Tony Leighton is a Canadian writer happily retired and attempting to help others feel the same.

How to Achieve Forward Motion In Retirement


In a career, we usually think of progress or forward motion in terms of job status or accomplishments tallied (houses built, books written, heart surgeries performed, students educated).

But we are nevertheless moving along one track. The job track.

Because retirement is is jobless, for many it also becomes trackless. Forward motion is lost for lack of direction.

That can be depressing.

Unless you build tracks.

Imagine 12 tracks. Each one is something you want to get better at, as a person, as a mother or grandmother, as a community member or friend or thinker.

Here’s an imaginary list of skills that can be sharpened by any able retired person:

  • Relationship with spouse

  • Relationships with children

  • Friendships

  • Cooking healthier food

  • Physical fitness

  • Emotional regulation

  • Yoga

  • Meditation

  • Hiking

  • Studying something in depth

  • Gardening

  • Golf

  • Conversation

  • Community volunteering

  • Reading great books

  • Teaching what you know

  • Purposeful relaxing

… and hundreds of other possibilities

Write a list of interests or things you’ve wanted to explore in your life but didn’t have the time before now.

Pick as many as you like. Not too many. Not too few.

Now think of them on individual tracks all pointed in the same direction: ahead.

Your task is to nudge each one along the track every day or every week. An hour at the gym. Two hours in your garden. Fifty pages of a great book. Three YouTube how-tos. One satisfying conversation conducted purposefully not casually. One page written on whatever you feel like expressing. Twenty minutes of meditation to calm your “monkey mind." A phone call to a grandchild. A healthy meal. Quality sleep.

That’s a good day. Progress on many fronts. Forward motion in bite-size increments.

The pace is up to you. You can be busy getting skilled or dabble in it. The important thing is that you have objectives. Objectives can also be called purpose. We all need purpose.

The beauty of slow progress on many fronts is that you aren’t dependent on one thing — such as a job — for that satisfying feeling of accomplishment. Diversified purpose pulls you along.

Diversification is also safer. Like a freelancer who has several projects on the go at once and many clients, if one or two projects finish or a client leaves, you can replace them without suffering.

For inspiration on this idea, I dipped into the bottomless well of online quotations and pulled out these:

“Acting on our interests refines our understanding of what we are good at and what we value. The experiences we have along the way sometimes introduce us to new values that enhance and enlarge our vision. The lessons we learn through habits of action test our understanding and teach us to identify what matters in our life.”
― Marian Deegan, Relevance: Matter More

“What you feed in yourself that grows.”
― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

"To be really happy and really safe, one ought to have at least two or three hobbies, and they must all be real."
— Winston Churchill

"Surround yourself with what you love, whether it's family, pets, keepsakes, music, plants, hobbies, whatever."
— George Carlin


What are you growing in retirement?

The Worthy Goal of Nice