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Is There Life Balance After Retirement?

October 5, 2017

Most of us look forward to the day we retire.
As we move through our professional lives, the moment we can finally leave it all behind stretches before us like a Promised Land. That moment when all our hard work pays off, and we’re set free.
As a 21st century retiree, I can safely state that a lot of that bliss rings true. It hasn’t been difficult to toss out the alarm clock, stay in yoga pants all day, or plan vacations.
But I discovered early on there was a lot more to retirement than just having a schedule versus having free time. It was more complicated than less work and more play.
Without the structure of a full time job, I could feel at loose ends, a little off balance. There’s an unsettling that comes with facing our “next phase” devoid of an old, familiar structure.
Retirement is harder than it looks.
 It didn’t take me long to begin examining what life balance feels like without the “9 to 5 factor.” That balance comes from within and isn’t dependent on events and circumstances happening on the outside. I discovered three important lessons about how to stay on an even keel while living a happy retired life.
Be a human “being,” not a human “doing.”
Our culture values productivity. Our careers gave us warm, fuzzy feelings about how productive we can be, how much we can contribute. We also associated our relevance with productivity for a lot of years, and we don’t want to lose that relevance as we age.
It’s hard to let go of the notion that we should always be DOING something.
But one gift of a retired life is to lean into just BEING and to allow possibilities to unfold in their own time.  We can learn to release what we think we “should” do and embrace doing what feels right for us.
Does that email have to go out today? Will that laundry get just as clean tomorrow? Is accepting that invitation going to lighten me up or drag me down?
We get to define the critical or important activities. We can choose the ones that keep us in balance. And that may mean getting rid of the “shoulds” altogether.

There’s value in routine.
I enjoy taking life as it comes. Yet routines and rituals go a long way toward providing a sense of balance to the everyday. Establishing routines after we leave the regimen of our jobs can be tricky.
But we can start small. I continue to keep a calendar post-retirement. By marking down even ordinary events, I create plans.
Many of us establish rituals around mealtimes. Whether we cook at home or go out, having a regular approach to nourishing our bodies is comforting when we’re no longer working.
By adhering to regular times for rising in the morning and turning off the light at night, we signal our bodies that there’s a tempo to our lives. And we may discover we get a more restful sleep.
The key is that we choose to create a rhythm that harmonizes with how we live.
Cultivate meaningful relationships.
We’re social beings; we need relationships to thrive. Staying connected is an important part of maintaining life balance after we retire. 
As vital as meaningful conversation and uplifting interactions are to a happy retired life, it can be difficult to find our tribe when we lose the convenience of a workplace community. Some of us left close friends behind when we left our jobs. At the very least, we left behind cordial interactions that spiced up our days.
Retired life gives us permission to explore new avenues for social contacts. We have the time (and often a renewed energy) to open up to friends we’ve yet to meet.
We can involve ourselves in causes that inspire us or simply visit with a neighbor we’ve been too busy to connect with in the past. The Transition Network is the “gold standard” for organizations that provide rich connections, and most communities have local groups and organizations as well.
Some paths will be dead ends, but our efforts to find soulful affiliations are worth it…and they’re necessary.
Life is never in total balance, retired or not. We can still have competing agendas or more items on our to-do lists than we can complete. But feeling more balanced is possible even without the structure of a job.
And establishing that balance on our own terms can be the best feeling of all.

Marcia Smalley is a certified life coach, writer and teacher. She delights in helping mid-life women step confidently into their next act as they design a joyous, expanded life. Visit Marcia and get a copy of her free e-book, Playful Wisdom: A Guide For Living Lightly, at