Imagine your Perfect Retirement

Lennon imagine
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Imagine there’s no heaven

It’s easy if you try

No hell below us 

Above us only sky

Imagine all the people 

Living for today

These lyrics, from John Lennon’s famous song ‘Imagine’ written during the Vietnam War and echoing the aspirations of the peace movement, speak to the dreams of many postworksavvy readers for a retirement that involves ‘living for today’.

Lennon speaks to the human capacity to have impossible dreams and to imagine these dreams becoming reality. The song echoes the dreams of freethinkers. For the postworksavvy free thinking about life requires self-knowledge and the capacity to connect with creative aspirations of the soul.

How do you uncover your dreams?

Everyone has unspoken dreams and longings.  With retirement comes the realization that this is the time to act on those dreams.  It is also a time when many of the previous roadblocks are gone.  The time restrictions during career building are gone.  You no longer have to prove yourself to anyone but yourself.  Money or health may be the greatest limitations — and, of course, your capacity to dream big dreams and to live your dreams.

Many writers advise creation of a ‘bucket list’ and making a plan to fulfill the items on the list.  In the movie, The Bucket List, Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman made living to complete their bucket list an adventurous challenge as both characters they portrayed faced certain death. Postworksavvy readers are aware that retirement is the last great opportunity to complete our personal aspirations, dreams — or our own ‘bucket list’.

Uncovering those deep longings and creating a bucket list of dreams that goes beyond travel, perfecting talents, and learning new skills remains a challenge.  Like many retirees, I have worked to understand what I really want from my postworksavvy life.  My thinking keeps evolving as I learn about myself, grow and change.

Techniques For Imagining

I am not ready to finalize my dreams for the perfect retirement and I hope that I never will stop dreaming and imaging.  Perhaps retirement will never be perfect. As I work on uncovering what is meaningful for me, some techniques are giving me insights and helping me be creative in my imagining.

  1. My Journal — For more than 30 years I have kept a journal.  It holds many daily observations about what has been important in my life.  Sometimes there are large gaps when life was too difficult for regular writing.  Sometimes the entries are weekly or monthly.  As I look back over the years, the journal puts me in touch with those values that have endured for me — justice, fairness, love.  It also recounts experiences of hurt and pain.  As I re-read entries from many years ago I also remember how difficult it was to express true emotions.  Now I write the journal entries more often and use the lines to prepare myself for changes that I want to make and to write about what I deemed impossible only a short time ago.  I also use the journal to explore private thoughts that I might develop into blog posts.
  2. Childhood recollections — Childhood was a time of greater freedom of thought and expression where those impossible dreams allpossible.  Too often a child’s imagination is thwrated by a ‘helpful’ adult who discourages the dreams. My father was a dreamer and he encouraged my imagination.  This ended abruptly when my father died of a heart attack when I was 12 years old.  Suddenly I faced a different world — a world without dreams as my practical mother had no time for dreams. The sudden death made me expect life to be unfair with constant worries that calamity was just around the corner.  It has taken years for me to conquer this unrealistic fear and to dare to dream again.
  3. My pre-retirement ‘bucket list’ — Most boomers have created a list of things they want to do before life makes the dreams impossible. Pre-retirement counsellors encourage this task.  I have several bucket lists in various categories:  learning, hobbies, living environment, relationships, activities, and travel. Sometimes I have the urge to quickly get things crossed off the lists.  Sometimes I look at the lists and laugh because the items put there five years ago no longer hold interest. Some entries stand out and these are springboards that allow my mind to wander imaging what I can experience, unconsciously preparing myself and making concrete plans.
  4. Recollections of night-time dreams — For many years I did not dream during the night. Or so I thought.  Since retirement I have slept more deeply and usually for 7 or 8 hours every night.  Remarkably, dreams are happening again.  Sometimes the dreams are vivid with wild adventures and with people who I have not met for years appearing to remind me of times past.  I am learning to keep a notepad on my bedside table to record dream memories when I wake as I find that I forget the dreams quickly once my conscious mind takes over to control the day.
  5. Conversations — Some people are able to think more clearly when they talk with others.  Although I am private about my dreams and wishes, there are some people who help me to explore the inner longings and who help me to dream bigger dreams.  My husband is one of the people who is willing to explore and imagine with me and we often play ‘what if’ while we have dinner or while we drive long distances.  Conversations with my son keep my thoughts ‘youth oriented’ and help me to combat imagined barriers of being too old to realize my dreams.  A few close friends talk to me about their aspirations and fantasies.  These conversations allow me to indulge my wilder thinking.  Sometimes conversations with total strangers can lead to unexpected insights that inspire new dreams or stoke old memories.  I try to recall these ‘ah ha’ moments when writing my journal so that I can explore and use the thoughts as I do my own creative imagining.

Living your Perfect Retirement

When you imagine what your life could be like you start an unconscious process to prepare yourself for changes you can make to live your perfect retirement.  This unconscious process is the beginning of new happenings for you.  It helps you live for the longer term and helps you live for today. When Lennon sang “You may say I’m a dreamer — but I’m not the only one” he may have referred to bigger dreams for world peace.  The song speaks at many levels including the personal.  I will do as Lennon wrote and ‘imagine’ as I seek to find my own perfect retirement.

Thanks for reading this post.  If you like my blog, please email this to a friend and consider subscribing to receive regular updates.

Picture courtesy of Zugaldia’s photostream.

9 Replies to “Imagine your Perfect Retirement”

  1. I am a newbie!
    I just retired from the INdiana National Guard and in May I will be retiring from teaching.
    It was a terribly difficult decision to make last Spring. but I did turn that letter in. This year my job has changed so drastically I went from absolutely loving and living for it to pretty close to hating it. but now I am not sure what lies ahead????

    1. Hi Rosemarie, The decision to retire is one of the biggest and, most difficult decisions we make. None of us know what the future will hold. Sometimes it helps to remember that through the years of career building we have faced many uncertainties. The accumulated knowledge and wisdom will come through for you as you embark on that wonderful next chapter of your life. Stay strong and confident! Jeanette

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  3. Hello Jeanette,
    I am really enjoying your blog.
    I unexpectedly retired on February 14, 2011, two days before my 66th birthday. I had no plans at all to retire before age 70, as I really loved the work I did and was not financially prepared.
    For 18 years I worked as an accountant and financial manager for a small home building company.
    Well, we all know what has happened to the home building business recently. During the last three years my work had become a nightmare of robbing Peter to pay Paul, constantly putting out fires and endless reporting to lenders.
    I spent most of my waking hours trying to figure out ways to get the company through this awful financial mess.
    On Monday February 14 I arrived at work, sat my handbag down, opened my email and began reading them.
    The 3rd email was from the owner of the company, to whom I directly reported.
    It was a long, scathing letter that belittled me and the job I did in horrifing terms.
    IN ONE INSTANT I SAW THE TRUTH! The man I had worked for for 18 years had no respect for me as a person or employee and placed no value at all on the work I did everyday.
    I typed “goodbye, Dwight”, pushed “send”, picked up my handbag, slammed the doors on the way out of the building and threw my office keys out my car window on the drive home. I RETIRED!
    What a shock! I still cannot believe that I did such a thing, BUT AM I EVER HAPPY ABOUT IT.

    Since my retirement was totally not planned, I am having trouble establishing a new routine of life and managing my time, but I will figure it out.

    Like you, before I retired, I almost never recalled a dream. Since retirement I am beginning to remember them.
    This one dream is the clearest I have ever had. I laugh my head off every time I think of it.

    In my dream I am looking at a large bulletin board that has many photos attached to it . Each photo is an item, thing, activity, idea or situation that make up by hopes and dreams for life.
    All at once, every photo falls off the bulletin board and lands in a messy heep on the floor.
    In my dream, I look at the heep and laugh with glee.

    Well, I guess it is time to start life anew.

    1. Hello Gale, You are definitely not the only person who began retirement without the opportunity to plan for it. I’ll bet that you often feel like retirement was a crash landing. As I read through your comment, it seems that you are moving ahead and making life adjustments for a retirement journey that will offer many benefits. Even with planning, there are times when all of us think about our careers and wonder whether our contributions were valued. or whether those 16 hour days really made a difference. Now I work hard to keep a better balance in my life and try to fill my days with activities that hold meaning for me — not for an organization. Be well, be hopeful and stay optimistic. Jeanette

  4. I do love your words,food for thought…..

    1. Thanks Selby. Are you finding the solution for perfect retirement?
      Be well, Jeanette

  5. “Perhaps retirement will never be perfect.” I agree.. Perfection is an unattainable and frustrating goal. I would aim for happy, satisfying, or fulfilling……and ever changing.

    To use another John Lennon quote, “Life is what happens while you are making other plans.” I haven’t made a bucket list because what would be on it today is very likely not on it a year from now. As you noted, what I thought I wanted as part of my retirement 10 years ago is now the farthest thing from my mind.

    1. Thank goodness that we keep changing and growing. As we develop ourselves our needs and wants and plans change as well. I think its important to have aspirations that provide focus and that provide a general direction for our lives. I rebel at getting stuck with rigid goals and plans. Now that Ontario’s summer is ending, I’m thinking about what I want dig into once our cooler weather drives me indoors. As always, I plan to stay flexible for those wonderful happening in life that can never be planned.
      Be well, Jeanette

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