Don’t neglect the most important thing in the world

After all these years, I still don’t know if he meant it as a compliment or an insult, or maybe a curious mixture of both. But I clearly remember the words.
He looked interested, almost amused, as he said, “You think your work is the most important thing in the world.”
We’d known each other professionally for a long time, and whatever he meant, I took it as a compliment. Yes, my work is just about the most important thing in the world. And so is yours. For where else does one get meaning in life if not from work?
Work has dozens of definitions in the dictionary. One of them is “sustained physical or mental effort to achieve an objective or result.”
Now just exactly how could you live meaningfully without exerting energy “to achieve an objective or result.” It’s through work that we make a difference in the needs of humanity, and it is through work that we define ourselves.
For these reasons, some people this side of 60 find themselves rudderless and sometimes thinking nostalgically of the days when someone else structured their working hours.
Society’s definition of retirement is the absence of effort to achieve an objective or result. In other words, the absence of work.
Vacation is wonderful but like ice cream, when you’ve had enough, you’ve had enough. A life without work is a formula for unhappiness, poor health, and growing dependency.
Employers aren’t seeking out the highly qualified, dedicated older worker. No, you can’t count on institutions or the corporate world to utilize your talents. That all ends this side of 60.
Now it’s up to you. And what an opportunity! For the first time, you can do the work you want to do–not the work someone else wants done.
Some people know from the beginning what they can’t wait to do this side of 60, and others have to define it once they get here. Both ways are fine. The important thing is not to let this marvelous opportunity slip through your fingers.
So what is it that you most want to do? What need of the world could you help with? What was the other path you didn’t take in your youth and have often wondered about?
Is it gardening? Or photography? Or music? Or some aspect of health care? Or working with small children? Or carpentry? Or doing word processing on a computer?
Let your mind run wild. And when you find the thing you love, figure out a way to do it. Do it as a volunteer. Or if you need the extra money, find someone to hire you.
Make sure your skills and the way you present yourself are first class, and then don’t let employers off the hook because of your age. Federal law does not allow age discrimination.
Remember, this side of 60, whichever side that is, your work is indeed the most important thing in the world, and don’t for one minute entertain the idea of a life without it.

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