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Planning for retirement? You’ll need more than a vision for a great retirement. Start by honing your version of the good life. And you don’t need to wait until you retire. Start living your version of the good life now. Emily Austin, Professor of Philosophy at Wake Forest, shares her insights on what we can learn from Ancient Greek philosopher Epictetus about living with pleasure today, while planning prudently for the future. Her book poses the question: If we want happiness and pleasure so much, then why aren’t we good at getting it yet? Get smarter on how you can prepare to retire happy and live with more joy now with this discussion of Epicurean philosophy.
Emily Austin joins us from North Carolina.
Emily A. Austin is Professor of Philosophy at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, NC. Her scholarly work focuses on Ancient Greek theories of complex emotions, including the fear of death, grief, patriotism, and comedic malice. Austin grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas, and earned her doctorate from Washington University in St. Louis in 2009.
In Living for Pleasure: An Epicurean Guide to Life, Emily Austin offers a lively, jargon-free tour of Epicurean strategies for diminishing anxiety, achieving satisfaction, and relishing joys.
For More on Emily Austin, PhD
Living for Pleasure: An Epicurean Guide to Life (Guides to the Good Life Series)
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On Lessons from Ancient Greek Philosophy & The Good Life
“…I chose to write the book because I think ancient philosophy has stuff to offer people. And I think Epicureanism, in particular, hasn’t received the attention it deserves – and it has a lot going for it. But one of the things about Ancient Greek philosophy is the reason people go back to it is that their central question was happiness. What is the good life? And Epicurus himself said philosophy is worthless unless it helps people live a good life. All this other stuff is useless unless it quiets the mind. And so, it’s a timeless question and they have timeless answers. Sometimes it’s just comforting to know that the answers are old. But they were also very counter-cultural. They really liked to shake things up. Greek philosophers were not just your normal people. They challenged people. And I think that even if you end up deciding, Oh, this isn’t for me, they’re asking such important questions about living that you have to figure out the answers. And so I think they’re challenging the standard narratives – and people need that. They need to be kind of shaken up even if they think, Oh, that’s not for me.”
On Not Delaying Joy
“And Epictetus is often associated with this phrase, Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die. And though he never said that, he does say why delay joy? We only get one life. And so even if you don’t have a lot of time for joy now, it’s really important to pursue it now and to get good at it. Whether that’s in very small amounts of time or, or larger amounts of time, I think some people who kind of take their retirement as they go in a certain way and that has a little bit to do with what they take to be the good life. A lot of the joy we find is in simple things in everyday activities, in being with one another. And it doesn’t take anything flashier. It doesn’t really cost a lot of money. And so I think he would focus on joy now and practicing living. Don’t delay it, because we only have one life. But he also is a big fan of prudence and long-term planning. So, I think that he actually is kind of an ideal philosopher for thinking about how to live well now and live well in the future.”
On Tranquility, Joy & Anxiety
“So he thinks that, in order to really experience joy, we need a kind of bedrock tranquility, a kind of security, and that security includes a kind of material security. So unlike his competitors, the Stoics, he thought, No, we really do need money and food and and friends – and we need an understanding of the world. And so there are these things we need and that gives us this bedrock security. It’s kind of a starting base for the other things. And we often get distracted from meeting those needs, and that’s a source of a lot of our anxiety. And once we have those needs met and we have them met confidently, then we can pursue all of these other assorted joys that give our lives meaning. And those joys won’t give us anxiety. So in some sense, he thinks you should clear out the background noise of anxiety and you get a kind of tranquility. But that tranquility opens up all of these opportunities for joy. So start with the tranquility and then pursue the things that give you life satisfaction and memories…”
About Retirement Wisdom
Retirement is about so much more than money.
Why delay your joy? Start living well now and practice for your next phase of life after you graduate from full-time work.
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About Your Podcast Host
Joe Casey is an executive coach who also helps people design their next life after their primary career. He created his own next chapter after a twenty-six-year career at Merrill Lynch, where he was Senior Vice President and Head of HR for Global Markets & Investment Banking.
He’s the author of Win the Retirement Game: How to Outsmart the 9 Forces Trying to Steal Your Joy.