Going into retirement: Why a ‘zest for life’ is crucial

Answer this unusual question: What would you cross on an I-beam for?

An excerpt from Retire Free by Di Murphy and Kristin Sutherland

Many of us dream of the day we go from a busy working life to the laid-back style that retirement might bring.

However, there are two essential ingredients for a successful retirement.
1 Sufficient funds to live on and
2 Sufficient things to live for.

Many of you will have the funds and a list of interests, hobbies, and activities to keep you busy. But you may need more than these activities to achieve a fulfilling life. A Texan gerontologist (Dr. Kevan Namazi) stresses that the most successful old-old people have a ZEST FOR LIFE.

A ‘zest for life’ is characterized by a positive attitude and excitement about one’s experiences and activities. It can be cultivated through setting and working toward goals, being open to new experiences, and having a sense of purpose.

How does one create a purposeful retirement and a zest for life with sufficient things to live for? How do you start, and where do you start?

You begin by taking the time to figure out what matters the most to you. For some of us, it might be starting a local business, working part-time for an NGO, or volunteering for a charity organization; for some, you might become a consultant like me, putting years of experience and your life skills to good use.

But for others, it may take a lot more thought to identify what matters most to you; one way to do this is by clarifying your values.

“Your purpose in life is not something to be found, but something to be created through your actions and choices.” Unknown

The following blog by 3 BetterUp.com suggests there are six ways to refresh your Zest for Life and perhaps give you a step-by-step approach to determine your values.
1. Find out what makes you tick.
2. Create a bucket list and set goals for yourself.
3. Go out and meet people.
4. Nurture positive relationships.
5. Develop a gratitude attitude.
6. Find a reason to laugh.
7. Take a nap (no, seriously).
8. Exercise.

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Another way to determine your values is by answering this unusual question: What would you cross on an I-beam for?

“The purpose of life is to make a difference, to contribute to the betterment of others and the world around us.” Unknown

Most of you will be familiar with an I-Beam, or at least have seen one at the end of a crane as it is hoisted up to one of the many buildings under construction in our major cities. Though only 16.5 cm wide, they are solid, long steel beams that can carry and support tremendous weight. They are integral to the structure of multi-story buildings. Do you have a picture in mind? Please close your eyes and imagine this long beam lying on a football field. Now, if I were to ask you to walk along the beam for a $1000 reward, you would agree
to do so, for if you fell off the beam, you would merely step off the beam onto the grass.

But what if I place the beam over the Grand Canyon? Keep your eyes closed and start to imagine the scene…It’s misty, and you can only hear the sound of the water lapping the cliffs below. The I-Beam is in place, secured on both sides of the canyon, but now I’m offering you a $100,000 reward to walk those 100 meters again – I’m guessing you will tell me I’m insane

But wait – what is that? Out of the mist, you can see at the other end of the I-Beam, and there to your horror, is a young child, per- haps your grandchild moving towards the beam, ready to climb over to you. The only way for you to reach the child is across the 100-meter-long and 16.5-cm-wide I-Beam. Would you step onto the I-Beam? I’m pretty sure your answer will be YES.

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Why on earth would you do that? I’m sure each one of you will understand why.

You value the life of that child. However dangerous – you’ll take that step.

Changing the reward- a child’s life- makes it possible to find your governing values. These are your life’s highest, deepest, and most valued priorities.

“The purpose of life is to learn, to experience, to explore, and to continuously expand your knowledge and understanding.” Unknown

These values are who you are and identify what makes you – YOU. So, what would you cross the I-Beam for?

You’ll need to answer this question to determine your life priorities. Put yourself on that I-Beam – who or what would you cross for? Are you giving or planning to give most of your time to that which matters? What can you do tomorrow to ensure your time aligns with these priorities?

Once you have decided upon and understand your values, you will know where to direct your energy, time, and resources for purposeful retirement.
Most of us sometimes struggle with retirement, and I am no different. As a result, I also undertook to discover my life values and for whom and what I would walk the I-beam. I identified three values that are most important to me: My Family, My Health, and My Intellect. These values give me sufficient things to live for and are the reason I get out of bed in the morning.

It’s a good idea to write something which will describe what each value means to you and how you might achieve it and keep you on track. By way of example, these are my personal values along with the steps I need to take to achieve each one. These will form the basis of a Purposeful Statement.

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A personal purpose statement defines what you want to accomplish in life. It gives you direction to accomplish what’s important to you as it reflects what you stand for, your goals and your core values.

These are my 3 most important values:
• I try to walk 4km at least 5 (five) days a week.
• Eat the most wholesome food possible.
• Follow all medical advice.
• Laugh as much as possible.
• Try some of the activities on my Curiosity list.

• Say I love you, loud and often.
• Be there, ready to listen, comment when asked, and advise when required.
• Family always comes first.
• Celebrate as many milestones and special occasions as

• Take classes in watercolour painting and join a concert band to play the sax.
• Read at least 3 (three) biographies a year.
• Continue to grow my small business.
• Sign up for Radio Lollipop at the Kids’ Hospital
• Add new items to my Curiosity list.

What’s going to be on your list and why?

Extracted from Dare to Retire Free by Kristin Sutherland and Di Murphy. Published by Smart Retirement Publishing, 20 May 2024, RRP $39.95

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