Life Begins When You Decide To Make The Rules

It’s all an invention.* A story. We cling to the ideas of the past as if they are truths. But if we dig deep enough, we realize that almost everything, our customs, rituals, what is socially acceptable behavior, is all an invention. When we realize this, it gives us permission to question more. Do these made up rules still apply? It’s a hard question to ask because it is more comfortable to accept old truths rather than forge a new path. There may be comfort in the tried and true.

But does it really serve us?

The gift of this way of thinking is knowledge that you have the power to choose your own rules.

Retirement is a made up concept

Retirement is the current invention that I am challenging. It was invented long ago in a completely different time and for completely different motives than to enhance your well-being. We know it is an invention because there are cultures that have no such concept; no word to describe what we take for granted and assume as a right.

Retiring from life is risky business

A recent study has correlated an increased rate of death for those who retire at what we have made up as the “normal” retirement age. Why would we strive to do something that increases our risk of death?? What can we do instead?


Give yourself permission

Once you realize it is all made up, it opens up possibilities. All that it takes then is the courage to give yourself permission to choose another way. Without the tried and true, any new path will have risk. It might not work. But what does that mean? What is the meaning of your life? To arrive at the end without a scratch? Or to embrace everything it means to be alive?

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”
Hunter S. Thompson, The Proud Highway: Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman, 1955–1967

We are built for purpose

Leaving a job, at any age, can be the right move. But only for a bigger purpose. You should never be without purpose. Purpose is what gets you up in the morning. It’s what brings you alive. Without purpose we drift. Unmoored from life. Disengaged. Drifting is dangerous.

A life well lived

Moving away from what we don’t want isn’t enough. We need to move towards the life we do want. But what do we want? Fundamentally, we all seek the same things. We seek the “good life”. We may think we just want to be happy, be free from the restrictions of a job and to have enough money to be “safe”. We really need more to thrive. We need activities that engage us, relationships that matter, meaning, and the ability to experience a sense of achievement. How do we build a life like this?

Embrace the journey

Accept that it is a journey of discovery. You may have clues from the past about what you want to pursue, what will bring you joy. It’s time to experiment. Try out ideas that you might find interesting. If they don’t work out, simply say “how fascinating”* and move on to the next experiment. What do you have to lose? I know what you have to gain……a life well lived. And isn’t that really the goal?

This article was originally published on You can follow MaryEllen on Twitter @talkmoneywithME

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