The video below is spinning around the interwebs and it caught my attention, not because it is pure unadulterated spin, but because it gets to something deeper I have believed for sometime.
The lead in this story is that approximately 25 percent of surveyed Americans feel they will never retire. The host and his guest try to explain away this alarming figure with the premise that working your entire life is a good thing. Putting aside their intellectual dishonesty, there is an important conversation about why an increasing number of Americans are unable to retire fully. Full retirement remains unaffordable and out of reach for many and part-time work is necessary to supplement any retirement income. This is not news. It is a crisis we have seen coming for decades but is being put into sharp relief by the surge of retiring baby boomers.
Despite this important conversation, my reason for writing has to do with a paradigm central to the idea of retirement conveyed during the clip: That we wait until retirement to begin enjoying our lives. I have long wondered why we are not doing more to alter that paradigm and deliberately spend time on the things we love doing now. This does not mean devoting all of our time to our passions, but we can intentionally spend some of our day, week, month or year on them. While I would never fully discourage someone from throwing everything to the wind in the hopes of finding more happiness and fulfillment – I owe much of my life today to just such a large and calculated risk – one does not have to give up everything, downsize, and move to the coast to be a painter or novelist. Nor do they have to wait until the age of 65 to begin. I believe there are ways to deliberately enjoy life more fully before collecting a Social Security check.
As always, this is about prioritization and discipline. Our passions and the things that bring us joy should be a priority right now. Although we may put our focus elsewhere for eight hours per day, it is important to set an intention and deliberately carve out time for things we love doing. Incremental installments of time spent on our passions accumulate over the long term to the point where the happiness it brings begins permeating all corners of our lives.
If you do not know where to start, visualization is often a good first step. Sit down, take a few deep breaths, and in your mind’s eye visualize spending a few hours each week on something you love doing. Or, think about what retirement looks like to you and visualize doing it in small increments now. Perhaps you see yourself spending more time with loved ones. Modern technology makes it easier than ever to connect and you can begin doing that multiple times per month. No, it does not fully replace physically being with someone but it is something you can do right now to foster strong relationships. Or perhaps travel makes you happy. Do not wait for retirement to explore some place new. Regular jaunts to foreign countries does sound enticing but there are plenty of places within a five hundred mile radius you may not have seen yet. Get out and explore them.
Begin enjoying your passions now. Start with something you know you can accomplish in the next week or month. Begin that momentum, grab quick wins, and build from there. Find more time to do things you love doing and bring joy to your life right now.
The bottom line: None of us is promised living to see the various retirement ages dictated to us by retirement programs and pension funds. Get after what brings you joy right now! Let it inspire you, recharge you, and lift your spirits. When you go out into the world backed by this energy, the world will see it. People will be drawn to it and want more of it. They will want to know where your happiness comes from. Inspire them to do the same. Pass it on. Pay it forward.
Go enjoy your life.