“I’m at that stage of life where I don’t buy green bananas anymore.”
The first time I heard someone say that was many years ago, from a much older friend named Pete. He was in his early 70’s. I hadn’t a clue as to what he meant.
Pete explained it to me: at his age he thought he might not last long enough to see a bunch of green bananas grow ripe. Then he turned serious.
Ever since he’d retired a few years before, he felt that his life was essentially over. His career was over, his kids were grown up and on their own, his marriage had failed. His life was empty and without purpose.
Pete hung on that way for another twenty glum, reclusive years.
I’ve thought about Pete so many times over the years and his inability to find something in life that brought him pleasure and purpose.
The thing is, he loved working. He had been the consummate deal maker. He could find an opportunity in a pile of garbage; he was that creative in business. He would make business deals from his favorite booth at the diner, on the golf course, in a coffee shop or standing on-line at a grocery store.
He was forever bringing people together and creating, like magic, something from what looked to the naked eye like nothing. I witnessed several of his deals in the works and marveled at his charm, and his ability to read people and create opportunities.
Once he retired, though, his purpose dissolved and he became despondent and depressed. His demeanor shifted from gregarious to introverted. He lost his sense of who he was and what would bring him satisfaction.
He had all the money he would ever need or want. His love of deal making wasn’t about money; it was about purpose. I just wish he could have found other purposes in his life.
I tell all of my clients who are anywhere near retirement age that I wish the same thing for them—and if they’re younger, I tell them to think about what will make their lives purposeful once they no long have to work for a living.
What can you do to avoid living out the rest of your life without purpose?
Begin with the following seven steps:
- Do an assessment of your current life. I’m talking about your health, financial life, leisure, community, family, learning, etc. What’s working? What’s not?
- Consider your optimal situation vs. your current level of satisfaction. In other words, what are you shooting for and where do you fall short?
- Isolate the areas that cause the most stress in your life. It could be your health, financial security or important relationships. It might be just a fear of changes and getting outside your comfort zone.
- Devote time to considering where your highest purpose lies. For example, some people love learning and know exactly what they’d like to study when they have time, what books they are committed to reading.
Some have charitable or political causes that are very important and have considered how they’ll volunteer their time. Some already know they will be helping with childcare for their grandchildren.
It’s your choice to make, but actively making those choices rather than just falling into a new role is vital to success in the next phase.
- Consider plan B. What if your original plans don’t work out for some reason—for example family needs or health problems prevent you from retiring to that distant tropical paradise? Having a backup plan provides a sense of comfort that you can transition as seamlessly as possible.
- Make sure your financial house is in order. Nothing will shake your foundation faster than a financial plan built on jello.
- Approach the next phase with an open mind. Remember, most of everything we perceive to be truth is actually opinion and not objective fact. So be willing to ask questions that might challenge your beliefs.
Looking forward with positive expectancy is essential for your health and vibrancy. You derive happiness and satisfaction from understanding where you are, where you came from and what life experiences you want to add on within the boundaries of your current capabilities.
My hope is that you will continue to buy green bananas and watch them ripen, along with the many wonderful experiences that lie ahead.