I’ve been feeling lately that I’m not “living up to my full potential”. I’ve heard this phrase my whole life. It’s a family/societal expectation. Yes, I know I’m trying to stop feeling like I need to live up to (what I perceive as) family/societal expectations! But, I’ve been seeing this phrase a lot lately and every time it catches me and I feel not good enough. What exactly does the phrase “living up to your full potential” mean in retirement?
I worry that I’m not “living up to my full potential” when I’m not pursuing a second career, not actively promoting my book & becoming a speaker/life coach, not doing regular volunteer work, not executing an every day exercise program, not finding my creative passion, not creating a legacy with young people or kids, or not traveling extensively – all the things you are “supposed to do in retirement” – The Full Potential of Retirement.
Recently I read this statement: “Retirement is the time to dream about all the roads untraveled, the untapped potential within you, all the life you still have to live. You need to know what makes you happy and what you need to do to make that happen.” Again, there’s that untapped (full) potential!
I think I prefer to focus on what makes me happy. I know I am happier when I am active, eating more healthy (including doing the healthy cooking sometimes), and connecting with folks either on-line or IRL – walking & conversation, eating & conversion, etc. I like to be with others in small groups to go out & about. I enjoy a calendar of events that keeps me as busy as I choose to be.
I’m coming to accept that I don’t really want to work – not a second career nor a part-time job nor being a life coach. I just don’t want that level of commitment. I’m struggling to find regular volunteer work that doesn’t feel like a should-commitment. I’m just not a go-to-the-gym every day person (not even a go-to-the-gym twice a week person). I’m not sure I have a passion inside me just waiting to be tapped.
It’s hard for me to let go of the things I think I’m “supposed to do in retirement”, acknowledging that they are merely societal expectations. Yet, I look back at my retirement notes and see phrases like:
- Accept the reality of who I am, and stop trying to be something I’m not.
- Live the life you were meant to, not the one other’s expect you to.
I continue to practice changing long-held beliefs and thought patterns.
- I try to be aware of when I’m feeling incompetent or less than/not good enough and challenging the reality of the situation. I need to continue to focus on my strengths and interests (even if I have to just read that list it took months to create!) and not do the “Compare and Despair.”
- I try to be aware of when I’m feeling an excessive desire to please, being over-reliant on others opinions, or an over-compliance with others wishes and instead ask, “Do I really want to do that myself?”
- I try to be aware of over-thinking things and second-guessing. I am trying to live more in the moment and let things happen.
Yes, all of these are try to… and require active awareness of my thoughts and reactions! So maybe “living up to my full potential” is becoming someone who feels they are good enough (all the time), becoming someone who isn’t trying to please everybody else (self-validation), and becoming someone who is happy with her life, in the moment, every day.
Yes, as it’s been said: “Do the best you can with what you have, where you are.”
Maybe that truly is living up to your full potential.