I’ve just completed my second year of retirement. The conventional wisdom is that this should be the phase of my life in which I relax, sit back and harvest the time now freed from raising a family, pursuing a career, and building the financial resources that retirement affordable. In other words, the traditional view is that retirement should be the time to live a life of earned contentment. My brother, Rod, also retired, has suggested to me that the best we can hope for at this, or any stage of our lives, is contentment with our life state and the resilience to adjust that contentment for whatever comes along. However, the more I thought about contentment as a life goal, and what that would mean for me, the more I became convinced that instead, my goal should be to pursue at least some discontentment.
We can approach contentment by setting our expectations to match current reality, and by increasing our tolerance (resilience?) for whatever pain, discomfort, uncertainty, stupidity and chaos that life then brings along. Having said that, it seems to me that discontentment is, in fact, evidence of life. We need it. We need it so much that we’ll create it when it’s not present. Discontentment leads us to live richer, more fulfilling lives, and I believe our goal should be to feel nothing less than at least mild discontent until our last breath.
Discontentment drives us to:
• Re-build our relationships when we make mistakes or don’t nurture them
• Create hope for the future and its possibilities even when it seems like we’re going to be totally screwed
• Be unsatisfied and curious about the things we don’t know, and skeptical about the things we think we do know, so that we pursue continuous learning and understanding.
So my hope for all of us in 2014 and beyond, is health, happiness and enough discontentment to make our lives and the lives of those around us, more fulfilling.