Friday, January 19, 2018

95 to zero

“I feel like I went from 95 to zero in a weekend!” 

This is how a 66-year-old friend describes his experience with retiring from an engineering career. He went on to tell what it felt like the first Monday morning without work.

“My wife got up and went to work. I was left home. Alone. Not sure what to do with myself. The first two weeks were really rough. I’m still trying to figure it out.”

When I think about going from 95 to zero, I imagine driving a car and then suddenly slamming on the brakes to avoid hitting something. The force of momentum sends everything flying forward—including my spine and forehead. If I had advance warning, I’d brake gradually, slowly coming to a stop. Nothing would be forced out of place. My body would comfortably adjust to the change in speed. No shock to absorb. 

Since most of us have advance warning of retirement, why do some people go full speed, and then suddenly hit the brakes? Is there a way to move over to the slower lane, even when everyone around us is still moving at 95? If we can’t literally slow down, is there a way to mentally tap the brakes before being hit with retirement? I think so.

Begin now, even at 95 miles/hour, to get in touch with interests you had before you got too busy with work. Did you play a musical instrument in high school? If so, explore opportunities to play with a community band, take lessons, or join a worship team at church. You might not remember how much fun it is until you try. Plus you’ll be part of a community, which is often missed in retirement.

Increase your physical activity. Investing in your health is as important as investing in your workplace.

Talk to other people who have already retired, especially friends who experienced something similar to your situation—being totally absorbed in work and then nothing. Ask what's working and what's not? What lessons have they learned along the journey?

Consider gradual retirement instead of cold turkey. It’s not that one leads to more happiness. What matters is for you to have a choice.

Use weekends and vacations to practice retirement. Purposely leave your schedule open so you experience unstructured time. Use this time to consider what matters to you—what will bring purpose and meaning to your life.

Also consider the idea that maybe you retired at the right time, but stopped working too soon. Retirement and work are not mutually exclusive. Instead, retirement makes you available to that next thing—and that next thing might be work—just something different and for different reasons.

I’m warning you there is something in the road around the bend—RETIREMENT. Begin now to tap your brakes.

Copyright 2018. Patrice Jenkins. All Rights Reserved.

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