Would it surprise you to know that nine out of 10 workers around the world are “actively disengaged” from their jobs? According to a 2014 Gallup Poll most people spend half their lives disliking what they’re doing—thus fuelling a burgeoning lotto industry, sales of alcohol, “cronuts”, and other mind-altering substances. Some of us dream of a windfall that will free us from the burden of earning a living, while others count the years and months until retirement and anticipate finally being happy.

The golden-brick road

These folks have probably never heard of “arrival fallacy”. Coined by Israeli/American psychologist Ben Tal-Shahar, it describes the mistaken belief that when you arrive at a certain destination, you’ll be happy. Take retirement for example: a recent study by BMO Financial Group found that often there were gaps between what people thought their retirement would be like and what it is actually like. For example, more than one-third discovered that, despite not going to work, there still wasn’t enough time in the day to do everything they wanted to do. And almost a quarter of them were unpleasantly surprised to find that they were spending more money in retirement than they had expected.

The feeling that one has just cashed one’s very last pay cheque is a common, and understandable, source of anxiety. Therefore it’s critical to have a sound retirement income plan to provide steady cash flow that is relatively immune to market volatility.

Another option is to pursue an encore career (or two, or three…). Not only can the incremental cash flow relieve financial pressure, or simply provide for a few more comforts and pleasures, but it can give a sense of purpose and self-worth that money alone cannot buy.

Can we get an encore, please?

The question, “What would you do for fun if money were not the primary reason?” stumps us. After decades of doing work that doesn’t engage us, (if the Gallup Poll is correct), the invitation to “follow our passion” looks like a dead-end. This is where enlisting the services of a life-coach, or simply reading some of the myriad books on positive psychology and happiness, can break through the paralysis. For example, Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, recommends “doing what you do”—in other words, how you would spend a free Saturday, or what you liked to do as a 10-year-old.

Some of my favourite things to do as a 10-year-old were to play talk show host (interviewing our terrier/Chihuahua mix on the living room sofa); teacher (scolding imaginary recalcitrant students); “go-go” dancer, model and Playboy bunny (those tails were so darn cute!); and imitating Cher. So, as far as my encore career, the Playboy bunny ship has sailed, and “go-go” dancing has also gone the way of the dodo bird, but becoming a Cher impersonator might be worth a second look.