Retirement offers the potential for many things. More time for travelling, occasionally sleeping in, spending time with the grandkids, starting a new hobby, or finally reading War and Peace can all be part of your plan in your newfound downtime.
But saying goodbye to the daily grind — at least in the traditional sense — isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be, and can potentially be detrimental to your health.
Think about it: When your future is bigger than your past, you’re motivated, looking at growth, and trying to find new ways to hone your craft. That can all end with retirement. And if you tie your purpose in life to your work, as many people do, it can be especially problematic for both your physical and emotional health.
In fact, putting off retirement by just one year can lower the risk of “all-cause” mortality by 11%. Imagine what would happen if you never retired — or, at least, rethink what it means to retire.
If you haven’t guessed, I don’t believe in retirement in any way, shape or form. The abrupt shift from a high-engagement career to a state of leisure can have a negative impact on your sense of purpose and overall well-being if you’re not prepared to retire in a healthy fashion. It’s all in the approach, as my brother and I can attest.
In 2018, we made the decision to sell our business to a group of private equity partners. I entered into the arrangement with a plan: To help other entrepreneurs get what they want from their businesses. I was participating as an advisor, serving on boards, coaching other companies, and so on.
My brother, on the other hand, didn’t adopt a similar strategy. He had nothing planned and spent his time just walking around the block every day. He became depressed, directionless and purposeless. His mental health suffered significantly, so I convinced him to buy another business. That was somewhat helpful, but he’s still searching.
Before making the sale, exiting your business, or just retiring in general, really think about where you’ll derive your fulfillment. How do you intend to use the freedom that retirement offers to bring fulfillment to your life? In my opinion, a great way to channel that freedom is to harness your entrepreneurial expertise in a different capacity — coaching, mentoring, advising, contributing and helping.
That way, you’re building your own business again, which brings similar benefits as your previous role: entrepreneurial engagement, client interactions, professional contributions, that adrenaline rush from closing a deal, and plenty more.
Finding purpose in retirement
To be shoulder to shoulder with someone who’s “been there and done that” is invaluable, and it’s not something young entrepreneurs learn in business school. That’s something that only experienced entrepreneurs can offer — and if you do so, it will also provide you a greater purpose for this next phase in life, while getting compensated in the process. So, it’s important to prepare for the freedom that retiring or exiting a business offers.
It’s much like the story of Ben Franklin walking down the streets of Philadelphia when someone yelled to him, “Mr. Franklin, what have you given us?” And he responded, “I’ve given you a republic. Now, it’s up to you if you can keep it.” You must be mindful in how you plan to keep your newfound freedom.
Once you settle on how you will use your freedom, then it becomes a matter of how to protect your time. Personally, I use Dan Sullivan’s Entrepreneurial Time System. I block off days when I don’t do any work. Other days are either designated for focus (when I’m moving the business forward) or for buffer (when I clean up any potential messes). It’s important to have a system in place to protect your time.
Retirement is a fool’s errand. Don’t do it. What you really seek is freedom. Instead of retiring in the traditional sense, make use of your entrepreneurial expertise by helping the next generation of entrepreneurs. Your physical and emotional health will be better for it.
Mark O’Donnell is the Visionary at EOS Worldwide and is passionate about helping entrepreneurs get what they want from their businesses. He helps clients clarify goals and objectives and take actionable steps to achieve them. Mark is a 10-time Inc. 5000 entrepreneur with experience in high-growth organizations. Named to the 2022 Inc. 5000 as one of America’s fastest-growing companies, as well as to the 2022 Inaugural Inc. Power Partner list, EOS Worldwide has helped thousands of entrepreneurs all over the globe get everything they want from their businesses.