At 58 years of age, I confess that my career and business activities have been my major focus as I’ve worked alongside my husband to do my part to support the family, enjoy today, and save for tomorrow.

About a year ago, while eating breakfast on a cold and rainy day during what was supposed to be a sunshine-filled vacation, my husband asked me a confronting question.

What Would I Do with My Time If Work Wasn’t Such a Big Focus in My Life?

It’s one thing to know how much money you need to fund an abundant retirement.

That’s a question we’ve considered carefully since he works as a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ Professional. Doing the right thing by our money has always been a core value.

It’s another thing to know what you will do with your time when work isn’t your primary activity. That single question started me on a path to add new roles to my life for which I had not previously made time.

It’s a question you may want to ponder at least five years before retirement catches you by surprise.

Worthy Causes

Think back to all the invitations you’ve received to serve on non-profit boards, neighborhood associations, and other worthy causes.

Were you always too busy to say yes? Could now be a time to reconsider taking on one or more of those roles?

Exploring Passions

Is there a skill, talent, or passion you’ve put on the shelf for years that you’d like to revisit like an old friend? Could now be the time to dust off the sheet music for the piano, learn to swim, or join a local theater company to reignite your passion for performance?

Teaching Opportunities

Is now the time to start teaching at the local community college or university to mentor young people who can benefit from your wisdom and professional experience?

Building Relationships

Have you always felt too rushed to meet with friends for coffee, walk the dogs in the neighborhood, or participate in the local book club? Could now be the time to nurture those relationships that can serve as a treasured circle of support in this new stage in your life?

These are all questions I’ve asked and started to answer for myself, especially since my husband is nine years older than me. He’s likely to retire before I do. Figuring out how to navigate that as a couple is something we talk about more and more.

It Takes Courage to Step out of the Busy Zone

It’s not easy to be deliberate about creating a richer, more fulfilling life that gives your commitment to the world of work a more balanced role in the grand scheme of things.

Since pondering these questions, I have taken on a board position for my neighborhood association, joined a local Toastmasters group to refine and enhance my speaking and leadership skills, and devoted more of my time to give back to worthy causes that speak to my heart.

These are roles I can play for as long as I find them fulfilling, regardless of the role work plays in my life.

As I review my social media profiles every day, I learn about the health challenges, career upsets, and other life accidents that continue to visit the lives of the people in my extended circle of family and friends.

Now more than ever, I am present to the fact that life is what happens while we are making other plans.  

Waiting Longer to Work the Bucket List Doesn’t Feel Right Anymore

Do I still work hard as I run my business and aim high to do great things with it?

Absolutely!

I’m also very mindful that work is just one role that I play and not the only one. What we do with our time, where we live, and who we spend time with determine how happy we are – whether we’re retired or not.

The intersection of those things is where the seeds to lasting happiness take root to grow. Now is the time to tend to that garden.

One way to do that is to divide time into three buckets:

  • Fun – These are activities that bring joy for no other reason than we enjoy taking part.
  • Useful – These are tasks that need to be done to keep the house working, groceries in the fridge, laundry done, etc.
  • Important – These are activities we engage in that make the world a better place.

After all, there is only so much golf, tennis, working out, etc. a person can do.

Research shows that spending seven hours a week doing something important is a key to retirement fulfillment. It brings purpose. Spending more than seven hours a week doing something important makes it a job.

Consider how you would divide your time if work wasn’t such a big focus in your life.

Answering that question caused me to start paving a path to a purposeful, satisfying life of community, caring, and connection that will likely sustain and comfort me for many years to come, whether I work or not.

What would you do with your time if work wasn’t such a high priority? Please join the conversation and get inspired to take steps to get started today.

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