ needs and demands that you had little time left over for yourself. After you retire, you’ll have plenty of time for yourself. It’s entirely up to you to fill your time with things that matter to you and make you happy.
Perhaps you have been conditioned by several decades of work that you must be productive. After you retire, it may be difficult to re-program yourself to believe that you don’t always have to be productive. Activities that bring you fulfillment don’t have to be productive. They can be, but that’s not required.
For me, spending time on my back porch reading, with some laid-back jazz playing softly in the background and a refreshing beverage close at hand, brings me happiness and fulfillment. It’s relaxing and it allows me to enjoy and appreciate the day.
If you are a parent or your career has been focused on helping others, you may still feel like your time must be spent helping others. Of course, it’s wonderful to do things for others. But it’s also okay to do things just for you. You’ve worked hard during your career working for someone else, now it’s time for you. You’ve earned it.
In retirement, you don’t have deadlines to meet, quotas to satisfy, or accomplishments to collect for your annual review. Your “job” is to be happy living the kind of life you want to live. That may be a significant mindset change from how you have lived for most of your life.
Setting goals and creating lists of things you want to do is fine – in fact, I highly recommend it. But make sure your list contains things that bring you fulfillment, make you happy, and make your heart sing. Don’t fill your list with things you should do, fill it with things you want to do.
Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get something done on time. The boss has no control over you now. When you’re retired, it’s okay to do something spontaneous, like get outside and enjoy a beautiful day or call a friend to get together for lunch. Your to-do list can wait. Build some flexibility into your life.
The greatest gift that retirement offers is the freedom to live your life on your terms.
How will you design your life?
What makes your heart sing?
© 2015 Dave Hughes. All rights reserved.
Dave Hughes created RetireFabulously.com to help you envision, plan for and ultimately enjoy the best retirement possible. Most articles focus on the non-financial, “lifestyle” aspects of retirement, such as successfully transitioning from work to leisure, choosing where to live, identifying the things that will make retirement happy and fulfilling, and more. Dave is available for speaking engagements and workshops, and also officiates weddings. Dave lives in Chandler, AZ with his husband, Jeff, and their furry family members, Missy and Maynard.