Before my trip to Jamaica I wrote about appreciating retirement.  Taking something for granted tends to cause it to become mundane, boring and even loathed.  I doubt retirees are clamoring to get back to work, but life in general may become less than thrilling if you begin to take your retirement for granted.  It’s important to remember the gift you’ve given yourself, why it’s so much better than the alternative and what opportunities you have before you.

One way of keeping retirement exciting and learning to appreciate it over and over again is to remain challenged.  I’ve called it, as have others, reinventing yourself in retirement.  Retirement in these times when people are retiring younger and living longer is no longer just an event.  Retirement is a process, a lifestyle.  It is no longer enough to leave your job, settle into a routine and wait to die.  With twenty, thirty, even forty years in retirement, there is time to do so much more than sit on the porch and complain about the government.

In order to fully enjoy retirement, staying challenged is essential.  Doing, learning and trying new things is the easiest way to keep retirement fresh and exciting.  Most of us love the freedom to do nothing when we first retire.  After decades of working and doing the bidding of others, whether bosses, children, customers or clients, it is fantastic to just sit and relax.  But most of us find that after a while, that becomes boring.

I liken it to the idiom, “There can be no light without darkness.”  Rest and relaxation quickly becomes mundane instead of a decadent luxury if you do it too often or too long and in the absence of anything else.  So, most of us find something to do.  I write.  It has become a job.  Not in a bad way.  I just enjoy it and do it a lot.  Other people move or take up a hobby or volunteer.  They find something they enjoy doing and do it.

But my writing will seem like a real job if I do it too long or too often.  It might take a year or five years, but at some point I’ll want to do less of it or something else will take it’s place in my heart.  I fished my ass off when I first retired, but I slowed for various reasons.  Writing, for me, became more rewarding.  I still fish, but it went from priority one to something less.

I reinvented my retirement.  I went from a fishing bum to a writing bum.  Everyone needs to do that now and then.  It could be just small changes and tweaks, but it could be a complete life makeover.  You might do it many times.  I suspect many retirees are doing this and don’t realize it.  I also suspect many aren’t.  They retired at 55 or 60, moved to a smaller home, took up some retirement hobbies and now a few years later they are asking, “Is this all there is?”

The good news is no!  This planet is full of an infinite number of things to do and see.  I’ve often told my wife we could RV for ten years and never leave the state of California and never run out of new thing to see.  I could take up a new hobby every week and never run out of things to do.  I could pursue all manner of crazy dreams.  If you’re retired, you are likely financially independent.  You can do things you’d never consider doing while you were working.

Work at the golf course to get free rounds.  You can’t do that while working and though it is a job, if you love it and it brings you happiness, why not?  Open a business, go back to college, do something creative, like writing.  Making a living is not the point.  Doing something that engages and challenges your mind and spirit is.  That new degree in law isn’t to make a good living.  Nor is that business venture or artistic pursuit or whatever.  You do it because it makes you happy.

This is the new retirement.  A lifestyle full of changing priorities and new and interesting things to do and see.  You must do this.  Not only is spending the next 30 years of your life doing the same thing pretty boring, it’s a waste of the most precious thing you have.  Life!  None of this means you have to be “busy” all the time and a little relaxation is off limits.  Quite the contrary.  Those times you do choose to relax are even better is you’re engaged in other activities.

Retirement is changing.  Even those of us who retire later in life, say 65 or 70, have the prospect of ten or twenty active years ahead of us.  People like me could realistically have forty years of active life before us.  How you approach retirement should be changing also.  Stop thinking about it as an event and begin thinking of it as a new lifestyle, maybe even a new life.  It’s not the beginning of the end anymore, its an entirely new beginning.  You can live out your dreams even indulge those wacky fantasies you had sitting in your cubicle.

Next time, I’ll take about some of the innovative ways you can live out your dreams in this new technological world we live in.  Technology is providing people with freedoms that our grandparents, even parents, could never even have dreamed of.

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