Is Contentment A Necessary Ingredient In A Successful Retirement?

Editors note: sorry we were a little delayed in publishing this week’s blog. Busy with presentations and a small family medical emergency caused  the delay. All is good and we will be back on schedule next week.

Immediately after my mother’s funeral I went on my annual fishing trip to The George. There isn’t much to do there other than fish, sleep and think about things. I ended up spending most of the trip thinking about my mother and the answer I had given to the funeral director about what my mother.The funeral director asked about what my mother liked to do and her hobbies.  For background my mother lived a simple life nurturing the relationships with her family and friends, that was what made her happy. I guess you could say it was her one and only hobby. She never felt the need to go out and run a marathon, or travel the world, she was content with the simple things, friends and family. My mother showed me that You don’t need much in order to be happy just the basics, food on the table, a roof over your head and some level of financial security. When you have these things there isn’t much to complain about.

Some people may feel limited by a perceived lack of financial security, however if your needs and lifestyle are modest you are ok. If you are not chasing anything more or anything different, your financial requirements can be basic. Some people will feel that they want more, that something is missing, in reality with food, shelter, family, and friends we should be pretty happy. You need to know what happiness means to you I focused a lot on the word “contentment” during my week on the George because it’s something that’s missing in my own life.

Everyone has a different combination of needs/values which are unique to them, stress comes from the frustration people feel when they are living a life that is ‘out of wack” with their values. Having a good understanding of your values is the key to having a successful VL. If you know what makes you happy, what fulfils and satisfies you and more importantly what frustrates and dissatisfies you, you will know what you need to do in order to be happy. When you can match what you do daily with your values life is pretty good. Good work makes you feel good. The work that I have created for myself gives me energy, and makes me happy. It really doesn’t feel like work to me because it is work that I want to do and that is a big difference. I’m not worried about making a lot of money, the reward is in the work. It’s my way of contributing, staying involved and remaining relevant.

When you get it right you will learn that great pleasure is derived from working hard at something you’re passionate about. My work gives me the autonomy and flexibility that I’ve always craved. I have the financial wherewithal to ditch my various projects and retreat to the couch, but why I’m having way too much fun. When you satisfy your values and needs through work, life is pretty good.

Most of my “working” life I always believed that happiness would appear around the next corner, the next big promotion, paying off the mortgage, getting the kids through school, achieving financial independence,  leaving my bank job, retiring,  but I did not find happiness. Sure, I enjoyed bursts of happiness during my life, but it was always fleeting, never remaining long. I never felt the long term contentment that I thought I should be experiencing. I lived like an addict always needing the next fix.  I now know I need continual happiness hits,  and those come by satisfying my values on a regular basis. Doing things like helping people, receiving a thank you gives me an emotional payoff, which is much more important than just making money.

I’ve learned that my values won’t allow me to be content and retire in the traditional sense because I’m just not wired that way. In order for me to be happy I need to be relevant, and achieve some level of success. I need to help people. I crave for the next challenge, establish another goal to go after in line with my values or I won’t be truly content. I learned that about myself, and while at the George I wondered, if not being content was a blessing or a curse? Truth be told, I wish I could learn to be content like my mother, but I can’t deny my values this is who I am. One day though when I no longer have the energy and health to travel, fish and give seminars it will finally be time for me to retire. Hopefully that won’t be for a long, long time!

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2 thoughts on “Is Contentment A Necessary Ingredient In A Successful Retirement?

  1. Vineca Gray Reply

    Thank you for your thoughts here. My mother also lived a simple life, and I loved her benevolence. Like yourself, I am constantly on the go, and it is only recently that I’ve started to smell the coffee. Indeed the prospect of retiring is daunting, I cannot imagine becoming a home body. Instead I look forward to contributing to the community long into my 70’s and 80’s. In my late 50’s, I am starting to wrap my head around this, but not too much so, as the moment is what really matters, right? (Ah, that wisdom is starting to kick in.)

    • Mike Drak Post authorReply

      Thank you for your note Vineca. We need to look at retirement the right way. It is our opportunity instead of merely staying alive to create and contribute and I see you are already thinking about what form that will take for you. Gerry and I are spending a lot of time conducting free seminars at the libraries helping strangers become more happier, healthier and safer. Doing that makes us feel good and as a result we feel more than simply alive if you know what I mean. You will get there and when you do you will find that you are living at a higher level the key is to keep doing it for as long as you can.

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