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Finding Your Retirement Rhythm

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by Denis Wuestman

Retirement transitions take some time. What comes to mind when you hear the word rhythm as it applies to aspects of your life or job?   Baseball pitchers would likely express a feeling of command and control of their pitches. Basketball players may look at this as their shooting consistency and accuracy. When they are getting good results, they are in a “groove”, focused and directing their energy in a positive way. Most likely, they are enjoying the moment. Liken this to your personal work or life experiences. Can you remember a time when you were in a good rhythm or recognized it for the first time?

Getting My Attention

I recall one of my first jobs out of college, where I worked in a clerical position. I observed that, come 4:45PM, everyone methodically cleaned their desk and sat staring at the clock for it to hit 5:00PM – at which time they literally bolted for the door. The longest 15 minutes of the day! Ok- we all do what we have to do sometimes, but this was not for me. I left after just 9 months for something much more fulfilling. Reflecting on this years later, I realized that I was looking for my work life to have a rhythm. I defined that as doing something for a purpose so I would not be bored or drift (yes the pay served a purpose but that didn’t mean I wouldn’t get bored or drift).   Like I said – we all do what we have to do at times, but at that particular time, I knew something had to change and I was in control.

What Does this Feel Like?

What should being in a rhythm feel like? I suggest that it’s enjoying something so much that the energy you expend flows in a natural way with a very fulfilling result. Think about the pitcher who has found the areas of the strike zone that the batter has trouble with, or the basketball player who is knocking down 3 pointers. Think about times when you are enjoying yourself – how do you feel inside? When you are in a rhythm, you are on “automatic” and not noticing how time is passing by. You likely feel at peace with yourself and with what you are doing.

A few months ago I met Larry, a 52 year-old tour director, who in his early work years had jobs where he literally couldn’t wait for the day to end. He was bored, found himself drifting and easily noticed the slow ticking of the clock as the work-day wore on.   At the age of 30, he decided to make a change and sought the type of work that he was passionate about. He liked being outdoors, talking to people and most of all learning about and experiencing the beauty of the world. He decided that he wanted to help others experience the same feelings. Today, some 20 years later, he is conducting tours in various parts of the world where he exerts a high level of energy but is not bored or drifting. Larry only looks at the clock nowadays because he has to keep his tour on a schedule. Otherwise, he hardly notices how the day passes by….he had found his rhythm.

Recognizing Lack of “Rhythm”

Retirement life is a time when we can easily lose our rhythm.   Ok- so we don’t have to go to work anymore, but what happens when we start really noticing the clock everyday? Doing things we don’t like to do? Watching too much TV? Sleeping too much? Not having a purpose anymore? In past blogs, I wrote about the importance of having a vision and purpose for your retirement complete with meaningful activities.   This gives our retirement life structure and helps us master time.  Without these things we risk drifting, becoming bored and ultimately looking at the clock- or worse yet, doing things just to make time go by. Time is then controlling us vs the other way around.   When time controls us – it can make us anxious. When we master time and spend it in a fulfilling way, we will likely still notice it – but it can make us more appreciative.

Why do people lose their retirement rhythm? Perhaps at this time of their lives, they are now more responsible for their own time, than they were at any other point in their lives.  This is actually a great blessing as they are also freer to choose to do what they want to do. It is a great opportunity for retirees to create their own rhythm. Like the baseball player – define your strike zone. Like the basketball player – focus on your shot. And, like Larry, define what gives your day purpose so you never have to hope for it to end….

How have you defined what retirement rhythm means to you?

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