Posted by: drdata921 | November 8, 2013


“If you believe that achievement ends with retirement, you will slowly fade away. First of all, keeping the mind active is one way to prolong your life and to enjoy life to its fullest for as long as possible.”

Byron Pulsifer, End Of Achievement

In the spirit of the post last week concerning well-being, I have decided to repost a blog entry that I ran shortly after I started the Journey into Retirement blog. As I have scanned the various retirement blogs on WordPress, I frequently have run into concerns about what people will do on a day-to-day basis following retirement. After money, this is probably the most commonly expressed fear. After years in the workforce, having to be somewhere each day at a specific time, the question is how do you shift gears when it is over. The answer is “with a lot of effort.” However, think of the freedom you now have as you move to the next phase. Enjoy the post and please let me know your comments.

We all know about procrastination. Typically this is the tendency to put off undesirable tasks to the last moment. It is an attempt to avoid or to delay things that are painful, uninteresting or unpleasant. However, here is a version of procrastination that you might not have thought about. I call it “Would Have/Could Have” Syndrome or WHCHS (appropriately pronounced “Wishes”). WHCHS is the common practice of procrastinating on the good things. For example, I hear someone play the piano and get motivated to learn. However, I never seem to find the time – would have/could have been a piano player. Or, how about this: I could volunteer at a food pantry or humane shelter. Not only would this be a productive activity, but it would make me feel good about myself. However, I never seem to get around to it. We all want things in our lives, but we often don’t expend the effort to move in a positive direction. It is procrastination of the worst kind because it is fundamentally avoidance of pleasure. It is driven by laziness or just plain inertia, but it keeps us from doing the things that would make our lives much more enjoyable and fulfilling.

Recently, I finished reading a book entitled “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free” by Ernie Zelinski. This is a must read for anyone heading for retirement. It deals with the psychological and lifestyle issues you can face when you retire. One important theme of the book is that you can’t just let retirement happen. You need to prepare for it. If you don’t, you can easily fall into the trap of inactivity and what I have called WHCHS. I sleep until noon. Then I get up and watch some game shows, soaps, and situation comedies until bed time. I don’t think that anyone plans for this. It just happens. But, is it really what you had in mind when you contemplated retirement? No, you had great plans for all of the new and exciting things you were going to do when you finally had the time.

As we approach retirement, we all have our plans. For me, I want to write some books. I want to learn the piano. I want to volunteer at an animal shelter. However, WHCHS can easily take over and derail even the best of intentions. Mr. Zelinski points out in his book that the time to start working on these “wants” is not the day that you retire. You need to build momentum so that what you do on the first day of retirement is a continuation of things that you were doing before – sans the long work days, of course. He points out that sitting around watching television all day is the quickest road to an early grave. You are not contributing to anything to give you purpose – unless, of course, you can find purpose in “The Price is Right” or “The Family Feud.” You are not engaged in physical activities or mental challenges that will keep you fresh and sharp. You are not engaged socially to give you an emotional edge.

I have taken what he has said seriously. I have just completed my first book, on of all topics, retirement financial planning (see the Don’s Book Tab above). I am planning a second book because the first one was such a blast. I am looking into volunteer opportunities at local animal shelters. I have not yet gotten myself to sit down and practice the piano, but I am working on it. I am about three years from retirement, but I am actively planning for that magic day.

So, what should you do right now, TODAY to avoid WHCHS in your retirement:

• The first step is to make a list of the things that you want to do and the skills that you want to master. I’ll bet there are many things you would like to experience or learn; things that you can do now and things that will take you well into retirement to accomplish.

• Second, write out a plan for how you are going to get from where you are now to where you want to be. Put together a schedule that will detail when and how this will be accomplished. Make this plan specific, but be realistic about what you can do and the time it will take.

• Third, follow your plan and stay on the schedule. Make this a positive experience. If you “fall off the wagon,” don’t denigrate yourself. Get back on and continue with your quest.

• Finally, find little ways to reward yourself for your efforts and progress. For example, when I finished my book, I bought a nice bottle of Champagne. When I master my first song on the piano, I plan to treat myself to a movie.

You should take this seriously and find a cure for WHCHS. No one wants to look back on retirement and regret that they could have done so much more – things that they really wanted to do, but never got around to. Now is the time to begin that journey!


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