Is It Time To Re-Define Retirement?

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I’ve been having the retirement conversation a lot recently. That’s because most of the people that I worked with when I started out my professional career, in a government agency, are at an age where they can retire.

People ask me about my retirement plans, because they are making them.

I feel like a deer in headlights when people ask me when I’m going to retire.

I don’t even understand the concept of retirement.

I asked someone recently who’d retired – So, are you considering doing something else for work – or a part-time contract? This is what she answered: “I taught for 35 years. I’ve done my time. I’m not doing any more work….ever.”

I was taken aback. I’d forgotten that most people who aren’t online entrepreneurs are following society’s rulebook. The unspoken rules are something like this:

1. Work is prison where you have to do your time.
2. Hang on to your job for 30 years and you’ll get the gift of a paid retirement.
3. Retirement is the time for freedom and leisure (mainly travel and golf) not work.

Of course, there are always those few lucky people who actually liked their jobs, but they are in the minority. The rest soldier on – planning for their retirement years of travel and golf and time with grandchildren – and hopefully good health.

When I was growing up, it was pretty clear that the agreement between the employer and the employee was – Do your time and you’ll get the gift of a paid retirement where you can finally do what you want.

I get it. If your company has a good pension plan and you are really close to getting it, why not stick it out? But, I’ve heard 45-year-olds say categorically that they are not leaving the job they hate until they retire. Most people don’t hang on for 4 years, they hang on for 14 years!

What that means is that many people spend the last half of their working life counting the days until they retire and refusing to consider any other work or self-employment options because they are waiting for their payoff.

When I talk to past colleagues, they talk about retirement like it’s a party. They have pre-retirement seminars where they learn about money, how to make it last, when to collect what, from whom.

To believe in retirement, you’ve got to believe that work is something that you need to escape from, not something that makes you come alive.

The retirement conversation makes it evident how differently I see my life than most of the people I know…outside of my on-line coaching community. My work allows me to make a contribution and to use my best skills. My best working experiences have been with people I love, in places I love, doing what I love to do.

Do I want to retire from that?

Retirement for me looks similar to the life I have now – except that my husband will be available to come to different places with me. I’ll still be holding in-person retreats and facilitating coaching and training groups. I’ll still be making an income and planning my finances, but I’ll just be living in warmer climates in the winter. Because I created work that is location independent.

What that really means is that I have no intention of retiring.

If I’m healthy and can still do what I love to do, why would I retire? That would be putting myself in prison.

Psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who studied flow, the psychology of optimal performance (happiness) found surprisingly, that people were in a state of flow most often when they were working (not sitting on a beach). He says:

“The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times . . . The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile” (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990).

So, what is retirement?

I think it’s a false concept. We are told that we need to slow down, sit on a beach, do nothing for the rest of our lives. But most people who retire feel an acute sense of time passing. They know that time is limited. They know that they don’t want to leave this life with regrets. They know that now’s the time to retrieve and do that lost dream, or to find something meaningful that they can put their whole heart and soul into. And if you are looking for “flow” it involves being stretched rather than being passive, so maybe retirement is the time to stretch yourself, rather than to pull back.

Suppose we re-defined retirement as that time for you to jump into a personal passion project, with both feet?

Maybe retirement is a time to re-engage rather than retreat from life?

Maybe it’s the time to pursue a new or forgotten passion that lights you up and makes you come alive!

Suppose retirement planning wasn’t just financial planning – but was also passion project planning?

Suppose retirement was when you gave yourself permission to finally discover and do something that truly lit you up?

Suppose you could do what you love AND have time to travel and deeply connect with friends and family and enjoy what you love?

Suppose retirement meant that you got to retire from following society’s rules about who you should be and what you should do and you finally created your own right life and right work?

We wouldn’t be calling it retirement. We’d be calling it renewal – the beginning of a journey rather than the end of a journey.

Becoming fully engaged in life instead of retreating from life.

Finally following your soul’s guidance and not the rules of the world.

Can you imagine all the goodness that would be unleashed on the world if we all did that?

That’s my vision.

What’s yours?

Big love,




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