It seems odd to me that the accepted "process" for life is that we work for 40+ years doing some job with great plans for when we can finally retire and enjoy ourselves. It appears that reaching retirement age is viewed the same way as someone in prison would view being paroled...we are finally FREE!
This is not natural. It may be widely accepted and practiced...but it is not natural.
Poet Mary Oliver, who passed away in January, ended "The Summer Day" with this utterly wondrous line..."Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" The most important word in that sentence is "one". We have one life. One continuous and connected life. We do not have have a work life and life after work...we have a life. There is no escaping that we need to work but we don't need to make work something we dread. Regardless of your profession, life itself is work. As humans, our work used to be survival. It wasn't that long ago that our focus each day was simply making it through the day and being blessed with waking up again the next morning. We would eke out a life with very hard work that resulted in nothing greater than sustenance. In fact, the concept of "retirement" was just created, on a large scale, in the last 100 years or so. (If you are interested, read any of the following articles: How Retirement Was Invented, A brief history of retirement: It’s a modern idea, Why Retirement Is a Flawed Concept)
I am not entirely certain that human beings should retire. The word retire actually means "to withdraw to a place of safety or seclusion". Should this be our goal? I vehemently disagree that we should strive for the day we can withdraw because I believe that we were created for work. We are at our best when we are creating and engaging and we risk losing that part of ourselves when we withdraw. Judgment and wisdom come from our experiences and those (sometimes) bad experiences stem from the lack of wisdom so the last thing we should do is "take our ball and go home" which is what happens when we retire.
I don't think we really want to retire, I think we just want a choice. We want to have the freedom to decide what we do and/or how much of our time it takes up. The irony is that we correlate this to money that we save from doing something we may or may not enjoy. So, in reality, retirement is simply "fuck you" money.
I say we should make the choice now. Create that plan for now and not for later. Imagine all of the things you would like for you life to be and make those things happen. Find meaning now and you may not want to withdraw to safety or seclusion. The main reason we look forward to withdrawal is because we are tired. We are drained of energy because have spent the past 40 years toiling away at a job that did not engage us and leverage our gifts.
I am not being trite and I do not believe in rose colored glasses. This is not meant to be more of the "follow your dreams" and "believe in yourself" prosperity bullshit. I am talking about a realistic understanding of your capabilities in context of your desired life. I will say that limitations are real but many of them are self-inflicted and that is also real. This is very hard work that is not for those who lack intestinal fortitude. The world does not owe us anything and we should not be shocked by the fact that meaningful work requires tremendous effort.
The most important step in the process is an honest evaluation of two points...where you want to go and where you are starting. I will stress HONEST for everyone's sake. Please be vulnerable for this...no one is judging you (expect you...and stop that!). There is no way you can create a plan for your one wild and precious life without a true understanding of your current and desired states.
Also, you cannot do this alone/in a vacuum. This is no different than a company developing their strategic plans which requires multiple perspectives from all stakeholders. You have stakeholders in your life as well and they should be fully engaged in this process. Ask them for brutal honesty because they know you and have your best interest in mind. With that said, you are the CEO of our life and the final choice always rests with you.
If you don't believe, maybe you will believe Rocky...