What will you count as ‘success’ in your retirement?

Danger. Danger. Danger. Are you at risk of repeating the same mistake that you made in your working life?

What mistake? The one where how good you felt about yourself all depended on your professional achievements and how you were seen in the eyes of others.

Who, you? Strongly, probably, likely. Because it can happen to the best of us. Subtly and almost unknowingly. And it should be no surprise because that’s the way it is ‘out there’.

The society we are part of works with some very wrong assumptions about what’s ‘success’ and what makes you and me valuable. For example – that a university education means someone is smarter than those who didn’t go. That a stay-at-home parent is of less value than someone making a mint.

To navigate life based on such wrong assumptions can be damaging says the author Emily Esfahani Smith in her book “The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life that Matters.”

In her book, Emily shares stories of many who based their self-worth on their level of education and their career achievements. For them, she says, ‘When they succeeded, their lives felt meaningful, and they were happy. But when they failed or struggled, what gave their lives value was gone—and so they fell into despair, and became convinced they were worthless.’

Writing her book taught Emily that ‘being a successful person isn’t about career achievement or having the most toys. It’s about being a good, wise, and generous human being.’

In other words, it is not about conventional ‘success’ but about the kind of person we are or are becoming. This is the basis on which we should measure the success of our lives.

However, if we’ve used the wrong criteria as the basis for our self-worth during our working life, what’s to stop it rearing its ugly head in our after-work years? And if it does, the likelihood of doom ahead is great, because the level of conventional achievements open to us in this new stage of life offers little promise as a means to bosting our ego.

Which is why our only hope is to measure our value by what kind of person we are. And that offers the wonderfully unlimited potential to be good, wise and generous. Be that with our time, our relationships, our possessions and resources, and more.

There’s also another perspective. It’s what God thinks about you – which is always going to be more accurate than what you think about yourself.

Our sense of self-worth ought to be wrapped up in the God who had us in mind before anything existed, who loves us unconditionally and paid the ultimate price to restore our relationship with him. Indeed, our true value can only be measured in the price he was willing to pay for us – the life of his own son.

We matter not because our achievements tell us that we do. But because God tells us so. It might help you to mull on these amazing facts and let them sink in. God would have you know –

You are unique Psalm 139.13, You are loved Jeremiah 31:3, You are special Ephesians 2:10, You are precious 1 Corinthians 6:20, You are important 1 Peter 2:9, You are chosen John 15:16, You are mine Isaiah 43:1.

By living as though loved and valued by the God who made you, and seeking to be good, wise and generous will do more than just help you feel better about yourself. Think of the impact it could have on those closest to you – including the generation following in your footsteps.

To explore this subject more, take a look at the page on our website that looks at Status in more depth.

Peter Meadows

Peter uses his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, enjoy his eight grandchildren, escape to Spain and to spend his kids inheritance.

Do you have thoughts on what ‘success’ means in your after-work life? Please join the AfterWorkNet Facebook community and tell us.

The word retirement is not even in the Bible. What is taught in scripture is transition. There is nothing that says you work most of your life and then get to be selfish for the next 20 years"

Rick Warren, PurposeDrivenLife