Let’s settle on stomach-turning and agree you are highly resistant to the idea you should work any longer than necessary – certainly not for the rest of your life.
You aren’t alone. When I suggest Post50 years are a time to plan how to extend a career arc, explore new work possibilities or get some entrepreneurial chops, people bristle and say:
- You have got to be kidding. No way do I want to work after I retire.
- When you tell me I need to keep working after 65 I don’t even want to listen to you, Barbara.
- I don’t need to work. I will have enough money.
It took me a while to understand the intense reaction against working after a traditional retirement age.
I have always enjoyed my work – except for one job as a sixteen-year-old sales person in women’s apparel at one of the Elder Beerman’s department stores in Dayton, Ohio.
Mr. Beerman, CEO, spotted me on one of his random walkabouts at the beginning of my summer season when there were no customers in the store. “Straighten those sweaters,” he said pointing to the perfect stacks I had just finished. “Always look busy,” Mr. B barked. “And the next time I see you, you will look busy.”
I hated that work more than any I would ever do.
If you work for this kind of jerk, are just worn out and tired of your job, chose work that has never given you any sense of satisfaction, or have lost zest for a chosen career, I get why you aren’t wild about the idea of working right up until your last breath.
Still, you’re going to want to work forever and I’ll bet you can’t wait until I tell you why.
So here we go.
What a word huh? The word, ‘fulfillment’ has had extraordinary clout in its short life of 237 years.
Fulfillment is living to realize one’s potentials and desires.
If you live on the edge of poverty or discrimination you’ll have a hard time achieving that goal. I doubt the ten-year old shoeshine boy in Quito’s Plaza Grande thinks about the promise of potential.
But that’s not your world, my internet friend.
You and I seek meaning in what we do and why we are here. Our work and careers are integral to creating full lives.
When we use our talents and knowledge, aim high and take chances we travel tributaries of consequence and significance to enrich us and others. Each endeavor is part of our life story.
Still, this idea of a life-enhancing career might seem like a luxury to many. If you’ve traded money for meaning in your career, well then you’re an easy mark for ‘unfulfilled.’ If you’ve spent your life doing work you hate, your energy is depleted so at the end of the day you may relate to your potential like the shoe shine boy.
Many Post50 individuals are still engaged in the search for fulfillment while others hardly know where to begin. The task is hard.
But given the gift of longevity and health it’s more important than at any other life stage to find ways to make the most of our talents and capabilities in work that matters – forever.
Life at eighty has as much to prize as at thirty.
The life crisis I see is of human potential sacrificed by individuals who choose traditional retirement. Work is an extraordinary platform to achieve and challenge one’s capabilities.
The consequences of not choosing work as an integral part of our daily life are ill-health and unhappiness. If that isn’t enough to convince us that throwing away work is neither self-enhancing nor smart, then face an even harder truth.
Failure to seek meaningful work is identity lost and a gamble on future wellbeing.
Wellbeing and Self-Identity: Currency of a Life That Matters
Not having work hurts.
- Work as the most important element of wellbeing.
Exploring the common elements of wellbeing that transcend countries and cultures, five statistical factors emerged as the universal elements of wellbeing in Gallup’s recent global study. Career Wellbeing, according to Gallup, is arguably the most essential of the five elements.
People with high Career Wellbeing – doing meaningful work – are more than twice as likely to be thriving in their lives overall.
I don’t know about you, but current research on what I can do to stay physically healthy informs me, broadens perspective and affects decisions about exercise and what I eat.
Likewise, discovery of the accumulating knowledge and research on longevity, work and wellbeing confirmed that eliminating work and career in my 60s was ill advised.
- Work as the core of identity.
Work provides income but also has major role in fostering self-esteem and is closely tied with our sense of being – of having personal identity. For many of us, other roles may be more important, but work remains a principle sources part of the code of how we see ourselves.
I am a mother, wife, daughter, friend, writer, coach, teacher and colleague.
Without a clear sense of personal identity, self-esteem suffers and we are vulnerable to anxiety and depression and social disengagement.
“I’m retired,” said in mixed generation social settings, is to become invisible according to those who have the experience.
Working identity is a never-ending process of revealing who we are and what we are capable of. To dislodge from working identities is to take away the professional activities that engage us, the company we keep, and our working relationships.
Many of us reach midlife to find we have gotten away from the life we intended to live and more likely the work we wanted to do.
In designing a future lifestyle after 60, work has to fit into the context of freedom. Work in our earlier lives often meant devotion to sixty hours a week or more. We were confined to a structure and geography over which we had little control.
A Post50 lifestyle combines four elements: freedom; career; geography of place; personal intimacy and health.
In my case, a freedom priority for me is living for three months at a time in a third world country. My career is bound only by an internet connection and the time I choose to devote to it.
All of us can creatively design work to take into our future lives that looks and feels entirely different than anything we’ve done before.
To make “meaningful” work we can:
- Earn money
- Achieve status
- Make a difference
- Use our talents
Working forever – in work designed by you, for you – is a way to continue to add value to our lives, to ourselves and to the lives of others.
I believe it is possible to find work that is life-enhancing in a Post50 life. No matter how unfulfilled the work of your past has been you can find, innovate, and create work that is big enough for your spirit.
But, do we ever achieve fulfillment?
Legendary filmmaker, Francis Coppola who directed The Godfather and Apocalypse Now, reflects on fulfillment at 75:
No, I don’t think I’m yet unfulfilled…because what I really want is to write a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful piece of work and make it into a film that’s truly beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.
Perhaps in another 237 years we’ll discover more of how to create a fulfilling life.