Rest on Your Laurels?

Rest on Your Laurels?

Something with which to garland success or something to rest on?

Over the last thirty years I have had the good fortune and privilege to work with many successful people. Some achieved their success early and quickly, others were an overnight success after 25 years and more still accumulated their success by sustained effort over many years. What all have in common though is a fundamental belief in hard work and effort. No moaning about others perceive advantages in life or good fortune. Interestingly they have also come from right across the socio economic scale. Some with next to no academic qualifications, to those with degrees from the top universities. Apprentices to fast tracked graduates. 

Whatever societies current ills it is still far more likely today that success in life can be achieved by anyone than it was fifty years ago.

With success of course come the garlands and rightly so, whether that is purely through recognition of their achievements or through financial rewards seems immaterial. Where things can start to go wrong is after a lifetime of work these people move into a phase in life we call retirement. This can be a time when some rest on their laurels and maybe they should, to a point.  It has become convention that after leaving education at whatever point in our lives we enter the world of work, do so diligently and work hard and success can be yours. Thereafter when we reach a certain age we can stop, sit back, relax and enjoy our retirement. The picture sounds idyllic.

The reality of retirement for many is very different from the picture postcard vision we were sold. For some it is truly the most fulfilling and happiest time of their lives, but for others it is a time of stagnation, boredom and at times depression.

As well as working with successful people throughout their working lives, I have also been able to work with them in their retirement years and have observed many things that surprised me, some which did not and issues could have been avoided.

Rarely are the problems I have encountered with people’s retirement anything to do with money. I have come across as many very wealthy people who are unhappy or struggling in retirement as I have those with very little. One common thread to the happiest and healthiest seems to be remaining engaged in life, continuing either to work in some way or give of their time to others. Making sure they remain active, both physically and socially. To some readers this may seem like a statement of the blindingly obvious and so it might be, however, one other common theme is a lack of consideration of the long term future in retirement beyond saving money to pay for it.

There are people who remain active and relatively happy by simply continuing to work, this is most common with those who have built a business or the self employed. Generally, they don’t seem to know how to choose not to work so hard. Some who stop do so because they are simply exhausted and need a rest, sadly they often don’t realise the rest should only last so long, before they need to re engage in some way. These are generalisations of course and there variations in these outcomes, but in order to ensure you have the best chance to make your later years the most fulfilling of your life doesn’t it make sense to devote time to thinking and planning what this time might look like before you get there?

By Michael Middleton