Five Lessons for Retirees
1. Expect adventures and surprises.
Your retirement is not likely to turn out exactly as you expect. There will be surprises along the way, some good and some not so. You or your spouse may develop an illness or disability. You may find new friends and fulfilling work where you didn't expect. You may even find new love, completely "out of the blue." You may find, like a friend of mine, that you do not regret a single day of retirement. Whatever happens, there will be new adventures and surprises along the road.
2. Optimism Helps
In a real sense, you will get out of retirement pretty much what you expect. If you see it as an adventure, an interesting new beginning, a happy time when you can make your own decisions without worrying about your job...if you are optimistic, then it is likely that you will enjoy retirement. On the other hand, if you fear retirement, if you dread even saying the word, if you think that retiring equals dying, they there is a strong likelihood that you will have an unhappy retirement.
However, you can actively change your outlook (and your future) from pessimistic to optimistic. The book "Learned Optimism" by Seligman demonstrates how people can train themselves to be optimists. It isn't just a theory, it has been tried and worked on research subjects. The basic technique is to argue with yourself when negative thoughts intrude in your life. If you say to yourself, "I won't have any friends after I retire," then argue the opposite opinion in your mind. Using this method brings new, positive thoughts into your thinking and lets you change your opinion. Just like in the Sound of Music, if you pretend you are happy you will become happy.
3. Fight Inertia, Get Involved
Sadness and depression often causes lethargy, a feeling of "being in the doldroms" which in turn causes more sadness and depression. By getting involved you can reverse this vicious circle into a virtuous circle...involvement with life brings energy to your life, which in turn causes you to get more involved in life. This involvement can be social involvement with other people (volunteer work, a part-time job, travel) or solitary involvement (writing, gardening, even blogging and creating web pages like I do). The key is to do something.
4. Go For Your Forgotten Dreams
We all have dreams and aspirations, and many of us have had to forgo those dreams. Maybe you always wanted to learn to play the guitar, or run a marathon, or get up to speed on video games, or grow a garden. While you were working and raising a family you didn't have time to fulfill those dreams. Part of the fun and excitement of retirement is that you now have the time to live your dreams. And, you probably are not so afraid of failing or looking foolish as you were when you were youner. So, get cracking on those forgotten dreams!
5. Work Only As Much As You Want To
As a working person, you probably have a 40-hour job with a fixed time to arrive and to depart. In addition, you may have to work overtime. Few of us spend exactly as much time at work as we want to...some want more hours, the majority want fewer. As a retiree, you can spend as many, or as few, hours on your activities as you like. If you would like to sleep in every day, do it! If you want a schedule filled with exercise, work and socializing, do it! There is no right and wrong number of hours for working when you are retired, and what is right for you this week may not be right for you next week. You have the freedom now that you didn't have before.
Retirement is a new phase in our lives, and it is what we make of it. These five simple ideas can help you make the most of this new part of your life.
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