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Archive for the ‘Retirement’ Category

Navigating Retirement

Posted by Jim Selman on 01/5/07

I think it’s wiser to forget about whether we can retire or not based on what our working status or financial situation may be. If you think you have to work, then there is a natural tendency to moods of resignation, disappointment and, sometimes, resentment. People get depressed whenever they are trapped in a story that limits their self-expression and turns them into victims of the circumstances. This could be important to consider if you will continue to work past the time when you thought you could retire.

If you want money for some purpose (whether to meet your basic needs, sustain a particular lifestyle or to have enough to give away to others), then do what you always do when you want money. Make an offer to an existing organization or, if you’re an entrepreneur, find someone who needs what you have to offer and then deliver. The exchange is money.

From this point of view, we are always engaged in work until the day we die. How much time we spend earning money is a choice — not a fait accompli based on an arbitrary event called retirement. I know that retirement doesn’t seem arbitrary when organizations and countries have rules about the age one ‘must’ retire. But I prefer to think that the individual chooses to retire the organization (rather than ‘from’ the organization) and that our choices don’t end when we leave one source of income.

Like actors, musicians, filmmakers and consultants whose whole careers involve moving from one project, client or organization to another, we can realize that there are no ‘endings’—just another ‘what’s next’. When people ask me what I am doing, I say I am working on a new project. More often than not, they are a lot more interested than when I used to give them my title and job description.

At the end of the day, retirement is a state of mind. It is whatever we choose to make it. The word ‘retirement’ isn’t going to go away. But perhaps if enough of us make it less significant and don’t give our power to it, then we can create retirement as a time worth celebrating, an opportunity to complete a chapter in our lives, and a time to reflect on who we are and what we really value and love—and then commit ourselves to that.

Retirement is analogous to navigating in a sailboat: the water and the weather don’t care which direction we’re going, and the choice is 100% ours.

© 2007 Jim Selman. All rights reserved.

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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.

Posted in Personal Empowerment, Retirement | 1 Comment »