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Retirement: Feeling Fulfilled Is a Personal Path

A month ago I had a post about working after retirement.  Then, there was one about volunteering. There have been posts about financial investing after retirement, moving, developing your passions....kind of a laundry list of topics that retirees have said are important.

But, still stuck in my mind was a comment from earlier in the summer from a reader that took me to task for what may have been a bit of a contrarian view. He wrote that being busy, traveling, volunteering, or engaging with others isn't really the only way to took at retirement. His point was that not everyone wants to do those things to feel fulfilled. Not every satisfying retirement journey involves all sorts of activities. 

His comment wasn't health-related. It was not that he can't do these things, it's that he chooses not to. His view is that he worked hard all his life to get to a point where he could stop, disengage, unconnect. Being alone with his thoughts, reading when he wanted to, sitting on a park bench, watching TV that entertained him...whatever made him happy was how he chooses to go through his retirement journey.

While I would not be happy that way, if it were the same every day,  that doesn't make me right and him wrong. It makes us different. Fulfillment is a very personal path, and in retirement even more so. Most of the distractions that come with work and extra responsibilities are gone. The path forward is of your making.

I have some close friends who preach the importance of mindfulness. Focusing on what is happening in the present and being very aware of your surroundings is the core of this way of living. While not necessary, meditation or yoga are often cited as examples of engaging in mindfulness. Trying to quiet and focus our minds on the now is the goal. I assume this approach would urge a simpler lifestyle, one that isn't packed with activities and commitments.

Another path to retirement fulfillment could be the concept of minimalism. This doesn't have to mean minimal belongings and living in a tiny house, though it could. At its heart, minimalism requires each possession we have and each life decision we make work to improve how we define a quality life. We attempt to minimize distractions caused by things and maintaining those things. 

Some of my friends are snowbirds. Others travel more than I would want, but that choice satisfies them. Another couple just fulfilled a twenty year dream to live within sight of the ocean. I know some folks who are fighting constant health problems. They are happy to make it through each day without a doctor's appointment and be able to function.

The bottom line is the fellow who left the comment was right: our fulfillment is something each of us sees through a different lens. The only person we should judge in this regard is ourselves. If we are feeling good about our retirement, happy with where we are, and not hurting others, that should be enough. If that means being involved, active, and busy, then great. If it means stepping back from the world and all its noise, then OK.

How do you feel? How much activity and involvement do you require to feel satisfied? Has that changed over the years? Does a porch swing and a good book sound just about perfect nowadays?


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