I bet the title of this article got your attention. You may have immediately agreed with the premise. However, there will be many people who claim that it is not their choice of whether to have a happy retirement because the circumstances of their life make it impossible.
I talk to a fair amount of people who are either in, or about to enter, the retirement zone, and when I suggest that they have control over their retirement happiness, I hear things like:
- My ex-spouse left me in financial ruin.
- My kids have moved away and I am lonely.
- I was forced to retire before I was prepared mentally or financially.
- I’m bored and don’t have friends to hang around with.
- My health isn’t the best and limits my activities.
Do you believe that these are legitimate reasons that these people (or you) can’t have a happy retirement? Perhaps there are circumstances so unfortunate that they dictate the level of happiness. But in many cases, it is the interpretation of the circumstances, not what actually happened, that produces the positive or negative mindset.
As I talked about in my recent article, How to Write Your Own Story, there are individuals who have a great outlook on life despite overcoming huge obstacles. A great example of the latter type of person is John O’Leary, author of the highly-rated On Fire: The 7 Choices to Ignite a Radically Inspired Life. John has the unique distinction of having been burned over 100 percent of his body in a house fire he accidentally started as a child. Yet, you will not hear a more positive and forward-thinking individual. I do recommend John O’Leary’s book because it has the potential to change your life.
NextPhaseofLife.com was created with the idea that there are five key pillars of a successful retirement:
- Good health – the ability to move freely and do the things you want to do.
- A supportive community – people with whom to share the journey. This article, Choose Your Retirement Tribe Carefully, talks about how to have success with three significant tribes: family, personal and professional.
- A sense of purpose – the reason you get out of bed every morning. There is a strong correlation between purpose and retirement happiness.
- Adequate finances – possessing enough income and assets to allow you a good quality of life. For some, this can mean $3-4 thousand per month, and for others, $10 thousand or more. As a baseline, you need to possess enough to meet your basic needs and something left over for things like recreation, dining out and travel. You won’t be happy just because you have plenty of money, but the lack of it can make happiness more difficult.
- Positive mindset – As the saying goes, it is better to “want what you have” than to “have what you want”. It’s the attitude that counts most, not the acquisition of something.
These five pillars are the same whether you are talking about retirement success or retirement happiness. You don’t have to have abundance in every pillar, but a good balance certainly helps. Interestingly, improving your situation in one pillar often rebounds to benefit the others. As one example, finding your purpose can expose you to a new tribe, improve your health, boost your finances and contribute to a much better mindset. If you find yourself in an unhappy place, or are afraid that you are drifting in that direction, pick one of the pillars and take some steps to improve in that one area.
And what if you lack motivation to pursue progress in your chosen area? Great question. One of the greatest discoveries I have made is that you don’t need to be driven to do something for intrinsic (internal) reasons. Let’s say you dislike the thought of exercising and because of your distaste, you lack the necessary motivation to get in better shape. We all have these barriers around doing things that would be beneficial to us. This is where extrinsic motivation comes in. You do something for the reward (e.g. losing weight), not for the pleasure it brings you. And this is where action supports your quest to have a happy retirement.
To quote from the blog/podcast site MeaningfulHQ.com:
Here’s how most people approach motivation:
MOTIVATION —> ACTION —> MORE MOTIVATION
Here’s how motivation really works:
ACTION —> MOTIVATION —> MORE MOTIVATION
Regardless of what you want to get motivated about, the answer always begins with action. Action is the impetus for motivation. Action is the precursor to motivation. Action comes first, motivation comes after.
- We want to STOP saying: “I need to get motivated to take action”
- We want to START saying: “I need to take action to get motivated.”
Following the “motivation follows action” formula – if you know that you should exercise but lack the internal desire, go take some action. Perhaps it’s just a walk up the street and back but it is a step in the right direction (pun intended). Do this 10 times, 20 times or more, and you might find that it is harder to stay at home than get out and exercise. You will have internalized the positive habit. I wish that I had learned this important lesson much earlier in my life. I’m happy now but the journey could have been easier.
Like I said, whether or not to have a happy retirement is your choice. Make the right choice, take action and be happy!