Retirement is life’s second act, so make it even better than your first

Have you ever been to a play or musical and been so enthralled by the action on stage that the first act was over before you knew it? You’re so amazed by what you’ve experienced that you can’t wait to see what happens next. The theater buzzes with words of praise, and you know that real masters of direction and performances are working in front of you. Can the second act be as good as what you just saw?

In a certain sense, our life is like a theater production. The first act certainly covers a lot. Our education, family life and our careers are all part of the scene unfolding with us in the lead role. We are a playwright, producer and performer, and we have more control over what happens on the stage we call Life than we think. It goes by faster than we think, and it’s only when we reach the end of the first act, our working career, that we realize how quickly it has flown by. Then comes act two: our retirement.

Imagine for a moment that wonderful First Act we just described, and then, when the Intermission is over, you take your seat and realize that there is no script. There are no words for the actors, no songs to sing, no dance numbers because there is no direction at all. It’s a sad fact that many people wake up on the first day of retirement with this feeling. All the years of hard work and savings are behind us – now what? There are no meetings to attend, no emails to catch up on, and no conference calls. The retirement party is over and your calendar is clear for the rest of your life. If you defined yourself by what you did for a living, it can take a real adjustment when you no longer have a job.

For many people, they just find another job where they work a little less, but they don’t have to worry about how to fill their time. It’s sad because retirement should be a time when you enjoy life to the fullest. Your days should be filled with things you want to do, things you want to learn, and places you want to see. It’s easier than you think if you spend a little time planning. Most people plan their finances but don’t plan their time. You can change that right now if you find that the days are getting longer and the time you spend in front of the TV exceeds the time you spend with other people.

One of the most revealing exercises you can do is to find a quiet place and ask yourself what you want to do with the rest of your life. Don’t rule anything out and be sure to write everything down. Go back as far as you can remember and record every dream or wish you’ve ever had. Take your time and try to remember as much as possible. Put your list away and read it the next day and the day after. Add everything you can think of to the list and start prioritizing the items that are most important to you. Then ask yourself: What are you waiting for? Make the second act even better than the first!

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