Why you should forget about retirement

Why Retirement? Forget it!

When I was a child, we had fireworks every November 5th. On the box were written the instruction “light the blue touch paper and retire”. Later this was developed to “stand well back”. Now, I think that is what people do when they embrace the idea of retirement, they stand well back from life and for many this is the beginning of the end. Life is about learning; learning is living and for most of us living and learning is working. It is engagement.

The other day the children laughed at me when I referred to a spider as a person. The spider, female in this case, from my point of view, had rights just like you and I. Some people become spider phobic but all she was doing was living her life and doing her work.

All beings on the planet from ants to elephants do work they are all productive. However there are two types of work. Primary work, that is getting up in the morning and going about the business of finding food, creating shelter and safety and raising the next generation and, secondary work, that is when we allow, or expect other people to do the primary work for us. To allow this to happen human beings invented money.

With money we no longer all need to undertake primary work like all the other species do. We are able to do abstract things with our time and collect tokens (money) for doing it. We can then exchange money for food and shelter and safety.

There are less and less people undertaking primary work. The majority of people undertake secondary work and use the money they earn to pay other people to do the primary work for them. This means that we can be unproductive all our lives, paying other people to do the production for us. This makes us unlike any other species on earth. In any other species, when an individual ceases to undertake primary work they die. They have no food or shelter and no money to get others to do it for them.

Question: When did you last undertake anything that could be considered primary work? By that I mean that you actively created shelter, food or safety? It would seem to me that when we lose touch with primary work, and the majority of us have, we have already retired from the primary work of life. It is as though we become detached from the essential energy of life.

There is a strong case for not retiring at all at any point in life. I suspect that true primary workers never really do, they remain physically active throughout their lives. When secondary workers officially retire many of them go into decline. I see many clients who retired early at 55 or 60 who, by the time they are 75 have lost the meaning of life and are slipping into depression.

If you are a primary worker the evidence is that you will live a longer and happier life if you carry on working for as long as possible. If you are a secondary worker I strongly recommend that when you officially retire that you undertake some primary or, better still, consider not retiring at all.

Reason not to retire

  1. We know that it is in the process of engagement and life long learning that creates new brain cells and that people remain younger.
  2. When people become physically less active and more sedentary they develop more diseases.
  3. Those that maintain a working function maintain and develop social relationships and maintain a sense of belonging.
  4. Most productive people have a stronger sense of self and self-esteem.

I could go on, and on. I guess one big one that has hit the western industrial world is that supporting retired people costs much more money than anyone ever expected and we can’t afford it. This is where the money token idea begins to breakdown.

At what point do we stand back from life, do we retire? For some people this begins at fifty and for others it never happens. My definition of success and happiness is waking up with a smile on your face, feeling that you have something that you truly want to get out of bed for something to go and do that is both meaningful and fulfilling. For many this is called primary work.

Whether you do it for money, or for the love of it, don’t stand back, remain involved and engaged in the process of life and living. I promise you that you will be happier.

Take care

Sean x

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