Last week someone I barely know leaned on me. Not physically, but mentally and emotionally. As they expressed their values to me in a one-sided conversation of what I “shouldn’t do” with my life coupled with what I “should do” for them, I was reminded of one of retirements’ greatest gifts — the ability to be true to your values like no other time in life.
We’ve all heard the old saying, “Sometimes you have to go along to get along.” To me, no setting requires that more than the work arena. In that venue I would have tried to talk to the above person in the interest of getting along and may have gone along, choking down their shoulds and shouldn’ts. Workplace politics would oblige at least an attempt to give my viewpoint and clarify my perception of their two cents, even as they cut me off mid-sentence.
Fortunately, work days are gone, so I just smiled as I said, “Have a great day!” and walked away. Even in retirement, we don’t completely escape others who want us to adopt their values. But, we can choose to take action based on our values.
While I try not to be judgmental (it’s hard), I also consciously surround myself with people who respect my values and are willing to listen to me as well as me listening to them. Not people who think the same as me. I detest group think (ohhh…there’s the judgmental me). I do my human best to be tolerant of my cohorts’ values. Mutual respect is the foundation of any relationship. That starts with acceptance of our differences, our values and our boundaries.
I have a good friend who I meet with for lunch — she dubbed it ‘munch and chat’. While we have much in common, we don’t always agree. We come from different backgrounds and life experiences. However, we have mutual respect for diverse opinions, making our conversations interesting and our friendship genuine. It speaks to my values of acceptance, trust and respect.
Long, long ago in the 1980s I took a new age type program called Context Training. Everyone at the company I worked for had to take the course. During the three days of seclusion and soul-searching, I learned how our values are created by the context of our life experience. Our values then enter into our decision-making from moment to moment, just like my decision to walk away from the person above or my decision to write this piece today.
Think about what your values are. What is important to you? Knowing what you value provides direction for your life, retired or not. For those of us who retire, leaving work identity behind, understanding and embracing our values, supplies us with a map for our retirement identity. Our values help us create our future. For example, I value creativity, so it comes as no surprise that I enjoy writing, gardening and drawing. Those make up the three central personal activities of my retirement days.
In my experience, when I find myself dragging my feet to do something with or for someone else, it’s because I’m not being true to my values. If I find myself unhappy, it usually has something to do with ignoring my values. A large part of our happiness quotient comes from being authentic. Retirement offers the perfect time for us to be exactly that.
Hoorah! One of your best blog posts….a clear-eyed example of walking-the-talk–respectful, thoughtful & interesting.
Thanks Paulette! I try…
“A large part of our happiness quotient comes from being authentic. Retirement offers the perfect time for us to be exactly that.” I’m getting a head start 🙂
Great! You’ll be ahead of the pack.
I used to think when I felt uncomfortable doing something for or with someone else, there was something wrong with me… that I “should” do it and feel good about it. Not so much anymore. Some of the change is because of the freedom of retirement, some is just getting older and smarter. Although we don’t always have to do exactly what we want all of the time (compromise can still be a good thing), putting someone else’s desires in front of ours just to get along isn’t being kind to ourselves..
Sounds like you are definitely older and smarter! That is a good piece of wisdom…self-kindness is important to our mental health!
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“If I find myself unhappy, it usually has something to do with ignoring my values”
Yes – thank you. Needed that today! 🙂
You are welcome! Glad to help…
I am really pleased to have discovered your blog as someone recently retired and I am starting a blog myself- I find that writing helps me think about what I think about. In this post what struck me is that out of the context of the office and office politics, we are much freer to consider what we really do think about something that someone says– our answers are no longer shaped by the organizational context and the role that we played at work. I am seeking out ways to be involved in my community and discovering that my voice now “sounds” different than when I was working. It is almost discovering a new voice.
Thank you for the follow Beth. Yes, retirement affords a freedom to be ourselves in a way that school and then work never allowed us. While we still need to get along with others in many ways and many venues, we can seek out our voice in what “sounds” authentic to us. From what you have written here, you may find you are someone who values community or who values volunteerism. Examining our values outside the confines of an organizational chart helps us find our future and joy as retirees. K
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I discovered your blog about a year ago and this post was my favorite to date. A former mentor once said to me (prior to my retirement), “The difference between working and retirement is that work is doing what you have to do and retirement is doing what you want to do.” I feel fortunate to be in this place in my life, and worked hard to get here. Being able to say, “Have a nice day!” to those who don’t share my values is a retirement “perk” I don’t take for granted! Thank you for your words of wisdom.
Thank you for this inspiring and thought-provoking post, Kathy. This past week, I had the opportunity to meet up with four other bloggers (and some of their husbands). My husband was surprised how much our philosophies and values aligned with this group of people whom we had never met before. But it really wasn’t the coincidence that my husband thought it was. I purposely follow blogs that inspire my beliefs. That is one of my favourite things about both blogging…and retirement!
Shortly after we began the Voyage, we actually sat down and discussed what we truly value. I actually created a bulletin board with those values as a visual reminder. Now we try to live with intention, making sure that our everyday activities actually match those values! It’s been a great exercise, and as you pointed out, one which we have had more time to examine in retirement, and which has, indeed, created a map for our identities. Great post! ~ Lynn
I enjoyed this post immensely. Somewhere I read that the true wealth of retirement is TIME.
It is very freeing to leave the “shoulds” behind and to focus on what makes us come alive.
It is delightful to have choices about friendships and activities. To be able to say “No” to things we do not want to do, and a resounding “Yes” to new opportunities.
I am learning what to step away from and what pulls me forward. Even small adventures light up my world. New horizons in learning and in travel enrich and invigorate me.
I have time to give back and to spend in meaningful conversations. Retirement is a wonderful new chapter. The years can be stunningly beautiful. Filled with kindness and compassion and joy.
Thanks for such a thought stimulating blog. It has been my companion since beginning this retirement adventure several years ago.
The most compelling line in your post for me was “I value creativity, so it comes as no surprise that I enjoy writing, gardening and drawing.” I think this is my new fill in the blank exercise tomorrow… I value X, so I do A, B, and C.
And yes, understanding what is important to me and walking away from the “should”, even if good intentioned, is something I’m learning to do as well. Perhaps not in your specific example, but I’ve come to realize people suggest things to you as a “should” when the thing they are proposing worked for them…good intentions! So I smile and say thanks (and move on.)