As we go through life, there seems to be a natural progression. When we’re young, we tend to be hungry and passionate. We have a fire in our belly. We’re willing to take risks and blaze new trails.
We accept things like moving, changing jobs and making new friends as a common part of life. We’re ok living in a humble apartment filled with less than desirable roommates and hand me down furniture. We’re ok driving a sketchy car.
In short, we’re comfortable with discomfort. Partly because we don’t know any better, but mostly because we know that the discomfort is a necessary stepping-stone on the way to something better.
Then a funny thing happens as we get older. We get a better job with a better income. We upgrade our house. Buy a better car. We get the kids into private school and take on a whole mess of responsibilities. As this happens we get less willing to rock the boat. Less willing to take a risk. We’re more willing to compromise and less willing to change because along with change comes stress, uncertainty and, most of all, discomfort.
Then retirement comes. The retirement that most of us imagine requires significant life change. We’re leaving our job. A move may be involved. We’re doing new things. Trying new experiences. Saying goodbye to some people and meeting new ones. Saying no instead of yes. Saying yes instead of no. Doing those things can be intimidating and scary. They require a certain level of discomfort.
Unfortunately, we’re at that phase in life where we’re not very comfortable with being uncomfortable. The obvious risk is that we will decide to downsize, delay or even discard our dreams for retirement. Just as we’re ready to “sail, dream and discover” we decide to keep our ship at anchor instead.
I’ve seen this phenomenon many times as I help people transition into retirement. I even see the seeds of it starting to germinate in my own life. The risk is real. So don’t get too comfortable. Stay curious and open to new things. Be ready to steer off the well-worn path of the familiar and onto the road less taken. Remember that retirement doesn’t need to wait until some far off date. Each of us can start today.