Many of us look forward to retirement as a sort of magical time of leisure without devoting much energy or thought to the specific challenges we might face once we get there. Among my clients, one of the biggest challenges I’ve seen is that of developing faith during the retirement years.
Overcoming this challenge by learning to develop faith (either in the context of a specific religious tradition or in a more general context) can bring fulfillment, joy, and enlightenment to your retirement years.
While each person’s individual journey to developing faith is unique (and is influenced by highly personal factors), all people can take certain steps to work toward achieving deeper, more satisfying faith in themselves and their world.
Strategies for Developing and Deepening Faith
Retirement is no longer a time for settling into your ways. Today’s retirees are eager to “catch up” on experiences they didn’t have time for during their working years. While no two people will find the exact same experiences lead to meaningful changes in their faith, the following types of experiences often prove fruitful…
- Pilgrimages and travel. Whether to a holy land or to a landmark meaningful only to you, travel is frequently part of the path to enlightenment. Travel is unique in its ability to expose us to new sights, sounds, people, and ideas–and no traveler can return home completely unchanged.
- Volunteering your time. Even if you’re still working full- or part-time, chances are your retirement leaves you with more free time on your hands, thanks to lessened time demands from your immediate family members. Devoting some of that time to volunteering, mentoring younger people, or actively serving in a religious setting can prove enormously fulfilling spiritually. Like travel, volunteering puts you in new contexts, introduces you to new people, and pushes you to consider your actions, and the impact they have on the world, in new ways.
- Building relationships. The phrase “toxic relationship” is familiar to most of us, but we rarely talk about the opposite. Building meaningful relationships, though, can significantly contribute to the process of developing your faith. Seek people who have achieved the type of enlightenment you’re reaching for and people who are striving for the same type of faith experience as you. Surrounding yourself with such people will give you the support system and network essential to making meaningful strides forward with faith.
Whatever your religious background, retirement can raise spiritually troublesome questions. Whether or not you feel “old,” you realize that you have, in some ways, begun the final stages of your life. And even if you aren’t particularly worried about death, the extra time you have on your hands can leave you with time to turn the subject over in your head more than you’d prefer to.
As you continue in your quest to develop your faith in retirement, remember that faith–like retirement itself–is a journey. It’s up to you to set the itinerary and to decide whether or not to enjoy yourself along the way.