After Winston Churchill had led the country to victory in the second world war the people thanked him by voting him out of office. This brought about what, I believe, he called his wilderness years. In the context of this blog, his retirement years. He wrote that the key to his happiness (not a state easily achieved by the man who coined the term ‘my black dog’ for his depression) was 2000 words and a 1000 bricks (laid in the wall he was building at his home). It may have been the other way round bricks and words but his point was he needed a bit of both to have a good day.
Today I’m going to share with you my recipe for the perfect retirement and it is, in a sense, Churchillian. Its essence is found in one word or concept and that word / concept is – balance.
I could leave it right there but that would be a short blog and possibly a bit irritating. So I will elaborate. All of the following areas of my list apply, of course, to life pre-retirement but the balance is harder to achieve. In retirement we have more of a blank canvas. This is part of my problem. Before retirement we’re just too busy getting on with life, simply getting by, to ponder these possible niceties too deeply. But now, now is your chance to contemplate a while, see what you can make of this bit of your life. See how close you can get to perfection.
In my oh so humble opinion perfection (a bold word I think you’ll agree) is a balance in retirement between:
The physical with the intellectual
The outdoor with the indoor
The social with isolation
Work with pleasure
The clever with the basics
The permanent with the transient
Structure with formlessness
The predictable with the surprising
The organised with the ‘wing it’
Stay at home with travel
Learning with completion or mastery
Creating the new with valuing the old
New ideas with old favourites
The past with the future
Indulgence with obligation or abstinence
Charity with selfishness
Belonging with alienation
Competence with experimentation
Certainty with insecurity
Confidence with humility
I’m not saying that each area has to be exactly 50/50. The actual balance will depend on the person. An outdoor type will want more of that side but I am saying you need a bit of both. But, I hear you say, doesn’t that defeat this concept of balance? Well, I think not. Think of a beam balanced on a fulcrum. The balance is achieved by different weightings not necessarily by having the exact same distance either side of the fulcrum although this works as well obviously.
I could go on and you probably think I already have. But then you can take it or leave it. See there’s that balance thing again – bricks and words, words and bricks.