Finding Inspiration in Retirement

Do you remember as a kid when a new day rolled in and you could hardly wait to get up and get to it? As soon as the sun was out you were ready. There was nothing better than opening your eyes and feeling the excitement of not knowing exactly what was in store, but anticipating a multitude of possibilities that could be. Each day held the promise of something new. Perhaps a best friend in the neighborhood awaited your attention. Maybe a new bike enticed you to ride off into the day. Whatever the specifics, it was wonderful in that moment to feel energized, hopeful and expectant.

As time passed, that idyllic childhood evolved into a career, and for the next 30 years the focus was on fulfilling the duties of your job. Not all mornings begin with the same excitement you felt as a youngster. In fact, sometimes it took all the will power you could muster just to get up and get yourself to work.

By the time retirement rolls in, it is not always easy to resurrect the simple passion for living that was second nature not so very long ago. The burdens of years lived can weigh upon us, too often transforming carefree optimistic people into down-to-earth realists. Challenges continue to manifest, and we often struggle to transition into our second act.

It’s up to you to remember how to find enjoyment in the little pleasures life has to offer. Now that you are retired you have more control over how you choose to spend your day. Finding a little inspiration can make the difference between existing and enjoying a satisfying retirement. Here’s where to look for inspiration for your second act.

Family. Spending more time with family is often a top retirement priority. We often have many shared experiences to relive and new happenings to relate. Sometimes we also have a lot in common with our loved ones. My son and I are in many ways mirror images. Often when I see a picture on his Facebook page I take a second look, swearing the image is that of a younger me. His sense of humor is similar to mine, and his love of animals and fanatical loyalty to the San Jose Sharks came right from Dad. When I spend time with him I feel proud of all he has become as well as a certain satisfaction that I had a little something to do with it.

My wife is Swiss and has a wonderful family spread across Switzerland. Over the years we have visited and hosted many happy travelers. The next generation is reaching an age when they are venturing out to explore the world around them. When visiting, they quickly find themselves sharing our love of California and regaling us with fun stories of their day’s adventures. Their youthful exuberance and endless energy helps us to recharge as we bask in its glow.

Creative pursuits. Although the working world jealously hoards time we may otherwise use to explore hidden talents, retirement can be the perfect venue to delve into our creativity. You can pursue whatever sparks your interest now that you have free time. My aunt took up oil painting later in life and has produced some colorful creations that grace the walls of family members. A friend spends his spare moments taking amazing photographs. Another aunt had taken up square dancing. You don’t have to worry about how good the end result may be. This new activity should be about doing what you want and enjoy.

Travel. Back in school I was never very interested in geography. I did not care to learn about people and places beyond my immediate neighborhood. These days I cannot learn enough about other cultures. I find the history, food, fashion, distinctive architecture and wonderful idiosyncrasies of the local population all incredibly interesting. I love to walk the neighborhoods, heading nowhere in particular and uncovering hidden treasures along the way. And I don’t necessarily have to travel far to find interesting destinations. There is plenty to see within driving distance. For me, the planning that goes into a pending trip is almost as much fun as the trip itself. Anticipation and a little research behind the scenes prior to embarking can make travel even more inspiring and rewarding.

Retirement can become boring if we don’t take steps to prevent it. Taking up creative pursuits or travel can help break up the monotony. These inspiring activities will enhance your retirement years and help you to make the most of your second act.

Written for my blog on US News & World

Take Care of Yourself First in Retirement

When you retire you become personally responsible for your own happiness. How you spend your time and what you do is up to you. The freedom you feel can be refreshing, liberating and inspiring. However, if your retirement journey does not go the way you hoped, who is to blame? Your retirement happiness rests in your hands. Here’s what you can do to maximize your chances of setting up a successful retirement.

Don’t get caught up doing things you don’t want to do. When the world learns you have free time on your hands, everyone will be knocking at your door. There is no limit to the number of worthy causes that will try to enlist you to do your part. Grown children will quickly translate your new freedom into an always open babysitting service available at their beck and call. Even a “honey do” list might get a bit out of control. It will be up to you to ration your time in a manner that satisfies you as well as the world around you. Learn to be selective and say “no”.

As we age we need to maintain and expand our social network. It is important to interact with others and get involved. But if you really do not want to attend a particular dinner party or if the thought of attending the next symphony bores you, why force yourself to go? At a time when you are finally in charge of your calendar, choose what you want to do, not just what you feel obligated to do. This is your chance to look forward to your social life rather than dread it.

Set your own priorities. While on the job you typically focus on the things most important to your boss. Chances are you do not even have much input. Now that you are retired you get to do what is most important to you. Put goals at the top of your list that you consider the most important and also the most fun. Why not focus your attention on what you really enjoy? You can worry about less significant goals later.

It’s OK to do nothing. Many of us find ourselves occasionally overwhelmed with all we have to get done and seemingly impossible deadlines. The thought of taking a break feels like an impossible dream. But in retirement it is OK to do nothing. In fact, finally getting tobeautiful blond kid blow dandelion outdoor do nothing is an important part of retirement happiness. Look for the right mix of meaningful activities and serious downtime that best compliments your retired lifestyle. This balance can help keep you engaged and challenged while providing ample time to recharge and reset.

Keep active in mind and body. If we do not exercise our minds and bodies, they will not continue working the way we want them to. Obviously the biceps of a 65-year-old will not be as impressive as those of a 25-year-old, but that does not mean we cannot strive to be as fit as we can at any age. Exercising our bodies, challenging our minds, stretching beyond our comfort zone and keeping engaged with life are important ingredients for a healthy retired lifestyle. To give your mind a good workout, keep learning new things. Try to challenge your brain by learning a new language, signing up for a class, expressing your artistic side or taking a shot at something you have never done before. Each of these activities will challenge your brain to perform new tasks.

Enjoy the little things. With your calendar only as busy as you make it, retirement affords the opportunity to appreciate small moments that are frequently overlooked while caught up in the frenzy that life can be. This is your chance to slow down and take it all in. I love spending my mornings in the backyard with a nice cup of coffee and watching the sun moving up through the trees as it warms away the night coolness. Hummingbirds chase one another for the right to the feeder while my two cats vie for attention at my feet. This gradual start with time for reflection helps me prepare for the day ahead. Living at a less hectic pace helps me to take in the little details that make a moment special.

Written for my blog on US News & World

Follow These 5 R’s for a Rewarding Retirement

When you retire, you want to do it right. After so much careful preparation and struggle, you have earned the right to join the ranks of the retired, and you want to make sure it’s worth the effort. Here’s how to make sure your retirement will be fulfilling:

Reward yourself. You have earned the right to spend your free time as you choose. Don’t put pressure on yourself to fill your days with meaningful accomplishments. You are no longer a worker bee, so you can choose to do what is right for you. There is no performance review, no measures of success and no pressure to rise in the ranks. Retirement is your time to pursue what matters to you. What better reward than the option to spend your moments however you choose. You have the option to do nothing at all or try something new.

Rejuvenate your life. It is likely that after 30 or more years working you may feel a bit tired. Your job may have required a steep price for success. Retirement can be your opportunity to relax and start over at a slower pace. It doesn’t matter what you did in the past. From this day forward you can look to the future. Who you were on the job does not have to be who you are in retirement. Behaviors that were essential to your business success may be out of place in retirement. So, get rid of them. Retirement can be the perfect time to make a fresh start.

Refocus your energies. With your job behind you, get ready to add at least 40 hours of free time to your week. Now that you have the ability to choose you can focus attention on the other areas in your life that may have been ignored. Your family is likely due some make up time. Relationships with friends that have fallen to the wayside can be rekindled if you desire. If you have not been attentive to your health, this is a good time to revisit your exercise routine, establish a healthy diet and start practicing good habits across the board. All the energy that went into keeping up with the industry and corporate politics can now be refocused on real passions and interests that you want to pursue.

Respect your limitations. What you were able to do 30 years ago will not necessarily be what you can do today. But aging does not necessarily preclude living a good life. By learning to accept your limitations you can be better prepared to make the most of each day. Try not to regret what you can no longer do, but instead rejoice at what you are still capable of. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Remember how many times others have turned to you for assistance over the years.

Renew your interests. Think about what you want to do with your time. The hobbies and interests that excited you in the past can be revisited and explored in depth. You could write a novel, learn a new instrument, become fluent in the language of your choice, try your hand at ballroom dancing or do whatever else interests you most. Retirement is your reward for all your efforts that went into getting you safely and hopefully sanely to retirement.

From my blog for US News & World. Dave Bernard is the author of “I Want To Retire! Essential Considerations for the Retiree to Be“. Although not yet retired, he focuses on identifying and understanding the essential components of a fulfilling and meaningful retirement. He shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement-Only The Beginning.