Do you fit the Perfect Retirement Image?

Does your retirement fit the perfect retirement image? Are you pursuing a life of perfect ease and relaxation? Are you travelling extensively, living in the perfect retirement house, achieving  retirement goals, and living a dream retirement?

Although I am happy with my retirement choices, I confess that I don’t have the perfect retirement.

My husband and I don’t live the lifestyle of the perfect retired couple.

We have not moved to the active adult retirement community or to a luxury condo designed for seniors to enjoy social activities and recreation. In fact, we continue to keep up both our city residence and our cottage which involves a fair amount of physical work — plus extra costs that would stop if we down-sized and moved.

We travel–but not extensively.  Busy airports, heavy suitcases, and dealing with other tourists in most resorts aren’t intriguing.  Spending time at the cottage provides a break that feels like an extended vacation regardless of whether we stay for a few days or for weeks.

Our lives are not characterized by ease and leisure pursuits. We are busy with grand-parenting, hobbies, and volunteer work.  We workout at our gym, cook nutritious meals and visit with friends. Gardening, lawn care, and various household duties take up several hours every week. There is little time for restaurant outings, theatre nights or exotic adventures although we do enjoy such activities and try to partake when possible.

It’s true that retirement allows more time for new pursuits but the images of retirement portrayed by social media are not our reality.

I’m willing to say this is the case for most retired people.

Retirement Perfectionism

Popular culture promotes an image of retirement that does not resemble how most people live in retirement.

Retirement websites often promote a perfect retirement lifestyle full of adventure and excitement.  Retirement magazines feature air brushed glamour shots of older adults on golf courses, lounging at a seaside resort or dressed for a gala event. Chic lifestyle choices featuring unlimited leisure are popular images for marketing various retirement options.

These unrealistic images create inappropriate expectations of how retired people should look and behave.

I get frustrated when I compare my life to these ‘ideal’ images.

Such portrayals of the cultural/societal goal of retirement are unrealistic and often make people feel inadequate if they don’t follow popular prescriptions for retirement lifestyles.

We feel unhappy and unfulfilled if our personal reality doesn’t fit the marketing image of the perfect retirement.

We start to second guess our lifestyle choices.   This may cause self-esteem to suffer or cause a feeling of angst that undermines overall well-being.

It’s not surprising that we wonder what’s wrong when we fall short or when we find that practical options are more desirable given income, health or personal preference.

Breaking free of societal expectations

“When you are content to simply be yourself and don’t compare or compete, everybody will respect you.” Lao Tzu.

It’s not easy to break free of societal expectations of the perfect retirement.  Retirement is  a time in life when we don’t want to make mistakes — not with investments nor with choices of where to live or how to live.

There is no opportunity to ‘practise’ retirement.  It’s reality. Most choices don’t have an exit clause or a second chance.

In retirement we begin to realize that life is brief — it  will be over in a flash of time.

Because none of us gets an unlimited supply of time, energy or health, it’s important to decide what’s important.

For me, this includes spending time with people I like, or, spending time alone when I need solitude.  It includes doing things I enjoy doing and not doing things retired people ’should ‘ do.  It also includes focusing on healthy living with daily exercise, a nutritious diet, and getting enough sleep.

When we resolve to make the most of the time we have left, we stop being obsessed with someone else’s idea of the perfect retirement.  We stop being afraid of being an ‘outsider’  in terms of our choices.  We realize that our lives count for more than the media images that are dissociated from the reality of retirement for most people.

Retirement provides an opportunity to explore deeper purpose of life, spend time with family and take better care of health.  The postworksavvy lifestyle is indeed a new phase of life filled with precious days. Who cares if it fits the  popular culture’s definition of a perfect retirement?


Lessons From An Unpredictable Week

It’s been a week of unpredictable events.

Last Sunday I took my usual walk along the beach. The day was sunny and hot with just a gentle breeze blowing off the lake.

The beach was quiet in the late afternoon.  Here’s a shot of the beach where I walk — usually about 4.5 kilometres in the lovely warm sand.

View of our quiet beach
View of our quiet beach

Shortly after my return, threatening clouds appeared accompanied by loud thunder claps.  We pulled deck furniture into safety and coaxed  frightened cats indoors.

Rain started slowly but soon hammered down. Trees were bent as gale force winds rolled off the lake. The temperature plummeted.

The wind roared and the torrential rain continued through most of the night. Hydro service halted abruptly leaving candles and flashlights to ease the darkness.

By morning, an eerie calm settled over our small beach town.    Downed branches surrounded us.

When I ventured outdoors, I was greeted by a neighbour walking his dog who told me that a tornado had touched down about 1 kilometre away.

The nearby highway was closed due to fallen trees covering the road. One local coffee shop had a generator but long line-ups of cars had police were directing traffic.

Breakfast at our cottage was ice cream as we knew it would soon melt with no hydro to run the freezer.

Here’s a shot of the type of damage suffered by some of our neighbours as 300 year old trees were toppled on roofs of houses.  This older cottage will likely be demolished.


Storm damage
Cottage damaged by felled trees

After we cleaned up the downed branches at the cottage, we drove back to the city with a long list of errands and plans to visit friends.

On arrival at home, another surprise greeted us. Our son and daughter-in-law needed help with our sick grand child who had been sent home from child care with fever.  Two days of caring for a peevish 30 pound toddler isn’t easy — but I honoured my commitment to be available as back up when busy parents were needed at their jobs

By Friday our grand daughter’s good health returned. Two exhausted grand parents returned to the cottage without completing errands or seeing friends as planned.

In the past few days I’ve thought about how life has a way of interfering with the plans we make.  We expect to have hydro to make coffee in the morning and to keep appliances running.  It’s okay to be disappointed when plans change because of unpredictable events but there is always a silver lining.

Although all of us have plans for a day, for a week and for our future, many things in life can’t be planned.  Constant adjustments are needed to deal with events such as tornados or unexpected illness.  It’s also worth considering that disrupted plans often lead to serendipitous surprises with happy outcomes.

In the grand scheme of things, our lives weren’t changed by the events of last week.  We suffered only the inconvenience of losing hydro while some people lost their homes or suffered significant property damage.

The minor disappointment of changing our plans during the time spent in the city meant that we missed seeing some friends. There was, however a big payoff as we spent two full days holding and comforting our grand daughter when she needed the tender loving care of people she knows and trusts. In that respect, spending time with her was a beneficial occurrence.


What’s your retirement brand?

What’s your retirement brand?  Is there something that people automatically associate with you?  Perhaps it’s your welcoming smile, or your cooking, or your deep knowledge of an obscure topic, or your signature perfume.

How people think of you is your personal ‘brand’.

It’s very ‘in’ to think of how you brand yourself. Although it’s difficult to become a brand known internationally — think Celine Dion — how we present ourselves everyday is our brand.

Movie stars, media personalities and politicians have advisors and publicists that hone their personality, appearance and presentation into an appealing ‘brand’ that brings status and recognition.

This expensive process often takes months or years. It might be accompanied by books, consumer products or music.  It leads to power, recognition and fame.

For most of us, branding is something that just happens. We brand ourselves without much forethought or planning.

What is branding?

Branding is a form of marketing.

Branding a product involves creating a consistent experience for customers.  Hopefully the experience is positive and will make the customer trust the product, recommend it to others and use it repeatedly.

Most of us know the taste of coke — and we also know that it will taste the same regardless of where in the world it is purchased — that’s because we know and trust the brand.

People Also Brand Themselves

Branding applies to people as well as products.

Whether we realize it or not, we market our personal ‘brand’ every day.

From popular media, we know that people judge us within 10  to 15 seconds of meeting us.  We are judged on presentation including attire, hair style, behaviour, and communication — both verbal and non-verbal.

Too often we brand ourselves unwittingly and, perhaps, thoughtlessly.

We may want to be known as dependable, generous, charismatic, trustworthy, reliable, creative, or interesting. Yet our behaviour may convey the opposite characteristics leaving people to judge us as unreliable, stingy, unfaithful, boring and fickle.

Social Media and Branding

Social media is a powerful determinant of a personal brand.

Many  purposely shape their personal brands by their online presentation. They believe that unless you create your own online brand, others will brand you online and make changing your brand difficult.

They are careful about posting pictures of themselves and family members.  They reveal next to nothing about lifestyle or private matters.

Others blast forth with little thought about how comments on Facebook or twitter will play in Google’s unrelenting spotlight. No consideration is given to consistency of online image with ‘in person’ image.

Another group of people craft an online persona detached from reality.  When qualifications or experiences are enhanced it should be no surprise when reality and reputation catch up.

A mismatched brand in social media doesn’t work.  You are who you are regardless of how you convey yourself online.

Retirement Branding

During career days, you brand yourself within in your workplace or your profession.   You are known for expertise in a field or within a profession.

In retirement, you’ve ditched the job title and the career.  How do you re-brand yourself? How do you find a retirement brand? Retirement provides an opportunity for a new image — a new brand.

Start with consideration of your unique attributes.  What makes you an interesting person? Are you blessed with a sense of humour?  Are you naturally empathic?  Are you thoughtful and reserved or bubbly and extroverted? Can you re-make skills from career days into a retirement brand?

You way want to consider the way you spend your time during retirement.  For example, you might focus your retirement brand on the volunteer work you do or the ability you acquire in a new career or a part-time job. Involvement with a church, a service club, or a community group may be your personal definition.

What hobbies and activities define you?  You might be a gardener or a blogger or an amateur musician.  You may be involved with an advocacy group or a political party working to achieve larger societal goals. These activities can become part of a new brand.

The friends you have will influence your retirement brand.  Have you reached out to new people who have diverse interests?  Do you keep hanging out with buddies from your former career, spending time discussing old times?  Do you have friends who can give honest feedback and who help you understand how others may see you? Are your friends interesting people?

What’s your outlook on life? Are you known as a positive and loving person or do you constantly find fault in other people?  Do you enjoy every day experiences or are you quick to find fault and complain?

Knowing what you’ve done well in the past, what makes you happy and what you want from your retirement freedom is critical as you define your retirement brand.

Sell Your Retirement Brand

Once you understand your retirement strengths and skills, you can begin to manage your retirement brand. You set the course of your retirement with a positive and confident presentation.

Who you are, how you spend your time, and what makes you happy is the first step.

Next, you can decide what adjectives you want associated with you.  Think about tangible and intangible ways you are comfortable in presenting yourself.  Think about your unique attributes, sense of humour and personal experiences. These are the aspects of a retirement brand that make you interesting.

Acceptance of who we are, how people view and judge us, is not just about the clothes we wear, the place we live, the shape of our body or the colour of our hair. Rather, it’s about dependability and life management.

A consistent presentation of your best qualities leads to a retirement brand that makes others remember you.

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Personal Rituals to Stay on Track

Personal rituals help us stay on track and increase retirement happiness.

One of my favourite books, From Beginning to End — The Rituals of our Lives, by Robert Fulghum explores both public and private rituals that define the patterns of our lives.

I have read and re-read sections of the book during different stages of my life.  Fulghum’s writing provides comfort and validation. He gives ideas for happy times, for celebrations, for grieving, and for daily living.

Rituals as life markers

Rituals assume more importance as we grow older. We learn to appreciate how rituals give meaning to life passages. We appreciate that rituals offer a sense of order and rhythm to the days, weeks, and seasons. They make birthdays and anniversaries into special occasions. Rituals also help us to cope with grief and loss. 

The most basic rituals in all cultures include rituals around birth, marriage, and death. Such rituals often involve elaborate ceremonies.  They create traditions. Culture, values and beliefs are instilled into families and groups through rituals.

In addition to formal rituals, practises surrounding family, food, holidays and everyday life consume most of our waking hours. Our habits, likes, and dislikes shape the days, weeks, and months of our lives.

Personal Rituals

All of us have personal rituals that make no sense to others.

When I was in graduate school, one of my colleagues wore the same shirt to all exams.  He usually got results in the 95 – 99% range which he attributed to his ‘lucky’ shirt that was never washed! Perhaps he was superstitious — certainly, his behaviour was ritualistic!

During my recent vacation that involved five weeks of travel with friends, the personal rituals of daily living were what I missed most.

Since returning, I am more aware of how personal rituals give structure to mundane aspects of every day. 

Getting started routines.  While travelling, I shared rooms with friends whose morning routines varied and always required some adaptation. I missed having quiet time as the day started. At home I drink my morning coffee while languishing in bed and chatting with my husband.  This is the time when we plan the day, play with our cats, and discuss the morning news. A leisurely start to the day sets a tone that provides energy to face whatever comes later.

Evening routines give a structure for ending the day. This is one time of day when television news provides background noise for winding down and getting ready to sleep. I floss my teeth and do self-care routines while listening to the TV as most news items that provide ‘info-tain-ment’ and don’t require much attention!  One of my travel companions enjoyed the ritual of a glass of sherry and some quiet conversation before going to bed.  That’s a routine worth learning and one that I aspire to incorporate into my life!

‘Arrival home’ routines signal a transition from the outside world to the privacy of home life. My husband has a standard, happy, “I’m home” greeting that he calls as soon as he comes in the front door.  My ‘arrival home’ ritual is to wash my hands and have a drink of water.  It’s a  signal to my inner self that I’m washing away the external world. While travelling, there was no daily ‘arrival home’ so I missed this routine and struggled with the sense that I always carried the external world inside.

Physical exercise rituals. Travel in South Africa involved constant vigilance about security.  In many places, walking outside of the confines of a hotel or guest house was impossible even in a group. Yoga practise was a challenge in small guest rooms. I missed the mental and physical boost from vigorous exercise that I get from swimming and from aqua fit classes.  I missed the community of yoga students with whom I practise.

Solitude rituals.  Time alone keeps my emotional balance and restores mental clarity.  It’s as essential as physical exercise for boosting my energy levels and reducing stress. While travelling with friends, there was constant company which I enjoyed.  The downside, for me, was no time for reflection or for mental processing of rich experiences, beautiful scenery, or encounters with local people. When I returned home, I needed several days of silent time for thinking and for restoring my spiritual reserves.

“We are what we repeatedly do.” – Aristotle

Personal rituals likely make little sense to others.  However, each of us, has routines — or rituals — that give comfort.  They give stability, enhance confidence, and provide a frame of reference for our lives.

See related post on postworksavvy 

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Celebrate Canada Day on July 1

July 1 — It’s time to celebrate Canada Day!

This is a day for picnics, parades, barbecues, outdoor concerts, and fireworks. It’s a day to fly our red and white maple leaf flag with pride.  It’s a day to wear red and white clothing as a show of Canadian pride.

Celebrate Canada Day -- Canadian Flag photo courtesy of Ankakay
Celebrate Canada Day — Canadian Flag photo courtesy of Ankakay

Reflect on Canadian citizenship

Canada Day is also a time to think about what it means to be a Canadian citizen.

As Canadians we enjoy a high quality of life.  We have clean air, clean water, and high standards of public health. The economy is relatively robust. The government is stable. Rights and freedoms are respected.

Founded on the aspirations of early French and British settlers, Canada has a unique mix of many cultures and a long tradition of immigration from all parts of the world. Most Canadians are only one or two generations away from parents or grand parents who came from another country.

The beliefs, attitudes and customs of many people are blended into a deep respect for diversity which is a key characteristic of Canadians.

Unfortunately, in some parts of the country, there remains an ugly underbelly of racism and intolerance.  

There is also a history of abysmal treatment of aboriginal people who populated Canada long before any of the immigrants arrived.

Too many Canadians fail to appreciate our country. We neglect civic responsibilities and don’t follow political affairs. Voter turnout at elections is very low.

Canadians Take Life for Granted and Love to Complain

Most Canadians take life in Canada for granted. Those of us who were born here often forget that it is a privilege to live in a beautiful country of freedom, tolerance, and wealth. We don’t appreciate the democratic elections, established laws, and public safety that define Canada making it the envy of many nations.

From coast to coast, we gripe about the weather. We complain about the high rates of income tax, property tax and gas tax.  We’re embarrassed by politicians who behave boorishly or who take advantage of their positions.  We grouse when our favourite sports teams do poorly.

There’s no question that all parts of Canada have some lousy weather in every season, but the natural beauty of the mountains, prairies, lakes, rivers and oceans compensate with breath-taking scenery. If some days are too hot, too cold, too wet or too windy, so what?

While taxes are relatively high in Canada, it’s worth remembering that taxes pay for good access to education, to universal health care, and for public safety.

Individual politicians and political parties can be made to pay for bad behaviour and poor governance. There is a democratic system for replacing them. It’s called an election and it allows every Canadian a choice.

As for sports teams, I confess to having given up on my favourite Toronto Maple Leafs but I am taking pleasure in the small successes of the Toronto Blue Jays on the baseball field and I enjoyed the performance of the Raptors last season.

Make your celebration joyful

However you celebrate Canada Day, please make it joyful.  If you read this blog from abroad, remember Canada today and give us a tribute.

For Canadian readers, let’s all start with a joyful toast to our country, its diversity, its fair-minded people and its beauty.  Let’s take a moment to reflect on the freedoms we take for granted. Without hesitancy, let’s make a commitment to citizenship with all of its responsibilities.

See related posts on postworksavvy






Re-entry After a Long Vacation

What are the characteristics of a successful re-entry after a long vacation from regular routines?

I’ve just returned from an extended vacation in South Africa. I face the challenge of adjusting to life in Canada with mixed emotions.  Coming home makes me happy but I’m overwhelmed with all the tasks that need attention.

Because coming home from vacation means a transition back into the habits and patterns of home life, I’ve  planned a few catch up days to ease back into home routines.

Re-entry Strategies

There are many ways to readjust to regular routines.  I’ve identified the strategies I’m using to help the process of easing back into a normal lifestyle after a vacation break.

Taking some ‘me time’. Coming home means a myriad of small tasks to tackle plus unpacking, laundry, re-stocking the fridge, and sorting through a stack of mail.

The return trip from my recent vacation took 24 hours which left me with a good case of jet lag.  When I landed, my body felt like it was still hurtling through space so I realized that I could not get back into all my routines immediately.

Taking a few days of ‘me’ time means that I won’t stress myself with commitments or a busy schedule.

Paying attention to diet and nutrition. When you’ve indulged in too many unfamiliar foods or rich treats while on vacation, your body will thank you for eating things that are easy to digest during the first few days at home.

Long haul flights and aircraft food create havoc with bodies causing water retention and occasional digestive issues.  You will naturally recalibrate by drinking healthy fluids.

My favourite remedy to restore energy is drinking green tea. I also try to avoid alcohol and soft drinks.

Catching up with family. Your people have missed you and you have missed them.  Re-connecting with those you love is part of the joy of returning home.

When I saw my husband’s eyes light up as he saw me enter the arrivals lounge at Pearson Airport, I felt a new surge of love for him.

Sharing special stories, gifts and memorabilia gathered during travels is part of coming home.

Returning to exercise routines.  A gradual return to physical activity reduces jet lag and helps energy levels to recover.  During the 5 weeks that I travelled there were many restrictions on physical activity as walking alone in most of the places we visited was too dangerous.  There are limits on how much exercise is possible in a gated courtyard or an indoor mall.

Upon return home, I began exercising again with the luxury of a 45 minute walk in my neighbourhood.  Within 24 hours, I got back to the gym, yoga and aquatic routines that sustain my fitness.

Reviewing emails and snail mail.  This is one of the tasks that I dislike most. Prior to leaving on vacation, I ‘un-subscribed’ from most electronic newsletters and emails. On return, my strategy has been to scan and delete most emails with a resolution to resist re-subscribing.

Most of the mail from Canada Post is junk but tax information, credit card change notices and investment circulars need some review. I confess that I’ve set some of this aside until my head clears.

Taking time to get re-oriented to your home culture. After being away from home for a chunk of time, there will be changes to catch up on.

During my vacation, the province where I live had a general election; my garden sprouted into its summer glory; and my grand-daughter started going to day care!

When I got into my car, I had to re-orient myself to a left-hand drive.

My neighbours were eager to engage in chit-chat and give the neighbourhood news updates.

New Perspectives

Vacations always give new perspectives on life.

Taking enough time for a positive re-entry anchors new outlooks, causes examination of established attitudes, and refreshes the psyche.

Soon enough I’ll be back to regular routines but for a few days, I’m taking the luxury of time to readjust.

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Digital Media Holiday

Regular readers know that the posting schedule on my blog is intermittent.

In the next few weeks posting will stop while I take an extended vacation to travel in Africa. As internet access will be a challenge in many locations, it’s a great time to take a ‘digital media holiday’.

Postworksavvy will have new material by the end of June when I return — hopefully refreshed  and full of new ideas for a happy and successful retirement.

Inspiration for a Happier Retirement

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