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 to 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