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Re-Imagining Retirement: Strategies To Help Re-Energize Your Life

Aug 22, 2008
When we speak about retirement, we usually refer, consciously or not, to a period of withdrawal. This may be tinged in Technicolor, with images of grandchildren, travel, and other things we dreamed of but didn't have time for during our employment phase, but rarely does the concept include commitment, leveraging our personal resources to impact a world view, or connecting to our community in a more profound way than had previously been envisaged. So, when Jimmy Carter, or George Soros or even Bill Gates demonstrate the impact of wisdom and leverage, we respond to their challenge as a product of prestige (Carter) or money (Gates and Soros). Rarely does it occur to any of us that their retirement world view is an extension of their working life.

Let's explore the subconscious root of our concept of retirement. For many of us, our internal sense of personal energy is connected to a mechanistic idea of the universe. The medieval world saw God as the great clockmaker who wound the universe into action and therefore the world and our actions within were predetermined. This was a powerful image and one which persisted in science well into the 20th century. But the experimentation of one man, Albert Einstein, changed the basic scientific face of this belief system forever. He demonstrated that energy creates energy, that the universe was not mechanical but self-energizing. And that is the most important scientific concept inherited by the 21st century.

But what does that have to do with retirement, and how does science, or nuclear fission or the clockmaker God impact your retirement? Well the simple answer is that how we see retirement and our associations to it are, in part, a response to whether we see our lives as mechanistic (i.e. slowly running out of energy, which includes withdrawal, a narrowing of options and a preordained set of options) or whether we see it as an opportunity to leverage and expand the sum total of everything we have learned and earned up to this moment in our lives

This second option, seeing ourselves as a resource to the world, is psychologically challenging and possibly even frightening. We might associate this to a responsibility that Jimmy Carter or Bill Gates might take on, but not us. But the other option is to think of yourself, your past, and your passions as a moment of assessment: how do you want to be remembered? What are your connections to the world at this phase of your life? Will your legacy focus inward, to family, travel, pleasure, or outward to your community, your country or even to the world at large?

The challenge of this last option, to see ourselves as people at the peak of our wisdom and capacity, carries with it both great opportunity and corresponding responsibility. My interest is to allow us to acknowledge our debt to past concepts, including the mechanical universe and all the limitations that implies, and to encourage choice of another kind. By doing so, we can re-imagine a retirement in which we can potentially enhance and leverage our accumulated resources and operate from that freedom. And in that vision, freed from the constraints of mechanical fatigue, we recognize the renewable source of our own energy, building upon a lifetime of thought and experience, an accumulation of matter ready to create new matter.
About the Author
John Trauth is co-author of "Your Retirement, Your Way" (McGraw-Hill, 2007), a step-by-step curriculum which explains the secrets for happiness in retirement and helps readers prepare for the psychological, strategic and financial aspects of this major life transition. Learn more about this book and take the free "retirement readiness quiz" at http://www.YourRetirementYourWay.com.
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