I couldn’t help but notice the North Dakota personalized license plate in the Florida restaurant parking lot. It said, “Werdone.” As the 60 something couple got out of their SUV, I asked them if I could take a picture of their license tag. “Sure,” they said. “You aren’t the first one who has asked.” I told them this would be a great topic for my blog. And as we walked together with them toward the restaurant door, I clarified the intent of their mobile message. They indeed were communicating a message that they were retired—we are done.
I regret that I didn’t get to have significant conversation with this North Dakota retiree couple who were enjoying the warmth of our Florida winter. I’m not sure if they have clarity about their calling and purpose in this season of life or if their whole lives have been focused toward the finish line of retirement. In my brief 30 second interchange with them, I got the impression it was the latter.
Having lived in Florida for nearly three decades now, I’ve repeatedly encountered people who have seen retirement as the finish line. They have the “werdone” mindset. They’ve completed their years of service in a particular career and now they will focus their lives on rest and relaxation. No agenda. No schedule, except maybe a tee time. Every day will be free for golfing, boating, fishing, or travel.
Yet with a “werdone” mentality, I’ve seen large numbers of retired people who are unhappy, depressed, grumpy and even suicidal. They have no mission. No purpose. No reason to get out of bed. Little to nothing to live for. They become angry, often lashing out at younger people. I’m sad every time I see it happen.
However, I rub shoulders every day with so many who live in contrast to the “werdone” crowd. Yes, they’ve broke the tape at the end of their career journey. They’ve officially retired. But they’ve retreaded. They’ve discovered a clear purpose for living. They use their expertise, experience and wisdom to mentor younger generations. They volunteer their time, investing in things that will outlive them. They use their talent to contribute to projects and ministries that are impacting others. They leverage their resources for maximum influence. They love to make a difference.
I’ve noticed that this second group of retirees are finding significance and meaning in life. They aren’t struggling with depression. They aren’t wondering if they matter or if anyone will remember them. They have joy in the journey. They are making a contribution. They feel fulfilled. They are energized. They love life. They look forward to each new day.
If you are in that “werdone” mode and struggling, it’s a new year. Make a change today. Volunteer at your church, synagogue, hospital, hospice, school, soup kitchen, or favorite non-profit. Read a stimulating book like Halftime or a practical get-started book like Success to Significance. Keep exploring options and possibilities until you find just the right fit. Of course, use the more relaxed environment of retirement years to do the recreational things you love to do but make sure you are living with a focus and purpose that guarantees you will out live your life.
QUESTION: What have you discovered that has helped you live with significance? Please share it in the Comment area below. Thank you!