Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Retirement or redirection?

Over the past few years I have been asked to say a few words at various friends’ retirements. Personally I think the word is dated as I have observed that these ‘retired’ people are now busier and happier than ever.

This week I have the privilege again, this time for the principal of the school that I was the previous principal. I didn’t actually retire from this position but left early to reinvent myself as a independent educational adviser; and now I feel the need for a further self invention!

I think I was influenced by the example of my own father who voluntary gave up a more important job to go back to what he would rather be doing – and he kept up doing what he liked until he could no longer do it.

My advice would be to make the change early as possible rather than waiting for the right time. Charles Handy, the business philosopher, writes that life is divided in quarters. The first 25 years is all about getting qualifications for a job, the second 25, working hard to develop financial security for yourself and your family, and the third 25 years the opportunity to let go of such demanding responsibilities and reinvent yourself. The rest of your life is I guess a bonus. When it comes to living to a ripe old age there is nothing, it seems, better than keeping mind and body active. Learning, as they say, is for life.

In this ‘third age’ all sorts of opportunities exist to explore ranging from semi employment to learning new, or developing long forgotten, interests. Employment of course doesn’t have to mean paid work but for some it does, but doing something they really want to do. Many other people busy themselves helping by: others in voluntary organizations; taking up new learning challenges; while others go on ‘learning’ holidays.

This ‘downshifting’, as it has been called, appeals too the young as well who do not want to be tied to a job like their parents. Young people today are more inclined to have the confidence and skills to make use of their talents to suit themselves, rather than having one job for life.

The tradeoff of lack of money, status, or security, for this ‘downshifting’ is spiritual replenishment, or doing something felt to be worthwhile or creative. Money it seems is no longer everything; quality of life is just as important.

Those who have cracked the ‘retirement thing’ can be seen as pioneers leading the way into valuing the idea of life long learning.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Let's get rid of the word retirement - never had so much fun in my life!