Like many of you, I couldn’t wait to retire from my full-time career. After spending 30 years climbing a very wobbly corporate ladder, I was looking forward to some much needed “me” time. I was anticipating being able to turn off my alarm clock, no longer rushing out the door every morning, and bidding a final farewell to my grinding daily commute. But mostly, I couldn’t wait until I could do all of the things that I really wanted to do.

The term retirement is defined as withdrawing from one’s occupation or active working life. It is also defined as the act of going away and retreating to privacy.  The media of our previous generation depicted a happy retirement as older adults sitting in their rocking chairs on their front porches and looking blankly out into space. How many people really want to leave their productive work lives to sit around and do nothing?  The media of our generation now advertises a happy retirement with splashy photos of tanned older adults, sitting on beach chairs and drinking endless pina coladas. Is that really an accurate depiction of what a fulfilling retirement is all about? So, if sitting endlessly on a rocking chair or beach chair isn’t an accurate depiction of what to strive for in our retirement, then what is?

Many new retirees start off their newly acquired freedom by playing golf every day or watching all of the Netflix shows that they have missed. Boredom eventually sets in, usually after just a few weeks, and they are faced with the question of how they will fill this hard-earned carefree time in order to remain productive and to live a joyful life? Contented retirees like to refer to this time of their life as their third act, third chapter or new beginnings. They tell us that they are now given a blank slate to create and design a new lifestyle that aligns perfectly with their values and interests. There have been several books written about what a successful retirement entails, and most all agree that once financial independence has been mastered, there are several key requirements and principles that should be incorporated into creating our joyful third act.

The most important principle that experts in this field agree on is that it is essential for happy retirees to discover our purpose and to live purposely, every day. Many of us put our passions and desires on hold while balancing working with raising our families. We may have felt a financial obligation to support our families by doing work that didn’t necessarily feed our souls and we may not have had enough hours in the day available for us to do all of the things that we really wanted to do. Once our financial and family obligations are achieved, we gain the financial freedom and the newfound time to now do what we previously put off doing. 

Some seniors who enjoy their chosen career, will continue to work at it but will scale back their schedules and hours. Others choose to fulfill their purpose by doing volunteer or paid part-time meaningful work in a new field of interest. For those of you who haven’t yet discovered your purpose, your first step is to identify what your values and hobbies are. Think about what gets you excited, what you like to advocate for, and what you are very passionate about. Reviewing those will lead you to what you can’t not do. You may choose to volunteer for a group or cause, or to work at a golf course because you love golfing. For me, I have had a passion for travel since I was a child and a passion for writing  since my earlier adult years. I have now successfully included both of those interests into paid and unpaid part-time work that now fulfills part of my purpose.

Other important principles identified in books written about successful retirement, are maintaining good mental and physical health, cultivating positive relationships, following your faith and/or spirituality, and embracing a positive attitude, curiosity, and adventurous spirit.

Your third chapter provides plenty of additional time for eating healthier and preparing home cooked meals, exercising regularly, and reading, doing puzzles, wordle, or other games for mental stimulation. It is the time to enjoy nature and the great outdoors by walking, hiking, golfing, skiing, etc. and perhaps discovering a new sport that you’ve never tried. For example, I love to spend the summer months outdoors enjoying hiking, biking, and golfing.  I get out for walks when I can in the winter and ride my indoor exercise bike, but I learned that I need to discover a new indoor activity. As such, I am excited to learn to play pickle ball. Maintaining good mental and physical health are of equal importance and will allow us to extend our third chapter that much longer. Optimal health really is our wealth.

When we are busy working and raising our families, friendships may have been unintentionally neglected.  I know that I was guilty sometimes of choosing time with my family or date nights with my husband, over time spent with friends. It is now the time for us to rekindle old friendships and to make new ones. Finding your tribe during your third act is essential. The good news is that you will meet others who share your common interests as you join clubs, activities, and associations. We are fortunate now to be able to spend quality time with our cherished friends and families. Many of us have become grandparents during our third acts. For me, that has been the best gift that I could ever receive. How lucky that we reap the benefits of spoiling our grandchildren while our children are responsible for raising them.

Daily devotion to faith and spiritual life is also very important to our well-being. Whether practised solely, or as part of a community, our faith is what gives us our direction and hope. I love to practise my faith solely, but I also yearn for very deep and meaningful conversations with other like-minded peers about faith and spirituality. Now that we can return to our community events, I look forward to attending community services with others who share my faith. I am drawn to foster relationships with mates who have positive attitudes, curious minds, and who thrive on adventure. Thank goodness that my life partner always sees the glass as half full and shares my keenness to travel and explore new places and cultures around the world.  Curiosity and a thirst for lifelong learning makes everyday so much more interesting. Whether reading books, taking courses, or engaging in different kinds of media, I hope to learn something new every single day for the rest of my life.

In summary, there are 24 hours in every day.  If we sleep for 8 hours, we still  have 16 hours left to design a day that meets our physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual needs. Your third act requires you to include a smorgasbord of volunteer and/or paid work, physical activities and sports, mental exercises, fun adventures, new learnings, and spiritual endeavours, into every new day. You will spend quality time with your family and friends, and also time on your own having the privilege of doing what you always wanted to do and doing it when you want to do it.

I still enjoy the occasional pina colada sitting in a beach chair, as well as now and then sitting in a comfy rocking chair, but those chairs never leave my seat imprints. I am too busy creating and living a fulfilling and joyful third act by doing a variety of daily stimulating activities that feed my soul. 

Submitted: March 06, 2022

© Copyright 2022 Denise Svajlenko. All rights reserved.

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