I used to work with a woman who had a countdown clock as her computer screen saver. It was counting down the days and hours until she could retire. I remember thinking how bizarre that was, even at the time.
Her retirement date, incredibly, was still about five years away at that point. But she was so focused on that concept of “one day, when I retire”. She was always asking other people when their retirement date was, and absolutely delighted in gloating when someone else’s date was further away than hers. That holy grail of “retirement” seemed to be the only thing that kept her going every day.
And the really sad thing is that, while she was kind of an extreme example of that sort of attitude, she’d definitely not the only one I know who’s retirement-obsessed. It’s such an alien concept to me because I firmly believe that you should never retire. Instead of being preoccupied with planning my future retirement, I’m obsessed with Seth Godin’s concept of building a life that I don’t feel a desperate need to escape from at all.
Why do people stay in jobs they hate?
It makes me wonder sometimes… are there really that many people out there who hate their jobs so much that the only thing they cling to is this idea that someday they won’t have to do it anymore?
Why is that, I wonder? Why do so many people get themselves stuck in this trap of doing something they hate so much, just to pay the bills? Why not just find something you actually enjoy doing and pay the bills that way?
And this is the point where the flood of jaded thoughts pours in:
- I can’t quit my job because I’ve spent years building up my reputation in this field.
- I can’t do what I love to do because no one ever makes any money at it.
- It’s nice to think that people can be happy and actually make enough money doing it, but that never happens in the real world.
- Grow up. You have to suck it up and deal with the shit now if you want to reap the benefits later.
- Everyone hates their job. That’s just the way it is.
These kinds of attitudes fascinate me, mostly because they’re such obvious examples of how we’ve all been brainwashed over a lifetime into thinking that misery is not only acceptable, it’s somehow virtuous.
Bullshit, I say.
Putting off happiness is a dangerous thing
The thing is, putting off happiness in the belief that someday you’ll be able to enjoy your life is the most ridiculous and dangerous idea ever to infect humanity.
Miserable people make for a miserable world. They become jaded. They stop caring about themselves. They stop caring about others. They start finding small pleasure in inflicting pain on others because it makes them feel momentarily powerful and helps them to temporarily forget how much their life sucks. Sometimes this is just in the form of that woman’s pointed barbs about how much sooner she would get to retire than someone else. But sometimes this results in much more severe attacks on others.
Happy people do not hurt others. Only miserable people do that.
The truth is, “someday” never comes
And the real truth of the matter is that putting off your happiness for “someday” will never work because “someday” never comes. We only ever live in the now. When that magical retirement date arrives, it becomes “now”. And we are so conditioned to believe that we need to sacrifice and suffer in the now, that even when that day arrives, we’ll find ways to avoid letting ourselves enjoy it anyway.
The only way to create a life you love is to live it in the now. Right now. Be happy NOW. Don’t put it off for someday, because it will never happen, and one day you’re going to wake up and realize that you’ve wasted your entire life being unhappy when you didn’t need to.
- You don’t have to quit your day job in order to be happy (unless you really want to). If you’ve invested a lot of time building up a reputation, then start thinking about ways that experience could be useful to within other fields or companies that are more in line with your values.
- Like I said, if the finances concern you, then find ways to do what you love on your own time. Allow yourself to what you love most in any way that you can. As you do so, you will find it causes ripple effects throughout every other area of your life, including your day job.
- Lots of people make a living doing what they love. You’re just so set on believing that it’s not possible that you can’t see them. There are many people out there who love their jobs and look forward to their work, every single day.
As human beings, we have this bizarre tendency to construct these horrible mind traps for ourselves. We get the blinders on so tightly that we cannot even conceive that things could be any different than they are. And we get so angry, and so hostile, when somebody comes along and tells us that we have the ability to choose a different experience if we would just reach up and take the blinders off.
Most people won’t do it. Most people are so convinced that happiness in life and in work is impossible. They’d rather be certain they’re miserable than take a risk on being happy. And they cover up that fear with anger.
Lift the blinders… live your life!
If there’s one person I really admire, and who really inspires me with how she’s conducted her working life it’s Betty White. I just love her. She always seems so happy and so full of life and energy. She’s 92 years old and she’s still acting full-time. That’s the kind of work life I want to build for myself – one that I’m still loving when I’m in my nineties. I want to be enjoying my life right through to the end; never worrying about aging because I’m too damned happy and busy doing what I do to bother with it.
So that’s why I never want to retire, and why I think you should never retire, either. I’m ready to lift those blinders and start living my life in happiness and joy right now. Are you?
Photo credit: (c) Can Stock Photo