While I was still working and beginning to contemplate early retirement, I pictured a life blissfully free of responsibilities, deadlines or accountabilities. I anticipated laying in bed in the morning thinking about what I was going to do that day. Maybe I would just lay around the house, read a book, do a crossword puzzle, go for a walk, putter in the shop.
When I actually did retire, that “blissfully free” lifestyle kicked in and worked for maybe about three days. Then I began to get itchy, to become uncomfortable with all that comfort. I remembered that a long time ago, a wise man told me that we each had a unique band of stress levels that we were comfortable with. If our environment tried to impose higher stress levels than we were comfortable with, we would seek creative ways to shed some of that excess stress. Perhaps less well recognized is that if our environment produces stress below our minimum comfort level, we will find a creative way to generate more stress. I was well aware of this phenomenon in my work life but I guess I must of thought that it would go into retirement as I went into retirement.
So after those first few days, I found myself, almost subconsciously, looking for ways to up that stress level a bit. I’d lay in bed and think about what it was that I wanted to accomplish that day or what problem I wanted to solve. In other words I put some pressure on myself, and it felt good. It felt good because it put me back operating in that stress level that energized my job before I retired. But now, instead of managing stress levels relative to operating pulp and paper businesses, I was managing stress levels relative to wooden boat building and volunteer work. But the result was the same, I was back in my comfort zone and feeling some sort of contribution to the world as a whole.
So, for me anyway, here is a piece of learning that will be woven throughout a number of our future blog entries. Upon retirement our venue may change, our environment may change, the arena in which we work may change; but our basic values and drivers do not change.
Happy, successful and rewarding retirements understand and respect this observation.
As The Eagles said in that great song, “Lyin’ Eyes”: “Ain’t it funny how your new life didn’t change things. You’re still the same old girl you used to be.”
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