Retiring to a Life of Excellence

Boy runningThe Government vs The Private sector.

For many years I worked in the government sector.  I believed I was doing things that the community thought was very important and helping people to enjoy their lives. But in the 25 years I worked there, no one ever spoke about doing things in an excellent way. Then I changed career, and excellence seemed to be the flavour of the month. It didn’t come up every day or even every week but there was always talk about excellence. Behind almost everything I was involved in, the concept was that we should do the best we could, with whatever we had at hand.

I’m not sure if that says something about the government sector, or whether I changed career just at the right moment and the government sector adopted the same ideas after I left. But now, I’m in the third phase of my life, it occurs to me that nobody ever thinks about living a retired life of excellence. No one talks about it, so I’m planning to  change that right now!!

Whats that look like?

So what does an excellent retirement look like? How can you still feel as if you are living the absolutely best life you can and making the most of every year you have in retirement? And does it make any difference anyway?

If you google “retirement excellence”, the first three pages are all about finances with the occasional site talking about awards to builders for building some great retirement village or an award people got for looking after older people. Then, at the bottom of page three there was a story from a church website which I hoped might offer some help but unfortunately it’s actually from a church superannuation website so it is also about finance.

Surely there is someone out there besides me, who thinks retirement is about more than finances. Surely there are people who understand things that like the mental, social, physical, and spiritual aspects of retirement make finances pale into insignificance. Surely someone thinks retirement is all about living the best life you can, regardless of your financial situation and achieving something of significance before you run out of time or energy!

The two possibilities.

Well it seems to me, as I have watched other men living in their last quarter of life, there are two possibilities. The first is to have as much fun as you can for as long as you can, and the second is to make the largest contribution to the world you can.

Eat Drink & Be Merry

The first fun way of life works well. You can cruise the world, go on holidays to exotic locations, make new friends, eat drink and be merry and distract yourself with every sorts of fun activity you can afford. These can all be great – for a while. However, underneath there is always the feeling that something is missing. There is always the nagging thought that self indulgence may not be the best way of living. Unfortunately, the next step is that you experience boredom. After all there is a limit to how much fun you can get from watching the sea slide by, or how many exotic places you can stand! And you begin to ask “Is this all there is to life?”

The Other Factor

Like it or not from the moment you retire, the health clock is ticking and many fun activities will eventually become no longer available or require so much energy or walking or strength you can’t do them anymore. So the fun evaporates as fast as it arrived and it feels like you are only an inch away from depression. And the feeling that you are running out of time hits you in the face. The truth is you were designed to enjoy life, but enjoyment was never meant to be the totality of your life.

Making a Contribution.

On the other hand, making your contribution to the world, gives you meaning and purpose, and done with excellence, it means you can always feel you are achieving something significant in life. Victor Frankel who spent time in a concentration camp in World War 2 wrote a game changing book in which he said no matter what situation you are in, if you can find meaning for your life then, you will suddenly be able to cope better with adversity and better able to change the world to be a better place.

Of course, exactly what your contribution to the world is, will depend on many factors such as experience, skills and God given passions. Some people, for example have a passion for helping children – others have skills that are best used working with adults. So you may need to do some research and thinking to help you figure out which area in life suits you or which age group you care about.

But when you have worked it out, your life can take on a whole new dimension. You can get to feel that, every day you are making the world a better place for someone and achieving what God designed you to achieve. In addition, many of the activities you get to do in this area, can go on despite your health situation. You can still achieve your purpose if your health deteriorates as long as you choose to make that happen.

The Next Steps

However, even choosing the helping option is only the first step. You must also choose to give it your all as well. You must choose to be the best at whatever it is you have chosen. So if your passion is helping disabled kids, then you must not only find a place where you can volunteer, but you also need to make sure you go the extra mile and don’t complain about how difficult the work is or how long the hours are or anything else that gets on your goat. I was recently involved in volunteering for the big sporting event on the Gold Coast and I couldn’t believe how many of the other volunteers were “professional complainers.” It seems to me if you volunteer, you are either all in or all out. So instead wake up each day and tell yourself, you are going to give today your best shot. If you do that, you may begin to love what you are doing and feel like the kid in the picture  above.  So live each hour in each day in an excellent way and make the rest of your life the best of your life. Anh Do in his book “The Happiest Refugee” says his dads philosophy was “there’s only two times in life – there’s now and there too late.”  Don’t miss the now!

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