Retirement is an evolution, not a destination.

April 20, 2016
Mustafa Zommo
Mustafa Zommo

Retirement What a word! It's loaded with so many meanings and innuendos!

To me, retirement is transitioning from a structured full-time work environment with less-personal time and choice to an unstructured and more flexible world with greater personal time and choice. I’m discovering that retirement is not binary. It’s not as simple as “you used to work and now you don’t.” 

Most expectations suggest that you have gone from being too busy with work and now you have tons of time on your hands. Your previous life, which was fraught with tension, is immediately transformed into a happy life with happy pension. 

Although there is some truth to that, generally speaking, retirement is much more nuanced and complex. You need to prepare for it by having a plan that's aligned to your interests that also includes adventurous components. I would suggest you also seek advice from those who retired before you. And, as I am still realizing, you need to find a balance of structured and unstructured activities. You should make personal time while fitting in time with family and friends but above all, you still need to work hard to keep your mind positive. You can do that by focusing on the good in people. 

Retirement is not a destination. You don’t get there and all your worries magically evaporate and all your dreams instantly come true. Rather, retirement, as with work, is an intermingled series of happy and unhappy moments with many neutral ones peppered through. When I look at my happiest moments in retirement, they are similar moments to when I was working - be that playing Euchre late at night with special friends; or when I took friends’ children for their first ride in my sports car and turned to see genuine, almost goofy smiles on their innocent faces; or having a warm chat with a friend over a cappuccino and biscotti. These moments are what ultimately matter most and the more of them you have, the more you will be left with a high spirit, calm mind and a grateful heart.

Since my retirement, I have heard comments along the lines of: “you are so lucky, you look younger and less stressed.”  Frankly, I did not realize that I looked old and stressed before retirement. It’s hilarious to see people’s reaction when I say I don’t feel retired or bored. I also love their reaction when I note that I am not too busy to do what’s important, such as spending time with family and friends, eating well, or spending time outdoors golfing or skiing. 

Wait a minute ... that is exactly what I did when I was working! I’m just doing more of it. A few people told me they failed at retirement and immediately went back to work. I’m not sure if there is a right answer but as I said earlier, if what you do leaves you with a high spirit, calm mind and a grateful heart, then you’re doing it right, retirement or not!   
I have never been clearer about my priorities. I am focused on increasing the number of regular happy moments, which can only be achieved through greater self-awareness, while appreciating and making other people happy. My best discovery this year is yoga (hot and cold); it makes me more self-aware, focused, centered and balanced. It has given me critical perspective in a world filled with distractions and superficiality – give it a try, if you can!

Here’s my conclusion: If you are delaying any aspects of your life until you retire, you are wasting precious time. You should never wait to do what makes you happy.  Start transitioning into retirement as soon as you can, and live in state of  “retiresition” - this is somewhere between being fully immersed in work and fully retired. Take more walks, do more yoga, appreciate your family and friends, put more smiles on more children’s faces - just enjoy the small stuff.  Better minds have labeled this ‘living in the moment’. So, live in the moment, with love!


Mustafa Zommo retired from the Federal Government in April, 2015 after a 33-year, highly accomplished career.  He was appointed Special Advisor to the President and Chair of the SSC Academy’s Board of Directors at Shared Services Canada. He also served as ADM and CIO at Human Resources and Social Development Canada. Most of his career was devoted to IT and Information Services issues. He became a member of the National Association of Federal Retirees in January, 2016. You can read and follow his blog, poifectworld - Making the world a better place here.