A comment left on the blog sometime last year included a phrase I liked: "being plan-less versus being clue-less." After my decision to make a dramatic change in our summer plans, the time seemed right to expand on this phrase.
Retirement, and the Satisfying Journey that can come from it, requires planning...it doesn't just happen. Financial considerations, maintaining your health to the best of your ability, strengthening meaningful relationships, and developing your interests and passions are part of a successful retirement plan.
But, as I have learned time and time again, plans made during this phase of life will change, sometimes dramatically. Where you live, what you think you may be doing with your time, how well your investments and financial decisions are working-all of these are going to need adjustment. That means you must be continuously flexible. What made sense last week may need to be discarded today.
As these periods of adjustment become reality, our natural tendency is to rush to put together a new plan, a new calendar, a new approach to "fix" the problem. Being without a clear-cut way forward can make us uneasy. So, before we have taken the time to really decide what would be best for us at this point in our journey, we cobble together something so we are not plan-less.
I think the person who left the comment that prompted this post had a different thought: being plan-less for awhile is OK, in fact, preferable to a plan that isn't best for us. Being plan-less is a necessary break in our relentless march forward that gives us breathing space. Maybe what we really need is time to simply be alive, to be with loved ones, to be quiet. Maybe we can't look forward with any accuracy until we look around first.
So, how is that different from being clue-less? If we don't really have answers to the questions that we have, are we lost? Have we fallen into the retirement trap of just drifting through a day with no direction and no goals?
I suggest there is a very important difference. Being clue-less means your life is left to the control of external events and the actions of others. You drift from good to bad, happy to sad, satisfied to frustrated with little or no control. Your financial well-being is left to chance: "Oh, it will all work out. They will figure something out." Your relationships are "good enough. After all, all marriages hit rough patches." Your feelings of self worth and productivity are no big deal: "retirement is my time to do nothing if I feel like it. I proved myself at work. Now, I just want to sit and be left alone."
To me, being plan-less means you are between things. Even if you don't plan to the degree that things are written down on a to-do list, and have goals that stretch into infinity, you have things you want to accomplish. You are not content to spend this phase of your life drifting which ever way the wind decides to blow you. Right now you are reassessing. You are exploring your options. You are deciding where you would like to go next.
In that sense being plan-less is healthy and necessary. Being clue-less is neither. It is turning over this part of your life to chance and the will of others. And, that is not the recipe for a satisfying journey.