In their Book of Joy the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu distinguish between Joy and Happiness – where happiness comes from our external environment, and joy comes from within.
Retirement requires that we find our joy. As we grow old, our external environment conspires against our happiness as we lose the characteristics that defined us in our youth, but our joy is entirely within our control. How we view the world and how we interact with the world is our choice to make.
Right at the outset, let’s get one thing out of the way – retirement is not just about the money! Yes it is important to prepare financially, a good pension plan may bring us happiness, but it will not bring us joy. The trouble with money is that is relative –if I’ve got more than you I’m happy. If I’ve got less, I’m unhappy.
So where do we find our joy?
In a sense of meaning and purpose; our retirement could last for 30 years, a 1/3 of our life. So, what’s going to get us out of bed every day for those 30 years – what do we care deeply about and how can we continue to contribute to the wellbeing of others?
In our health; not just our physical health (that too) but in our mental, social, emotional and spiritual health. In our ability to do the things we enjoy, in our ability to connect with others, in our humility and in our ability to be at peace with ourself.
In our free time; our time to do the things we enjoy, the time to just BE! The time to be grateful for the life we have led, for the hardships that taught us, for the good times that rewarded us.
In being of service to others; in our generosity of spirit and in our compassion for the needs of others.
In our sense of community; in our friendships and in the laughter of memories shared and created.
In our attitude to life; to growing old, to death and in our acceptance that our body will become frail and our mind less focused on the here-and-now.
In our forgiveness; of ourselves and of others.
In our awareness of the emotional journey we are taking; as the pace of our life slows down we will be assailed by regrets, by “what ifs” by “if onlys”. But we will also be able to re-live the precious moments, the moments that took our breath away, the moments that made us “shiver with anticipation”. We will have the joy of perspective.
In our preparation; of when to retire, how we retire and how we grow old. The very act of preparation brings us joy because it is in that preparation that we come to appreciate the good that has been, and is still to come. And of course, in that preparation, we increase the likelihood of creating the retirement we desire.
All this being said, we tend not to prepare. It’s one thing preparing for that 2 week holiday or for a family celebration, but preparing for a major life change is something else. We have to step into the unknown, into the world of possibility, into a period of time that might last for 1 year or 30 years.
There is no guarantee that our retirement will go the way we prepare for it, but it is in the preparation that we come to know who we are, we come to recognise our strengths and we come to appreciate the resilience we developed throughout our younger years. And in our older years we are going to need that resilience if we are going to live our joy.
If you would like to find your Joy, contact firstname.lastname@example.org and start a conversation.