Success in life and all its phases can be measured in many ways. Some reminisce of their glory days in high school. Maybe they were captain of the football team or homecoming queen or won the state chess championship.

Others excelled in college, graduated summa cum laude, were invited to all the parties, or landed the dream job. Some worked their way up the corporate ladder or took on a big loan and built a successful business over years of hard work or taught multiple generations of students. Hopefully, most have worked and saved enough through the years to finally retire.  

After accomplishing the prior phases of one’s life, what does a successful retirement look like? Sure, we plan and save for retirement all the time, but when it finally comes, are we ready for the next phase of our lives?

There are many ways to thrive and enjoy retirement. Some savor time on hobbies, travel, play cards, sew, enjoy gardening, get involved in a church, or volunteer. Some make things or fix things or find a part time job and have some enjoyment while also earning a wage. Some surround themselves with family, helping to connect the generations.

Unfortunately, some do not enjoy retirement. Health issues, financial troubles, and relationship problems are just some of the ways that can make it difficult. Some people, despite the best ways of planning and saving for retirement, may have lost identity and have no idea what to do next.

As in any situation, to be successful, one must find meaning and purpose.  

It must be extremely hard to dedicate one’s life to a calling and purpose, only to one day be told to move on. It must also be particularly challenging to have a plan for retirement, only to have those dreams set aside due to changes in health or financial hardships. 

COVID-19 has certainly put a wrench in many people’s plans for retirement, as well as most everyone else’s plans. Certainly, with many things postponed, changed, or cancelled this last year, we have all had a chance to reconsider what we spend our time on and what things may be worth a risk.  

As we enter a new year and changes ahead, whether that be retirement, a new job, a new relationship, or a new normal, I would encourage you to find purpose and meaning in what you do. When you get up for the day, set a goal or find some way to make it meaningful. That is how we will all excel in this new chapter of our lives.

Andrew Ellsworth, M.D. is part of The Prairie Doc® team of physicians and currently practices family medicine in Brookings, South Dakota. For free and easy access to the entire Prairie Doc® library, visit www.prairiedoc.org and follow Prairie Doc® on Facebook featuring On Call with the Prairie Doc® a medical Q&A show streamed most Thursdays at 7 p.m. central.

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