Retirement can be the beginning of a new life – a new birth gearing one to new activity. “I became a resurrected person after my retirement and have been living as a new man ever since,” a Korean civil engineer declared. Thus there is no reason why anyone in health and strength needs to adhere [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

Time for readjustment not retirement


Retirement can be the beginning of a new life – a new birth gearing one to new activity. “I became a resurrected person after my retirement and have been living as a new man ever since,” a Korean civil engineer declared.

Thus there is no reason why anyone in health and strength needs to adhere to the idea so generally and supinely accepted today that arbitrarily set retirement age must necessarily mean an ipso facto disqualification from new and fresh forms of useful activity. No person at any age needs to remain on an uninspiring level of accomplishment. If you are unhappy with your retirement, practise the principle of readjustment.

Most of us on reaching the retirement age are suffering from the “IF” syndrome. “IF that happens”, IF I saved more” “IF I did that” , so it’s goes on. Whatever the proportion the “IF” factor represents, it is all the more reason why we must assume a firmer control of those uncertainties, the “IF”s, and make them into certainties, thereby contributing to society by using our best potential.

Dr. Keneth P. Burge writing to the “Senior Power” magazine, relates how the founder and owner of Brentano’s bookshops chain in Chicago, Adolph Krock retired as Chairman and was succeeded by his son who always acted glad to see him coming to the office. But Mr. Krock was sensitively aware that he was “out of it”. Hence he met  Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, the famous inspirational speaker and his advice was to drop the word with “Retirement” from his vocabulary and replace with it with “Readjustment”.

Mr. Krock followed Dr Peale’s advice and sold his home and moved to a different section of the country. Then he saw himself once again as he was at the start, the immigrant boy arriving in a new land and looking for his opportunity. He joined a social service club and worked on its committee. He forgot his bookstore business except his pension cheque and practised the principle of Readjustment: “Forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forth into those things which are before. ”

The results were unique
He became a real estate dealer, a banker, social service club leader, chairman of the local hospital board, and head of Chamber of Commerce. By stimulating the forces of his personality into revitalized action, he created a new and exciting life. The enthusiasm and motivation which had made him a leader in business and community were re-employed in the retired situation.

Age syndrome
One of the biggest problems we find in retirement is to re-adjust to the new phase of life because most of us are feeling that we are obsolete and that society doesn’t need us anymore. We are rejected from society due to our physical age. Claude Bristol, the author of Power of Believing says human beings have two ages. One – calculated through the data given in birth certificates known as “Physical Age”. The second type of age is known as “Mental Age”. According to Mr. Bristol, the “Mental Age” cannot be equated to “Physical Age”. Although someone’s physical age is 72, his mental age” can be 34. And vice versa: someone who’s physical age is 34, can have a mental age of 64.

He says what is important is mental age. There are various tests to evaluate our mental ages –

Old age and enthusiasam
in his book “Live Youthfully Now”Russell A.Kemp, , says “Time has no power to age me.We do not live by time and that and life force is not regulated by a human time system, which is an arbitrary man made chronological measurement.”
Old age may perhaps more properly be thought as a state of mind in which certain mental attitudes, built by customary and traditional thinking into the conscious and unconscious mind convince us that life force is declining and we are therefore expected to think aged, act aged, and in fact be aged.

Seeing working life differently
“One of the greatest maladies facing the modern working life is too much of action,” writes Ven Dr.K. Sri Dhamananda in his book ‘Why Worry?’ He adds that driven by mass media, we believe that the more we dash about in a mad frenzy of activity (as we did in our working life), the happier we will be. A Malay saying describes this activity quite aptly “Seperti anjing keraja ekor,” like a dog chasing its tail.
The retirement phase will give us an opportunity to see the reality of this rat race.

Fear of the future
This is another syndrome we will face on reaching retirement. We start to worry unnecessarily over our health, family income, and the fame and possessions we had already. We try to maintain the stability in that which is inherently unstable.
There is no reason to worry about the future if we have learned to re-adjust ourselves according to the circumstances of our daily lives, says Ven. Dr. S. Dhamananda adding that we should also take advantage of what is possible at present. The ability to shape the course of one’s life can only be exercised in the present, not in the past and future.

The secret of happy retirement life lies in doing what needs to be done now. We should not worry about the past or future. We cannot go back to the past to undo things that have done. Nor can we anticipate everything that may happen in the future due to the conditions in the world which are constantly changing and unpredictable. There is but one moment of time over which we have some conscious control- that is the PRESENT moment, says Ven Thera.

The great Indian poet and playwright Kalidasa wrote the following lines in Sanskrit on the simple truth of living in the present.
“For yesterday is but a dream
And tomorrow only a vision
But today well-lived, makes every yesterday.
A dream of happiness
And every Tomorrow
A vision of hope and joy
Look well then to this day.
Kalidasa contributed his great works to society under this philosophy.
So it is time to activate our other aspect of life which goes beyond this physical body. That is the spiritual part of us. For a person who knows only the body, old age is the greatest misery and fear. Everything becomes meaningless and burdensome when the body begins to creak and groan. But if you have tasted something beyond the physical body, old age will not be a problem, it will be a blessing.

That’s why when we retire, there must be a shift of focus from economic and family concerns to something more spirituality oriented. That should be a part of our readjustment. Then when the moment of death comes, we can smile and go without any sense of loss because it is a natural process. Being afraid of a natural process is unnatural. This fear has come because we are not in touch with reality. This has happened because we did not have the time to explore other dimensions of life during our hectic working life.

If we had explored and established ourselves in other dimensions of experience, the body would not be such a big issue. It becomes an easy thing to handle. Life or death won’t make such a big difference.

(The writer is the former Head of Faculty, Faculty of Engineering & Construction, ICBT Campus).

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