As we enter the retirement years, we have the opportunity to look back on the life we have lived to this point. We are the sum total of those years lived and all that we have accomplished during that time. We cannot change the past any more than we can change the person who looks back at us in the mirror each morning. As we reflect on the last forty or fifty years, did we grow up to be the person we wanted to be?
Career goals. Perhaps your earliest aspirations were to be a fireman or astronaut. Very few of us ended up following that path. Some of us pursued worthwhile careers that excited us, while others pursued the mighty dollar, with little attention paid to what really excited us and gave us a purpose beyond our bank account.
Relationship success. Look back upon your relationships over the years. Did you generally treat others the way you would have liked to be treated? Of course, there are moments when we all were not perfect. When raising our children, did we do all we could to provide them with the support and encouragement they needed to help them grow into good people? The environment in which children grow up provides them with the foundation to weather whatever the world has to throw their way.
Health maintenance. Have you taken care of yourself physically and mentally by doing the right things to ensure good health and a positive attitude? Individual genetics certainly play a role in our well being, but we can do our part to pitch in. When you read about behaviors that should be avoided to maintain optimum health, is your conscious clear or are you guilty as charged?
Measuring happiness. Some of us have mainly positive memories, while others are weighted down by regrets. Has the life you have led been satisfying along the way? This is really the ultimate measure of your growth into the person you are today. If you can say that you are honestly happy with whom you are, then it is reasonable to claim you have become the person you wanted to be.
It’s not too late. As you enter your retirement life, will you be living the life you want to be living? This involves having prepared sufficiently for your financial needs and having interests and hobbies that will keep you engaged with life. Some people will be prepared to live the retirement they have always dreamed of, while others will need to settle for less.
If you are not happy with your life to this point, there is still time to change things. Whether by working a few years longer or reaching out to estranged family members, we have the ability to create the life we want to be living. Just don’t wait too long.
Dave Bernard is not yet retired but has begun his due diligence to plan for a fulfilling retirement. With a focus on the non-financial aspects of retiring, he shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement–Only the Beginning.