Earlier this summer I modified the blog's title by changing the line that follows Satisfying Retirement to A Lifestyle You Choose. I thought that qualifier was a good fit for the overall message of this blog.
Frankly, I thought I'd get a grumble of disagreement from a few readers. A Lifestyle You Choose could be interpreted to mean if you have problems and disappointments it is likely your fault. A satisfying retirement is there if you work hard enough. No feedback means no one noticed the change (not good) or everyone agrees with the statement (good, but unlikely).
Now that I have been back from my summer sabbatical for several weeks, I thought maybe I'd take the opportunity to explain what I mean and why I think it fits the blog's title.
A Lifestyle You Choose most assuredly does not mean you make your own luck. It does not mean to make a decision and everything will fall into place. Any financial, relational, health, or time management concerns will vanish once you choose the right lifestyle.
What it does mean is simply this: you choose to make whatever situation you find yourself either satisfying or unsatisfying. Examples? Sure:
* Your financial situation isn't what you envisioned it to be when you imagined your retirement years. You thought you would have more in the bank, more productive investments, a house that would be a solid source of equity for the future.
* A few minor health issues have become major potholes in the road of your life. For someone who rarely needed a doctor, hadn't seen the inside of a hospital, and managed to avoid even the common cold, you now find yourself dealing with limitations, obstacles, and pains. You have more doctors than friends and you are all too familiar with our health care system.
* Your spouse or significant other has made it clear he or she now expects more from you than has been "good enough" to now: more involvement, more support, more understanding.
* Your plan to live in Europe or the South Pacific for a few years never happened. Now, you feel lucky to get out of town for a long weekend every now and then.
I could continue, but you get the idea. Life has not treated you with all the respect you feel you deserve. Your retirement years are not what you had planned. Your satisfying retirement is a disappointment. Your are unsatisfied.
Certainly, living that way is an option. We are free to form an impression of our life and live in a way that makes it a reality.
But, why? Just as you can choose to be unsatisfied with your lot in life, you can choose to live very differently. You can look at the vast majority of the people in the rest of the world and realize you are blessed beyond belief.
No matter what health issues are making life unpleasant or even painful and difficult, I'm pretty sure there are others who would trade places with you in a flash.
No matter how much you have had to scale back your plans because of your finances, you are in the top 5% of the world's population in terms of your monetary situation. You may have lost your home and live in a small apartment. But, 1.8 billion people around the world live in substandard housing...that means no running water, no sanitary facilities, multiple people crowded into a small space, no hot water, no electricity. Your apartment would look like a palace to them.
I am not talking about a dose of positive thinking. This is not a post about wearing rose colored glasses. It is about how we will respond to what live throws at us.
We can choose to feel defeated or even beaten down. We can live as if life has treated us unfairly. We can feel cheated by fate. We can live a lifestyle during our retirement that is unhappy and unsatisfied.
Or, we can choose to look honestly at what life has given and taken away from us and decide there is nothing to be gained by shaking our fist at the heavens. We can decide to make the most of what we have, not what we don't. We can adjust our expectations to better match reality.
We can choose an approach to life that makes our retirement years satisfying. The past can't be changed, the future can't be predicted. The only thing we can control with even the slightest bit of certainty is the here and now.
Why choose to experience these moments that will never come again with anything less than an attitude that expresses gratitude and satisfaction?
This take on life is why I modified the blog title. I firmly believe that my satisfying retirement is a lifestyle that I have chosen to embrace and accept, however different it is from what I had planned and whatever lies ahead.