Retirement: don’t recreate your old environment

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Retirement is a great opportunity to make new lifestyle choices, but proceed with caution. Most people are comfortable with the habits they’ve developed over the years, and upheaval for its own sake can be more disruptive than beneficial. Family and friends may also be slow to embrace major changes, especially if those changes will challenge their relationships or impact their own routines.  There’s no need to rush into change or to set an arbitrary deadline.  You have the rest of your life.

Another danger of this “opportunity for change” is the risk of recreating your old environment. If your old workplace personality thrived on crisis, controversy, and confrontation then your family may not enjoy that lifestyle at home. If your career was a perpetual search for the optimal processes then your spouse or neighbors may not appreciate your benevolent attention to their efficiency. And if you spent any time at military training commands, especially recruit training, the kids may not enjoy your new focus on their appearance and deportment. You don’t want everyone to feel that you’re competing with them or scrutinizing their behavior.

An especially treacherous aspect of retirement is replacing your old responsibilities with new ones. The first few years of retirement are a wonderful time for thoughtful contemplation of how you want to live the rest of your life. You may have been responsible for taking care of people and valuables for decades, but don’t thoughtlessly fill your new life with more long-term obligations. You may eventually decide that you prefer to continue your old habits with new responsibilities, but give yourself the time to experiment with other activities that bring you value and pleasure.  Believe it or not, retirement is a time for personal growth– not repetition or replication.

There’s nothing wrong with taking care of family, friends, and neighbors instead of a platoon or a department. It’s very fulfilling to lead a local charity instead of a military command. Serving others is a wonderful way to discover new interests and activities for your own benefit.  Enjoy the experiences, but be careful not to drop into the old familiar habits of working long hours, pushing to accomplish the mission, making personal sacrifices for higher priorities, scrambling from one activity to the next, or even running your own domestic personnel and logistics command. Leave plenty of unstructured time in each day for reflecting on your activities and for discovering unexpected opportunities– even if it’s just walking the neighborhood or watching the backyard wildlife.

In a few weeks you’ll find plenty of ways to fill your time and your “To Do” list. If you’re seeking inspiration then jumpstart your thinking with Ernie Zelinski’s “Get-a-Life Tree”.

In the next few posts we’ll show the common yet subtle traps of sabotaging your retirement by recreating your old environmentOr we might take a break or two for news or other brief topics.

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WHAT I DO: I help you reach financial independence. For free. I retired in 2002 after 20 years in the Navy's submarine force. I wrote "The Military Guide to Financial Independence and Retirement" to share the stories of over 50 other financially independent servicemembers, veterans, and families. All of my writing revenue is donated to military-friendly charities.

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