This past Friday night through Saturday I did nothing. Absolutely nothing productive at all. After a bachelor party in Vegas the previous weekend and getting slammed at work on Monday, I was ready for a break. On Friday night I turned on the TV and found that Season 4 of The Americans came out on Amazon Prime. Since ditching cable, I just have a few shows that I watch, and this is one that I got into last year. What a perfect time to do some binge watching.
In complete sloth-like fashion, I watched all 13 episodes in just over a day. It was awesome. My sole purpose for that day and a half was to watch the entire season. I started to think about how nice it would be to do this all the time. Doing nothing but consuming entertainment does have its appeal. At least for the short-term. But what about the long-term? Could you be happy with no purpose, no goals to work towards, nothing to achieve over the long-term?
Not likely. In fact, studies have shown that having a purpose in life can stave off cognitive decline and promote a healthier and longer life. This is why it’s so important to have something to retire to. Something that will keep you engaged and give you a sense of purpose.
Many people become so engrossed in their work that it becomes who they are. Outside of being a doctor, a lawyer, a banker, or what have you, they have no identity. They have no passions they actively pursue outside the working world.
That has never been me. I’m very driven in my work and have achieved a lot in my career, but I don’t feel defined by my job. There are so many things outside of work that drive me. A lot of that has to do with my competitive spirit. I was raised to be the best at what I did. Second place was never good enough. Because of this, I have a hard time doing things just for the fun of it. Playing crappy golf is not fun for me. I get no satisfaction from building an average looking table. If I do something, I want to be really good at it. As a result, I can think of numerous activities outside of work that would provide opportunities for achievement and purpose for me.
I played a lot of racquetball in college but haven’t had a lot of opportunities to play since. Earlier this year, I joined a racquetball league at my gym. Needless to say, I was a little rusty after not playing for over ten years. I was placed in the B division to start off and did fairly decent, losing to the top player in the league 15-14 in the first game before a pulled hamstring wouldn’t let me continue. While I understand it’s just a rec league and my glory days as an athlete are long gone, I still want to win. After playing a few matches, my competitive juices ramped up, and I set a goal to work my way up to the top division and win it.
I’m the same way with golf. Some people enjoy just being out and playing. I wasn’t built that way. I could be playing Pebble Beach on a perfectly sunny 75-degree day, and if I were spraying the ball everywhere, I wouldn’t be having any fun. I’ve talked about one of my goals for 2017 being to lower my handicap into single digits. Once I get there, I’ll likely set a new goal to start shooting in the 70s regularly. That’s the great thing about sports. You have a measuring stick, and there’s always something you can shoot for.
I’ve always enjoyed building things. Woodworking is something I’d like to do more of, but at this point, I don’t have the time to squeeze another hobby in. There’s something very satisfying about making something yourself. I would love to build my own workshop where I can tinker with various projects and hone my skills. I don’t have any aspirations of selling pieces that I make, but would love to improve my skills to a point where I can make some nice pieces for our home that I can be proud of.
Learn a New Language
I took three years of Spanish in high school but would struggle to say more than ten words in Spanish today. A few years back, my wife and I went to Switzerland and France. Although pretty much everyone we ran into spoke English, it would have been cool to be able to speak the native tongue. In order to do that today, something else would have to give. We only have so much time and mental capacity to fill, and right now learning a new language does not fit. But down the road when I’m retired, I would be all for learning a new language before making the trip to a foreign country.
Plus, learning new languages helps your brain stay sharp. It’s becoming well known that weight training becomes more and more important as we age and our bones and muscles start to deteriorate. Training the brain is just as important to maintain our cognitive functions as we age. Learning a new language is a great way to do that.
We give money to various charities, but we don’t give a lot of our time. While giving money helps, the best donation you can make is your time. My wife and I both love dogs and I would love to spend several days during the week helping out at a local shelter. This past Christmas, we volunteered a soup kitchen. It really is eye opening to see the unfortunate circumstances some kids are born into. It makes you appreciate what you have and is a perspective that can’t be gained by just donating money.
Readers, what will your purpose in retirement be? Is your life defined by your job or do you have many pursuits that drive you outside of work that will easily transfer over to retirement?