Are you ready to be retired?
Are you sure?
You’ve worked all your life toward that one single goal. Retirement.
Independence. No longer punching the clock or reporting to someone else all day.
But lacking that has its cost, too. It’s a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you don’t have anyone telling you what to do.
On the other hand, you don’t have anyone telling you what to do.
I have realized lately that I have always had someone there looking over my shoulder during the most successful periods in my life, making me accountable for my actions.
At a young age, you begin school, and for the next twelve to twenty years, you are held accountable by teachers and professors. Then you enter the workforce, and for another forty years or so, you are held accountable by your boss. If you are self-employed, that doesn’t mean you don’t have a boss; it means you have many of them. Every client or customer.
I’ve done both. After high school, I held an odd and interesting set of jobs for a few years. Then I settled into a career in construction. I had a very demanding boss that kept me in check for the next six years. Then I went into business for myself and learned that being self-employed comes with not one but hundreds of bosses.
Finally, I settled into the corporate world of Information Technology, where I stayed for the next thirty years or so. All-day, every day, I knew exactly what to do because there was always someone looking over my shoulder telling me what to do.
Yeah, I hear you. You are a self-starter. Or maybe you’re in upper management. Doesn’t matter. Everybody has a boss, and somewhere, somehow, they are looking over your shoulder. Holding you accountable.
And then, one day, they’re not. You’re on your own. Sure, you have a partner with certain expectations, but that’s not new. Being independent is.
You get up that first day of retirement, and it’s pretty much like any weekend. It’s a day off. You have stuff to do. There’s always stuff to do.
But then there’s the next day and the one after. Pretty soon, those chores that used to get crammed into two days are spread out over seven. And no one is looking over your shoulder.
Depending on your personality, that could be the hardest part of being retired. Having no one hold you accountable. Some people don’t handle it very well. They sit around all day, watching TV and doing nothing. Those people generally don’t have a very long life expectancy.
We need stuff to do. And to keep doing stuff, we need to be held accountable to some degree. So to get through the next twenty or thirty years without a boss like a boss, you’re going to need to do one thing.
Hold yourself accountable. Look over your own shoulder. Don’t hurt yourself; it’s just a metaphor.
Even if you’ve never been much on setting goals, it’s time to set some. The more, the better. What do you want to learn, where do you want to go, what do you want to accomplish. Write these things down. Come up with a detailed plan on how to achieve them. Now, put those things on your to-do list.
I’ve never been without some sort of task management system. This is even more true now that I’m retired. For the most part, it’s not full of projects that will be completed. Instead, it’s full of tasks that repeat daily, weekly, monthly. And every day, I refer to that list and hold myself accountable for finishing. Most days, I do.
Today, like most days, the fifth thing on my list was to write a rough draft of my article for the day. But what if I didn’t feel like it? That happens. Some days, I just don’t feel like writing. What do I do then? No one would know if I did so or not. No one is looking over my shoulder, ready to put an X on my annual review, failure to meet goals.
Me. I would know. I had some things to do today, and I didn’t do them all. I had time. What else do I have to do? But I didn’t do it. Just because I didn’t want to. Tough shit. Writing is one of my jobs, right up there with taking out the trash on Thursday. I don’t get to not do my job. I’ve never not done my job. I don’t know how to not do my job.
I can’t imagine living my life any other way. The repetitive things I do every day get well, repetitive. Some days I’m bored. Boredom has the opposite effect than it should have. Boredom should spur you into activity, but it doesn’t. Boredom leads to inactivity, which leads to depression. I’m not a depressed kind of guy. So, bored or not, I work through my list, checking things off as I go.
So, I can’t even imagine those people who do nothing with their retirement. They move from the bed to the recliner, then from the recliner to the bed. One day soon, they will move from the recliner to the coffin. I can’t be that guy.
Maybe it’s genetic. My dad was always doing something. He came home from work each day, put on his ‘yard clothes,’ and went outside and worked until dark. On the weekends, he tackled the big projects. If he didn’t have one, he made one up.
He’s been retired now for about thirty years. He spends some time in his recliner reading or watching TV, but mostly he takes care of his little projects. How are you doing today, Dad? Oh, I hurt my back painting the shed. Painting the shed? I haven’t picked up a paintbrush in twenty years and have no intention of doing so now. But he has stuff to do, and that’s a good thing. He’s pushing ninety and still independent, still active.
I hope I’m doing the same then. I probably will be. Why? Because I got stuff to do. Long term stuff. I figure it will take me at least ten years to master the guitar. When we can travel again, I have about a thousand places I need to photograph. And write about.
So, I’m writing this article. When I get through, I’ll edit the one I wrote yesterday, then I’ll polish the one from the day before. Then, I need to publish or submit a couple. Next, I will take care of my second practice session of the day on guitar.
Take my word for it; retirement is no picnic. I got stuff to do. A lot of stuff. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.