As we grow older, it’s common to assess your life’s work. In the past six weeks as I’ve recovered from the flu and another bout of pneumonia, there’s been too much time for staring at the bedroom ceiling and thinking. I’ve assessed my life’s work since retirement six years ago. I’ve also been thinking about plans for the next few years as I adjust to living in a new environment..
How do I approach love, risk-taking, and fear in this phase of my life? How has my life’s work changed since retiring? In which areas of life should I spend time and effort? What’s important? What’s missing?
During the years of striving for a successful career, my primary focus was on professional goals. I concentrated on achievements. I measured myself by accomplishments, awards, recognition, and monetary remuneration. There was pride associated with my work such as advocacy for public policy amendments, legislative changes, improved budgets for children’s services, agency accreditation, and capital allocations for buildings.
Since retirement my life assessment takes a broader perspective. I’ve redefined myself. Career accomplishments mean little at this time of life. Earlier this year when down-sizing, I pitched copies of the papers, evaluations, presentations, publications, and other memorabilia that I had treasured. Throwing away these momentos proved easy and, almost, refreshing. I boxed a few framed awards but I’m not sure they will ever get unpacked.
Now I consider relationships, health, personal growth, and lifestyle as important in assessing my life’s work.
In retirement, relationships with spouse, children, grand children, extended family, friends and neighbours are more important than finances or a career. Research shows that loneliness and isolation are major risk factors for seniors. Loneliness may cause chronic illness and lead to early death. Paying attention to family and social relationships has a payoff!
Relationships are sensitive to changing life conditions. After moving in June, physical separation from friends and acquaintances with whom I spent time meant severing many social relationships. I miss my bridge friends, my book club buddies, and my neighbours.
I know that developing a network of social connections in a new community will take months, even years. As I meet people at my new gym, and at activities I attend, I take time to speak with each of them, to listen to them, and, to remember names. Sometimes, there’s synergy in the response, and sometimes I’m disappointed.
Good health is an abiding concern. Most people name good health as their most important retirement asset. Health affects every aspect of life so assessing its contribution to happiness in retirement is essential.
Appreciation of good health means taking a personal interest in nutrition, sleep habits and physical activity as cornerstones of a retirement lifestyle. Retirement provides the time to pay attention to nutrition by eating a diet of whole foods and avoiding factory prepared processed meals.
Retirement also allows time for physical exercise. My exercise program includes walking (in good weather), water aerobics, yoga, and strength training. I’ve recently challenged myself by enrolling in a tai chi class to improve balance and coordination. Many readers prefer team sports or racquet sports for a physical workout. Regardless of preference, regular exercise helps to prevent and manage a host of health problems.
Eating healthy foods and exercising regularly has helped me to develop better sleep habits, another important aspect of health. Most researchers recommend that adults sleep for seven or eight hours. Skimping on sleep is unnecessary in retirement although I confess to occasional late nights when absorbed in a good book!
There’s nothing like suffering a third episode of pneumonia in a 15 month period to make me realize that I can’t take health for granted. Since I’ve had pneumonia vaccine and a booster, extra vigilance regarding viruses is warranted as my body’s capacity to resist germs is compromised.
When assessing my life’s work, writing this blog and writing guest posts for http://exploring retirement.co.uk is a key area of personal growth since retirement.
Writing allows exploration of many aspects of life. Sometimes I’m surprised by the thoughts and feelings that emerge on the screen. Writing has opened parts of my unconscious mind and caused me to reflect on parts of life that are deeply buried and long-forgotten.
Readers of postworksavvy often find that taking courses, learning new skills, pursuing another type of paid work, or re-engaging in past hobbies brings personal growth. For me, writing plus having time for knitting, reading, gardening, and, occasionally, playing the piano, is all the work that I need in retirement!
In short, lifestyle is a way of living.
Dictionary.com defines lifestyle as 'the habits, attitudes, tastes, moral standards, economic level, etc., that together constitute the mode of living of an individual or group.'
Lifestyle changes after retirement as consumption patterns, income, time constraints, and leisure patterns change. Lifestyle is also about how we see ourselves and how we want others to see us.
As I think about whether I’m living as I want to live, and how I experience life on a daily basis, I realize that engaging with a new community. learning to live in a new house, and adapting to the values of a smaller, less diverse city are challenges.
Creating a new lifestyle will involve experimentation with the immediate environment.The people with whom I associate and the culture of this community will influence evolving lifestyle choices. I want to make conscious choices congruent with my values and world views.
As I assess my life’s work in his phase of retirement, I’m aware that I can improve overall happiness and satisfaction. My ‘work’ will involve establishing a social network, adapting to a new community, learning new things and staying vigilant about health, This assessment doesn’t mean that I’ll abandon the positive choices made since retiring. As with anything worthwhile, a life’s work is never-ending. There are always more aspirations and challenges!