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Retire or not, that is the question?

He picked up his drill for what he thought was the last time. Would he miss it he wondered as he removed an old fractured amalgam isolated with rubber dam. The 26 had certainly seen better days and perhaps had he been staying, would have benefited from a crown. But that was for another day and another dentist. Filling finished, dam removed, bite checked and composite polished he pulled off his tunic and placed it in the wash basket. If they found a new dentist of his size then the shirt wouldn’t be wasted but go on to serve the practice until worn out or the logo updated.

He felt a sense of freedom that he hadn’t experienced in years. The weight of responsibility shifted to someone else’s shoulders. As he placed his hand on the car door he was reminded of the pain he had endured in the latter part of his career. His thumbs ached, index finger partially numb, neck sore and tinnitus in his left ear. He wondered whether that was industrial deafness from the drill or the constant clenching as he attempted to reconcile the books. No matter, it was over and now the hope of a long easy going retirement. Not really quite enough in the pot to live to the standard they had become accustomed to, but he was sure with a few changes they’d manage.

The first couple of weeks were great. He played golf, he was never really good at it and now holding the club was a bit of an ordeal but he loved the fresh air and the walk. He tried yoga, Tai Chi, walking the dog, lazing on the beach and coffees out. He travelled, visited family and friends then sat for hours wondering just what on earth he was going to do for the rest of his life. He was still active, his mind alert, his idle hands itching to do something and so it happened. 

This is what he wrote:

“Today I go back to work as a dentist. I thought I was ready to retire and I probably am, but! I haven’t planned anything for the future. vague ideas, speaking, writing and New York Times best seller. Teaching dentists, not teaching dentists, speaking to the public, not making bookings. The days became empty very quickly, purposeless with me reading and re reading facebook, or writing posts or just writing for the sake of writing. Waiting for the end of the day a glass of wine, the Bachelor, the Survivor and then to bed, to repeat again tomorrow. 

I had thoughts of speaking to my profession, handing on my experiences to the next generation, but I failed to plan and as the saying goes, I therefore planned to fail. Who’d listen to me anyway. I suppose I was a bit of a Maverick but don’t we all tell ourselves that? I did look at dentistry differently and it would be a shame to waste that experience! Actually I love to speak, to the profession, to the general public and so I should! 

My passion, my enthusiasm, my knowledge and experience. My hope, my desire, my dream to share even if for a brief moment the highs, the lows the headaches and heartaches. My understanding of stress, dental distress and the pressure that is now so palpable within a noble profession caught up in bureaucracy and litigation. I’d love people to understand that we didn’t cause the problem, they did, we’re just here offering solutions to the problems they’ve caused!

So now I am going back to work, to plan. While I am working I need to plan my retirement, whatever that word means. Retire from dentistry yes, but not from life, not from work, not from speaking, writing and researching. I need to build my audience, build a following, build a tribe of people who like what I do, what I stand for, what I speak about and who enjoy my writing. I need to plan speaking tours, speaking gigs and what I am going to offer. Only then will I be ready to down tools, put the drill to rest and move on.

I am in the second half, I need to play all out until the final whistle. Who knows how long I have but in this time, I intend to make a difference, live a life of significance and when all is done be proud of my achievements…”

We work so hard for retirement, we do deserve to slow down, do what we want to do but why wait until the final whistle. Why not integrate retirement into everyday life so that this outdated concept can finally be put to rest. Why not design a life from early on that transcends the old model, a life so well integrated through its many facets that when the time comes to down tools, that is in fact, all that is happening. Life goes on, metamorphoses into something new, meaningful, fulfilling and significant. 

The trick? 

Start early, plan and implement

Don’t place all your eggs in one basket

Stay on purpose in your flow

Find balance across the eight pillars that support your purpose

Rather than searching for happiness which is transient — Be content and still strive for more!