The stage of just living
Retirement is quite different from the other stages in life.
While in school, we had to progress from one standard to another, and there were grades by which we could judge how well we are doing. When that stage ended and we went to work, we strived to create a career, progressing from one job to another, with increasing responsibility and remuneration. We measured (if we were so inclined) how well we were doing based on performance measures such as our bank balance and title that our business cards boasted.
Nothing like that happens after we retire. There is no easy way to judge if we are having a successful retirement or not. There are no performance measures nor are there goals that need to be reached. Our day is not divided into billable hours and no accounting is required on how we spend our time. We have full authority to do nothing. Having done that, we do not need to not feel that we have wasted the day. We can decide to just “live”.
However, doing so is not easy.
We end up creating some pseudo performance measures because most of us cannot live without the feeling that we are making progress even in retirement. We create a “bucket list” and tick off what has been done. “I am making progress in my retirement because I now have done fifteen things out of thirty in my bucket list,” we say.
My feeling is that we need to figure out a way to be satisfied with the process, or journey, of retirement not the goals we achieve. One could argue that the same can be applied to the other stages of life. One should focus on learning not on grades, and, later, in doing meaningful work, not the wealth it creates. True, but those choices have major implications on what type of life you live. That is not the case once you have retired.
Are performance measurements necessary for a fulfilling life? Can we be happy just living?