I think to answer that we need to turn back to nature. Humans today have a tendency to think of ourselves and nature as two separate things. As if nature is out there in the woods or mountains and we are here. Not true. We are as much a part of nature today as the tree frog, bear or Walnut tree. There is a strangely secret life-hack that is hidden in nature in plain sight. I think it is probably the first life-hack to ever exist; certainly, before the term life-hack became popular. Back then it wasn’t a life-hack it was just the way of life. The way is this.
If we observe nature, we find that life exists in three basic stages: Growth Phase, Maintenance Phase and Dying Phase. The Growth Phase is just as it sounds. If I’m a Walnut tree, once the first shoot sprouts from the ground I’m on a race, a mission to get as high as I can because I want access to light, and if I am competing in the forest among other trees, I know the faster I can get to optimal height the greater chance I have to survive.
In the Maintenance Phase growth has stopped. In the Growth Phase our ears were pinned back, mission in mind, living for a purpose, but in the maintenance phase that stops. If I’m the alpha wolf I got to that position by kicking tail and taking names. I was hungry to be the top dog. But once I’m there it gets a bit cushy being first in line to take my fill of the kill. In the Maintenance Phase I’m not growing, getting better, I’m just existing in the status quo. The problem with the status quo is the rest of nature and life is moving. Planets are hurdling through space. The Earth orbits the sun. Winds blow, waves crash. Stagnant life doesn’t stay living too long. Other, more motivated life passes stationary life by. The alpha male is challenged and eventually beaten by a younger, hungrier wolf. What happens to pond water that is stagnant? Lack of oxygen chokes off life. Thus, we find the Maintenance Phase is often quickly followed by the Dying Phase. What did Andy say in “The Shawshank Redemption?” “Get busy living or get busy dying”. While we can’t stop time, we can slow down the aging and extend our life by refusing to remove ourselves from the Growing Phase. Never stop growing, mentally, physically, spiritually. Everyday we are becoming something. The question we need to answer is are we becoming an improved version of ourselves, or our we preparing to return to the earth?
While Crosby Advisory Group, LLC, helps our clients create a situation where they can retire, I will never advise them to retire from the Growth Phase. It is within the Growth Phase that we find our identity. It is not uncommon for retirees to struggle with the loss of identity in retirement years. “Hello, my name is Jack and I’m a structural engineer”. “Hello, my name is Jack and I used to be a structural engineer.” Those two sentences send a very different message to our brains. “Hello, my name is Jack and I used to be a structural engineer, but now I help raise money for children with chronic illness or now I’m the world’s best Grandpa.” In this instance the calling has changed, but the growth has not. Life moves on. Move with it.