When I first graduated from college, a friend suggested I read a relatively new book on career and life management titled, The Three Boxes of Life, by Richard N. Bolles.
The book’s theme is that we generally separate our lives into three distinct, sequential boxes. Box one or the preworking years, is all about growing and learning; your responsibilities are low, your self-enrichment time high and you have an abundance of time for leisure. Box two is your working years, lots of commitment, significant responsibilities and little time for fun or enrichment. And finally, box three is retirement which is all about leisure.
Bolles went on to suggest that we would all be happier and live more fulfilling lives if we instead combined these boxes throughout our lives, thereby creating a better everyday balance between work, leisure and self-enrichment. Ultimately, it would mean working later into the retirement years, but less in the early years, committing to constant learning, and most importantly, taking more time along the way to enjoy our lives and families.
The ideas in this book have always stuck with me, and as I write this and reflect upon my experiences to date, I realize that I tried with some success to incorporate them into my life. But now looking forward, I also realize, they are even more relevant, not only for the quality of my life, but that of my children.
I am a baby boomer, the post war generation that was born between about 1945 and 1965. The wave of babies that helped the US economy grow over the last 40 years, and the wave of retirees who are expected to shrink the labor force, stress the U.S. retirement systems, and alter the nature of the economy.
A recent Wall Street Journal opinion piece, by Nicholas Eberstadt and Michael W. Hodin titled “America Needs to Rethink Retirement” talks about the need for older workers to remain engaged in the economy in order to support economic growth, provide much needed skills and help support our government services and federal debt burden. Furthermore, according to their research “There is also mounting evidence that working later into life correlates with better individual health and satisfaction, and may contribute to them.”
So as I look to the second half of my life, I am thinking more and more about how I will continue to combine the three boxes and will plan to not only work longer into my retirement years, but at the same time, I will still strive to strike an even better daily balance between work, leisure and learning (with a little more emphasis on leisure).