serene ambition™

transforming the culture of aging

Retirement Mythology

Posted by Jim Selman on 01/4/07

We generally think of ‘retirement’ as the line dividing our ‘working years’ from our ‘not working years’ (or at least, a time when we don’t have to work for a living). I think retirement is a false distinction, one that has taken on enormous importance in people’s lives and that can be a fulcrum for either new possibilities and positive changes or profound resignation and negative changes.

I think ‘retirement’ is a false distinction because ‘work’ is itself a false distinction. It’s easy to see that for some people ‘work’ is ‘play’ (because it is what they love to do), while for others it’s a strategy for something else. ‘Work’ is just a word. We, as individuals, define what is and is not work, and our interpretations are based on the assessments we make about what they’re doing. Of course, when we don’t like what we’re doing or when we don’t think we have a choice about it, then work becomes a kind of indentured labor. In this case, retirement is seen as a welcome escape.

If we think about life in terms of circumstances, then work is about having the circumstances in our lives be what we want—whether that’s providing for our family, having lots of toys, or achieving power, prestige and all the attendant positive and negative factors that come with success in our society.

Retirement is the time when we imagine having the time and space to reap the rewards of our careers and experience the ‘good life’. Unfortunately for many, the ‘good life’ in retirement becomes a conversation all about the ‘good old days’, a reliving of the past filled with sadness and tinged with regret that the future will not be as fulfilling, exciting or enlivening.

But retirement really has little to do with our status as employees and everything to do with our relationship with ourselves and with the world. On that basis, we could choose to redefine ‘work’ as simply the means to realize our dreams.

So what would it be like if you saw work as the process of realizing your dreams, a process which never ends as long as you have a vision and a commitment to creating a future you want?

© 2007 Jim Selman. All rights reserved.


One Response to “Retirement Mythology”

  1. Rhea said

    The retirement of our parents’ generation is so uninviting and depressing. Waiting to take that cruise until our bodies are ready to give out — no thanks! I have coined a term for baby boomers to use: “youthiness.” You will see more on this if you come over for a visit today.

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