What is the most depressing word in the English language? According to Ernest Hemmingway, it is “retirement.” The dictionary defines retirement as an ending, a conclusion, a termination, seclusion –get the idea? These are not very pleasant connotations. Yet, this is the word we hear or use every day and it can affect how we think. Ask someone of a certain age what they do, and nine times out of ten, the answer will be “I’m retired.”
Of course, that doesn’t really answer the question. Retirement is a state of being, but it is not who you are or even what you do, I hope.
What we need is personal re-branding. The goal is to change the image of the word. Retirement needs to be positioned in folks’ minds as a period of incredible opportunity. It isn’t a conclusion, rather it is an encore, an additional performance added to an already great event. It is a time when your talents and creativity can reach new heights.
Companies rebrand all the time. They come up with a new product name, or design for the packaging. Old products disappear to be replaced with “new and improved” versions. Why not us? How would your retirement be rebranded? Here are a few thoughts:
Set timetables for turning that vision into your life. This doesn’t mean, “By Friday I’ll learn to play the guitar.” A realistic goal for the next year might be to become good enough to play a few songs for friends at a picnic. If your health isn’t where you want it to be, your goal could be to get your cholesterol numbers below 190 by your next physical. Setting goals that are too general and too open-ended won’t work. You must be able to measure your progress.
Tell friends and family what you are doing. “Going public” is one of the best ways to keep you motivated. None of us likes to say we are going to do something and then not live up to the promise. If you keep your goals and vision to yourself, it is much easier to waffle and make excuses.
Don’t accept the marketplace’s definition of who you are and what you can do. Being retired means only what you allow it to mean. For many this is the busiest, most exciting, most fulfilling time of their lives. To them, retirement means re-fire-ment: becoming fired up by all that life has to offer.
Don’t be afraid to shake things up. Maybe that means moving to another part of town, or another part of the country altogether. Maybe you want to try living in a small condo in the center of the city instead of the suburbs or try full-time RVing for a time. Join a club, volunteer for something a little out of your comfort zone. Now is the time when you can experiment with your lifestyle. Do it.
The start of a new year always feels like we have a clean slate. While not literally true, there is a psychological feeling of beginning anew. Lean into that freshness of 2022.