In retirement, each new day offers an opportunity to do what we want to be doing as opposed to what we have to do or should be doing. This freedom of choice is our hard-earned and well-deserved reward after decades of working.
However, for some people it can be challenging to find interesting and exciting activities to fill the hours and days. Sure we can keep busy for periods of time pursuing hobbies, projects, and to-do lists, but retirement is a long-term proposal. Many retirees will have 20 to 30 years in which they must entertain and occupy themselves. Without something significant and worthwhile to do, that can be a daunting period of time to fill. If you don't have a willingness to try something new or step outside of your comfort zone, you risk missing a lot.
A reader recently described her frustration now that her kids are grown and have lives of their own that she is not a very big part of. Her days have become a routine of getting up, heading to work, coming home to walk the dogs, and then repeating the next day. Without challenges or something new to look forward to, she is bored, alone, and fears continuing down this all-too-familiar path until old age creeps in and her health begins to fail.
To successfully embrace retirement you cannot just sit on the sidelines and wait for life to happen. You don't want to just exist or accept what comes your way. Instead, reach out and grab for all you can. Each day offers a once in a lifetime chance to make the most of your time:
Is there something that intrigues you but also slightly scares you? Stepping out of your comfort zone can open you up to a world of new experiences. I personally will never be a bungee jumper, but I am working on dealing with a lifelong fear of heights. Rather than cower at the back of a cable car on its way up the Swiss mountains, I force myself to the edge to look down and the resulting panoramic view is spectacular. My son has a similar affliction, but on a recent trip to Belize he climbed to the top of a steep pyramid. Although he was scared, he knew he would never have this opportunity again and went for it. I am not talking about endangering your life. Just try to not limit your options. A little adrenaline can make you feel alive. And if you don't like it, just don't do it again.
See each day as a gift. We will only live this day one time. We cannot backtrack or rewind a single moment. It is up to each of us to take advantage of this special gift and make the most of it. Open your eyes to look at the sky, and appreciate how it changes from moment to moment. Look at the faces of people you meet, knowing that each has its own special story. If we face each day as if it could be the last day of our life, chances are better that we will spend our time well.
Do something spur of the moment. Do you remember a time in your past when you did something without careful preparation up front? Perhaps it was an unplanned trip down the coast for a picnic, or maybe a friend called with concert tickets for later that same night. Many of us find comfort in the ability to plan what is going to happen and to control our lives a bit. But sometimes opportunity knocks and we have to act immediately. Rather than over think it, why not try something new? Spontaneous can be fun.
Be passionate about something. I am a big believer in discovering what inspires and excites you in life and then doing your best to pursue it. It doesn't matter what others think about your pursuit. Why should you heed concerns expressed by others who are not confident enough to pursue their own passions? Doing something you are passionate about will help you live a fuller and more fulfilling life. After all, doing what you want to when you want to do it is what retirement is all about.
Dave Bernard is the author of Are You Just Existing and Calling it a Life?, which offers guidelines to discover your personal passion and live a life of purpose. Not yet retired, Dave has begun his due diligence to plan for a fulfilling retirement. With a focus on the non-financial aspects of retiring, he shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement-Only the Beginning.