I had a friend who was widowed several years ago tell me that he was waiting for God to send him the right woman to make his life complete. My answer was that he would do well to give God a boost by getting off the couch and going places where he could actually meet women. He didn’t understand the principle of why action trumps wishful thinking.
If you are eight or 80, there is one universal principle that guides every part of life: Actions have consequences. Likewise, inaction has its own set of consequences. One of the greatest enemies of progress and happiness is this insidious thing called inertia – the tendency of a body at rest to remain at rest unless acted on by an outside force. In most cases, the outside force will be your own thoughts and efforts.
No matter how hard you visualize or pray for your ship to come in, it probably won’t arrive unless you get out and find it and guide it safely into your harbor. The good news is that once you start taking action, it becomes much easier to keep your momentum going and progress goes from being a major drag to being just a normal part of your life. Isn’t that what we all want?
Here are some action items to get you started:
- If you are lonely, go to places where people congregate: churches, clubs, coffee shops, sports groups. You meet someone destined to be a lifelong friend.
- If you lack purpose, find a volunteer organization that can utilize your skills: Kiwanis, Rotary Club, Humane Society, hospital…the list is endless.
- If you are bored, take one or more classes at the local college or library.
- If you are broke, find a job to earn part-time income: UBER driver, retail clerk, museum docent, and many more to choose from.
- If you are out of shape, go to the gym, join a bowling league or softball team, find a local trail and go for a walk or bike ride.
- If you feel empty, find people who need your help.
- If you feel disconnected, call up (or at least email) an old friend with whom you’ve lost touch.
- If you feel the need to express your creativity, find a local musical group, theater society, or crafts group that will give you an outlet.
When you are in doubt about what you should do, it is usually better to do something instead of nothing (unless you are about to sign a timeshare contract!). For more ideas on how to get into action, read, How to Have an Active and Fun Retirement by Colleen Milner.
It is your choice whether to take the types of actions mentioned above or stay in your comfort zone. And if you do overcome inertia and take the action, you could face rejection, boredom, and an even greater sense of isolation. However, there is a very good chance that you will find the people, circumstances, opportunities and totally unexpected coincidences that contribute to a happier and more meaningful life. Really, what have you got to lose?
When I was much younger, I had a real aversion to going to bars. I thought that quality people didn’t hang out at bars and they were too good for me (a snobbish attitude to be sure!). But my friend pushed me to quit spending so much time at my bachelor apartment and go with him to a particular bar. You probably guessed the outcome: I met an outstanding woman who almost became my wife. In this case, my action had a very positive outcome.
Remember that waiting for luck to happen sounds good in theory but as Roman philosopher Seneca once said, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” It’s a great quote which is why it has been borrowed by so many people. My other favorite expression about luck is, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.” Not much good stuff happens when you sit back and wait for it.