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Is the Definition of Retirement Holding You Back? Why Not Write Your Own?

By Randall Hartman August 08, 2019 Mindset

An increasing number of Baby Boomers have grown reluctant to use the word retirement. And, why not? After all, we shouldn’t allow the dictionary to determine what our post-career years look like.

It’s time to write our own definition of retirement.

Have you ever looked up the definition of retirement? It is a humbling experience. The site uses phrases like this:

The act of retiring, withdrawing.

Removing of something from service or use.

Orderly withdrawal of a military force.

Seclusion from the world.

The act of going away or retreating.

The implications are clear. According to the formal definition of retirement, it is the time to go away and be removed from service.

Retirement, according to this definition, is the time to become secluded from the world. It’s the stage in life where you have made your contribution to society.

My mind pictures a well-meaning pat on the head as if to provide comfort as I stumble off into obscurity.

There’s Something Seriously Wrong with Our Definition of Retirement

One of the things I’m hearing from my Baby Boomer friends is the growing fear of becoming a nobody. Based on the current definition of retirement, the concern is legitimate. The thought of becoming obscure, as the rest of the world marches onward, is troubling.

But, only those who fall in lock-step with the current view of retirement need to be afraid. Those who believe the dictionary’s definition of retirement will begin to shape his or her life accordingly. They will drop out of the workforce and lose contact with coworkers. They will spend more time in the house watching reruns of black and white TV shows. Their circle of friends will begin to shrink.

Before they even realize it, they are living out the definition of retirement. And, instead of those years being the golden years, they’ve become the tarnished years.

Dare to Define Retirement in Your Own Way

It’s time to stop allowing your life to be defined by others.

To kick dirt in the face of the current view of retirement, you need to be willing to be weird. You must dare to be different.

Stop allowing the dictionary to define what this chapter of your life must look like. I’ve written about this idea of becoming remarkable by moving to the fringe on my website. If you are interested you can read about it here.

Like everything else of value, it will take effort. But you can make these years the best years of your life. The key is for you to step up and take charge.

To get started, why not write your own definition of retirement? Make a list of what you want out of this life chapter. Examine the list and use the items to write what your dream retirement looks like. Be bold. Forget about the definition of retirement and capture what you want out of life.

Keep experimenting with ideas until you are satisfied with your efforts. Take those ideas and shape them into a brief definition of retirement. This is your definition.

Do you see what you’ve done? You’ve created your own marching orders to follow as you live this chapter of life. You may not be able to achieve the lofty status of everything in your definition. But if you try hard, your life will improve and experience an increase in happiness. That’s far better than sinking into obscurity.

Together we can rewrite the dictionary!

What is your personal definition of retirement? Please share your definition as a way of declaring freedom from the debilitating dictionary definition of retirement. Your definition will improve your life and inspire others. 

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The Author

Dr. Randall Hartman, D.Min., M.Div., is a Baby Boomer who writes at about the ReFIRE reinvention process. After successfully serving for 30 years as a minister he uses his writing, speaking, and coaching skills to help people transition into their most vibrant and meaningful years. Sign up for Randall's newsletter to learn how to make the rest of your life the best.

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