What If We All Retired At The Same Time?
What if the world is meant to take a Gap Year? Sounds better than forced retirement, right? First off, let’s acknowledge that many of us are working even harder from home, whether it’s due to the industry we’re in or the difficult fate our companies are facing.
But many others are feeling idle and confused—spending too much time surfing the web and not enough time learning to surf (me in a nutshell).
Perhaps we’re being given an early glimpse into what our retirement might look like. If so, what can we learn from the fact that research has shown that retirement accelerates one’s mortality rate by a couple of years? A closer look will reveal three primary issues: loss of a sense of purpose, less community and social interaction, and less discipline. For most people, work provides this exact kind of structure. Without structure, we risk becoming couch potatoes or digital trolls or, even worse, void of a meaningful life.
If you’re homebound, and also without work, here are three questions that might help you address these issues, and bring back a deeper sense of meaning in your life:
1. What’s something that gives you a sense of purpose? Is it a political or social issue, your children’s education, your thriving church community, art, service, entrepreneurship? Find a way to commit yourself to this purpose, even if it’s just educating yourself further on the subject while homebound.
2. How can you connect with people even though you can’t see them in person? Make a practice of writing a daily list of three people you care about but haven’t talked with in a while (from your past and present). Reach out to them by email, phone, or video call. Re-establish a connection. Better yet, send an old school note to them by snail mail. The art of crafting a thoughtful letter requires precious time, which is now our greatest commodity.
3. Who can be an accountability partner when it comes to creating more structure in your life? Do you have a friend who also wants to lose ten pounds, or cut down on alcohol, or break the habit of taking sleeping pills at night? How can you find individuals with similar challenges and then become each other’s trainers to encourage healthy habits, along with some daily structure that helps you be more productive?
Call this crisis what you will—a gap year, retirement, or a momentary pause—it may also be an opportunity in disguise.
P.S. Happy Hour with Chip and David later today
You’re welcome to join Chip Conley and David Harry Stewart, the founder and face of AGEIST, today, April 8th at 5:00pm PST / 8:00pm EST for some fun conversation on Zoom between two friends who are fresh thinkers on modern midlife and thought leaders on the value of connection. Tickets are free and limited, reserve here today.
An adapted version of this appeared in “Next Avenue” on April 2, 2020. Thanks to Vanda Marlow and Elle Luna for this beautiful Gap Year poster that is placed on the wall of our Modern Elder Academy.