Here we are in our 60s, finally done with raising a family, if we chose to do that, and perhaps enjoying grandchildren now. We are done with the responsibilities of a professional life… or at least one that we must pursue to provide for ourselves and family and build our professional identity.
It is time to kick back, have fun, and relax. We can sleep in if we want or read for an entire afternoon. Some of us must augment our retirement income, but relative to most of the world we enjoy many privileges of the good life. This is the glorious time we have waited for all these years. We have earned our comfort.
The reality is that this phase of life in the 21st century can last 20-30 years. Might there be more to experience than comfort? When I talk with women about what they desire to create during this era, I often (but not always) hear that they don’t want any more obligations, including creating anything that might be one. Well, after the intensity of the work and family responsibilities we have carried, that certainly is reasonable.
Let’s unpack what obligation means. To be obliged is to be bound by a promise or duty. Most of the obligations we have experienced in life relate to our duty to our families and work and/or volunteering. What if we focused on the “promise” side of obligation?
Our phase of life presents us with the most freedom ever to bring meaning into our lives. What if you lived the rest of your life with a promise to yourself to live it fully? To be and do everything you are here for?
Doing this feels very different from an obligation based on duty. The obligation of promise is entirely self-authorized. If it does not help you feel more vital and happy, then adjust your choice.
For example, when I first retired, I decided to earn my extra money by continuing to teach. In other words, I didn’t let go of my duty-based form of obligation. My energy depleted and retired life seemed bleak.
Once I learned to listen to myself, I discovered a desire for creativity and a different use of my talents. I decided to lead with what my heart counseled and allow myself to serve in ways that bring me joy.
What does your heart counsel? Notice what you desire.
We each have choices about what we consider to be the meaning of our lives. We have a choice about how to live. There is no right answer; the personal answer is certainly not found in the advice of society, the media, or friends. The answer is yours.
One place to turn is to notice your desires. What do you desire more of? Perhaps it is more calm, fulfillment, health, creativity, friends, love, meaning, or adventure. Your desires and areas of dissatisfaction are messages from your life energy to you. Follow those desires to flourish in our phase of life.
It might be that the rewards of flourishing outweigh any moments when we may not be as comfortable as if we did not pursue what we desire. Or, perhaps we relish the daily ease to choose what feels most pleasant and are content in that lifestyle.
The point is to be fully and thoughtfully responsible for the life we create in our 60s, 70s, 80s and beyond. Make your choice mindfully given what is most important to you, rather than avoiding discomfort.
In the ideal, if I asked you, “What do you want to create in your life?”, your response is based on what will be most meaningful in your life, rather than about avoiding feeling obligated.
How do you manage contentment with flourishing? Is reframing obligation as a promise to your life, rather than a duty, helpful?