Few of us take the time to stop and think about what retirement actually is, let alone what it means to us personally.  If we did, we would realize that it is neither a permanent vacation nor an event that is natural because of age.  In fact, retiring at the age of 65 was formalized as a result of federal regulations introduced to move older persons out of the work force when jobs were scarce.  The Social Security Act of 1935 and the policies of organizations based on this law are the only reasons that people today have been expected to retire on or before their sixty-fifth birthday.  It seems time to retire the word retire and the expected retirement age.  Retiring retirement could have far-reaching effects if it were replaced by the word repacking.

As a writer, coach, speaker and adventure guide, I often talk with people who are thinking about retirement but do not want to bring their lives to a grinding halt.  Retiring is not what they want, instead they want to repack their bags — unpack some things and add others– to lighten their loads for the rest of their lives.

Repacking means asking the right questions, rather than offering the wrong answers.  Questions as simple and poignant as, “Where am I going?”  “What do I need for this journey?”  “Why the #@%!  am I carrying all this?”   “Who am I traveling with?”  can present a ticket to passion and purpose, those vital qualities so easily lost in “retirement”.  It takes courage to look at what we’re carrying and even more courage to consider leaving some of our baggage behind.  It’s much easier to just live with what we have, secretly longing for a new life.

The End of Retirement As We Know It

As a seasoned explorer of both outer and inner wilderness, I advise people to learn to “discover”.  Every culture celebrates the explorer, the hero who confronts the unknown and returns with stories to enrich the community.  In the last third of our lives, the repacking process takes on new significance.  It brings us to fundamental reconnecting with our true purpose and the opportunity to deepen our life adventure.  When we repack, we take time to survey our life-landscape and lighten our load so we can get where we want to go.

Retiring doen’t mean we have to retire from the “real world”.  Our lives can change radically without having to change everything in our lives.  We don’t have to solve the world’s problems or even all our own.  The point is, we are the mapmakers of or our lives in the last third.  We can fill our bags with what we want.  We can take our time getting where we want to go.  And when we get there, we can stay as long as we like.

The second article in a series  from the “ON PURPOSE” newsletter.  A journal about taking charge of your life/work by Richard J. Leider 

You may also enjoy reading the other articles in this series:    “Let’s Retire the Word Retire”, “The End of Retirement As We Know It” and “Welcome to the Post-Retirement Era”.

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