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Retire Outside Your Comfort Zone

Dave Bernard

Most baby boomers have managed to survive the heavy demands of a career and raising a family. Now they are closing in on the next act in life: retirement. The time to do what you want to do when you want to do it awaits. You get to decide if you want to pursue a relaxing life of leisure or a stimulating second career doing what you have always wanted to do.

The early part of retirement often starts out great and feels like a much-needed vacation. Then slowly but steadily you notice that things you have been doing are becoming not quite as interesting as they once were. Those relaxing afternoons start to feel a bit boring and unfulfilling. And you have many more years ahead and many hours and days to fill. Doing the same thing you have been doing is not going to cut it.

Rather than repeat a recipe that is not working, take a look at options outside of your everyday routine and comfort zone. Familiar activities have a certain safety factor because we know what we are in store for and can count on expected results. But in retirement, it is important to keep engaging ourselves in an active life and exercising our minds and bodies. Something new and different can get us excited about living, not merely existing. Retirement is a perfect time to take a chance and try something totally new, something that the old you might have shied away from.

Although risk taking tends to diminish for those over 50, the additional free time you have in retirement offers a chance to take a closer look at more exciting activities to engage in. Here are a few ways to try out new activities that may be a bit outside of your comfort zone:

Create an adventure bucket list. Think about things you want to do, but have not yet tried because they make you a little nervous. The list should include exciting possibilities outside your normal routine. I am personally afraid of heights, but my 70-year-old aunt recently tried slack lining and zipped between two trees attached by a contraption high above the forest floor. My wife has parachuted, and her daughter has survived bungee jumping in Columbia. Now is a good time to balance what you really want to experience against your level of risk acceptance. A little adrenaline rush never hurt anyone.

Be creative. New activities don't have to be as extreme as sky diving or bungee jumping. Consider taking art or dance classes or leaning a foreign language and then visiting a country where they speak it. As long as the activity is new and challenging for you it can liven up your retirement years.

Become a leader. Don't count on others to lead the way. Following in another's footsteps may be easier, but it's also a good idea to take the lead on a new activity. Don't miss out on exciting opportunities simply because you can't find someone else to organize them.

Ignore detractors. Don't worry about what others may say regarding your newfound adventurous spirit. Retirement gives you an opportunity to live the life you want, and the terms are no longer dictated by your employer or children.

Sticking with what you know in retirement is predictable, risk-free, and sometimes unfortunately boring. But if you consider stepping outside your comfort zone a bit, retirement can be a much more stimulating experience.

Dave Bernard is not yet retired but has begun his due diligence to plan for a fulfilling retirement. With a focus on the non-financial aspects of retiring, he shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement-Only the Beginning.

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