On the wall of a Facebook Feminist group a graduate student asked the members to fill in a questionnaire for her research on women’s career. Looking at some of the standard questions about setting and achieving goals (Where do you see yourself in 5 years? how would you get there? etc), I felt a pang, clearly this questionnaire was no longer relevant for me. Having resigned my position as a lecturer at a college earlier this fall, I am now retired.
But then I had thought some more about the questionnaire and reached the conclusion that even when we no longer have a career, it is important to ask ourselves questions. They could be especially helpful for people, like me, who are about to make a change and embark on a new phase in their life.
The first question on my list is: what would I like to do with the rest of my life? It sounds simple, but, like all general questions, it is not easy to know. Too often the answers tend to be similar to those automatic responses given by children when asked “what do you want to do when you grow up?”.
But since the success of the new life greatly depends on finding satisfying and honest answers, I divided that first general question into smaller, and more specific, sub questions which address different aspects of the new reality:
This is my list: :
What do I enjoy doing in my free time (hobby, art, sport, hiking, volunteering, games?
Where do I want to spend my time (inside, outside, home, office, big city, small town)?
Do I enjoy spending time with people or I prefer to be on my own?
With whom do I want to spend my free time (children, adults, animals)?
What is really important to me (causes, family, friends, leisure , nature, travelling)?
What will make me feel good about myself (accomplishment)?
Is public recognition of my actions important for me?
Do I want to commit myself to do something on a regular basis?
Hopefully thinking about these questions will help me make good choices in my new life.
Last week an article in The Guardian suggested that if you “Want to succeed? You need systems not goals,” Oliver Burkeman introduced this concept which lately has become more popular. A system is something you do on a regular basis that increases your odds of happiness in the long run, regardless of immediate outcome instead of treating life as a series of goals which leaves one in a state of near-continuous failure. For example, a system is resolving to take some kind of exercise on a daily basis rather than setting a goal, of running a marathon in four hours. The idea is simply not to let a single day pass without doing something, however tiny, towards some important project.
I find this advice to focus on systems rather than on goals especially suitable for retirement since it emphasizes continuity and forces us to make every day count. And just in case, every so often, we should check ourselves and ask whether we are really happy with our choices. If the answer is yes let’s hope that we will still be here to enjoy them, 5 years from now.
The Guardian : Want to succeed? You need systems not goals,” Oliver Burkeman