Updated: Nov 8, 2019
I suspect few things have limited personal dreaming and life-enrichment more than the notion of “retirement age.” Somehow, we’ve come to believe that 65 marks an inherent limit for when we should stop thinking of doing new things.
If you’re young, you’re reminded by financial experts that you have to be ready to retire in your mid-sixties, so stick with a steady job. And if you’re older? Well, then, it’s simply time to quit.
Make Use of Your Years
This unfortunate state of mind has not always been the case. It came into being with the initiation of the American social security system.
At the time it was signed into law on August 14, 1935, the average life expectancy of people in the United States was 61. That means a retirement program designating 65 as the time to quit had pinpointed an age after which most people had already died.
Needless to say, much has changed in the past 80+ years. The current U.S. life expectancy is just shy of 79. That leaves a lot of time to do nothing if you buy the 65-and-done paradigm.
Yet Different absolutely can start for many people at “retirement age.” And why not? If you’ve got a good 15 to 20 years left, make the most of it.
And if you’re younger, you have time to make a lifestyle of doing Different. As I look back, I realize that’s what I’ve done.
Here’s the rough timeline for my key milestones in Different, and the associated life categories:
Age 30, Family—Become open to having a large family. Shortly after our first child was born, we encountered a notion we’d never even remotely considered—namely, that the challenge of having a large family (4+ children) could be a tremendous blessing (it has been). For more on this, see my post “What’s Missing from Your Worldview.”
Age 32, Family, Education—Determine that homeschooling would be a good choice for our family. Now that we had children to care for and educate responsibly, we found an (at the time) less than common approach that worked for us.
Age 35, Faith, Church, and Spirituality—Discover the time-tested roots of Christianity and join the Eastern Orthodox Church. We’d been exploring and studying options for growing in faith and discovered an amazing treasure in this very unexpected direction.*
Age 43, Lifestyle—Move from the city to the country. This was the culmination of a nearly 20-year-old dream.
Age 44, Business, Income, Lifestyle—Start my own business. Not a particularly good career move for one who was doing well on the “corporate ladder” but one that was essential to our core values and creating the lifestyle we wanted.
Age 63—I'm asking what’s next? My primary categories for exploring new ways to do Different are Business, Family (we have grandchildren now), and Lifestyle (many places to see!).
Discover Your Own Differents
The Differents I’ve chosen delivered a rich variety of experience and paid tremendous dividends in the critically important areas of family life, raising children, and meaningful lifestyle.
Blogging experts such as Michael Hyatt suggest that writers can present themselves to readers in one of three ways:
Struggler. Someone who is on the path and wants to share the journey with his or her readers along the way.
Sherpa. One who has “been to the mountaintop” and has the experience to guide you because he or she has been there/done that.
Sage. This person is like a Sherpa—having a wealth of experience—but is also a well-recognized expert in the subject area.
For the first five milestones above, I qualify as a Sherpa. And I hope I can offer you some benefit from my experience.
On the question of What’s Next? I'll necessarily be a fellow struggler. Let's move on together!
*In case you're interested in more about why anyone would find "ancient faith" so attractive, I recommend the book Thirsting for God in a Land of Shallow Wells by Matthew Gallatin.
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Better than Perfect.)