Retirement 11: Outline Your Ideal Retirement Life – Embrace Happiness

Know what you want and go and get it!

Before you begin to plan the nuts and bolts of your ideal retirement, make the life-changing decision to embrace happiness.   This may not be as simple as it sounds, but it can be done.  So much of how we feel is a decision.  Consider the example of Abraham Lincoln.

President Lincoln said that we’re just about as happy as we make up our minds to be.  That’s truly amazing when you consider that he suffered from melancholia (clinical depression) and that he had recently lost a beloved son and was responsible for steering the nation through a brutal Civil War.

If Lincoln could decide to be happy, surely we could give it a try!  Here are some proven ways to raise our level of happiness.

Proven Happy-Makers

1.  Be non-judgmental. This doesn’t mean you don’t have standards.  It just means that you’re willing to take people as they are.  We can never change the other person; all we can change is our reaction to that person.

2.  Forgive your enemies. Carrying grudges takes way too much effort.  Just let it go.  It will increase your happiness tenfold.

3.  Share your talents. If you’re a great cook, entertain often.  Love to garden? Share your flowers or your herbs.  If you love to bake, pass those cookies around. If you love to sing, join the choir.  If you love to tell jokes, make people laugh.  If you’re a wonderful teacher, be a volunteer tutor.  Everybody is good at something.  The point is to pass that talent around; don’t hoard it.

More Ways to Embrace Happiness

4.  Accept help graciously and with appreciation when you need it. Many people are wonderful at giving but horrible at taking.  Think how satisfied you feel when you’re able to help another person.  It gives you a nice warm feeling.  Keep that in mind when you need assistance and someone offers to help.  Accept it with thanks and let your helper share in the good feeling

5.  Return the soft word rather than the sharp jab. This one is difficult.  It’s so easy to give the quick come-back, the harsh and sarcastic answer.  Unfortunately, those who suffer the tongue lashings are often those we love the most.  We’re far kinder to those not so dear to us.  If we are really true to our authentic selves, we will take a moment and a deep breath and come back with kindness rather than cruelty.  It will pay off in happiness – not just to our loved ones but for us.

And More!

6.  Employ the 48-hour rule. This comes from my mother, and it’s some of the best advice she ever gave me.  She said that if I were really upset, really furious, really terrified, I should wait for 48 hours before responding because almost everything will resolve, or at least improve, within 48 hours.  Think about it.  Except for truly terrible situations – deaths, wars, crimes – few situations still feel as desperate two days later.

7.  Consider whether it will matter in 50 years. Almost nothing will.  Was the house perfectly clean?  Who cares?  Did you get that promotion at work?  What promotion?  Did your political party win the presidency?  Who even ran for vice president in that election?

Some Things Do Matter in 50 Years!

  • Did you take the time to make some memories with your kids?  Remember that time you  went fishing in Minnesota?  How about that trip to the beach?
  • Did you foster the importance of education for your children?
  • Did you take the time to make up with your sibling after a disagreement?  Later in our lives, our siblings are our only connection to the land of childhood and the authentic children we once were.


Embrace Freedom!!

Not too long ago, I was visiting with friends from my former place of work.  They started to talk about an upcoming conference they were planning to attend.  I began to get that familiar churning feeling in my stomach – partly excitement and partly dread – when suddenly I realized one of the wonderful things about retirement.

I don’t have to do that anymore!  I don’t have to apply for the conference.  I don’t have to justify the cost of attending by submitting a paper to deliver at the conference.  I don’t have to make travel arrangements through the Byzantine process at work.  I don’t have to give a re-cap of what I learned at the conference to my fellow employees upon my return.  I don’t have to deal with all the fires that pop up while I’m gone.

I don’t have to be ambitious anymore.  My deadlines are now my own, not my boss’s.  Who cares if I sound smart or decisive or innovative?

I am no longer, in any way, what I do for a living?  I am free!

Relish your freedom by living your ideal retirement life.  But first, you must know what you need to create your ideal retirement life.   We’ll do more work on this in the second part of this post, but now that you’ve worked on discovering your authentic self and making the decision to embrace happiness,  you’re ready to figure out what it is you really want and go out and get it!




Retirement 10: Pay Yourself First

Accept and be good to yourself. 

Begin by being as good to yourself as you’d be to a friend.  Most of us tend to be pretty hard on ourselves. Pay yourself first.

Think back to the times that you’ve been far more accepting and forgiving to others in your life than you were to yourself and see if you can’t cut yourself some slack.  There’s nothing selfish in that.

Special gifts just for you.

Gift yourself first
Be good to yourself.

Start by doing things that enrich you – your body, your mind, and your soul.  Find things that nurture you and make you feel good about yourself.  They can be big things – traveling to South America – or small things – learning to bake the perfect pie!

Increase your self esteem and self confidence.

Applying these gifts to your life will increase your sense of self and your self-confidence.  Research echoes these suggestions.  Take a look at this excerpt from Psychology Today.

“As we learn better self-care, we become better people in general. When we are in touch with our own feelings, we can then reach out more effectively to others and show love and empathy to them also.

If we are filling our own emotional tanks with self-respect and loving care, we have much more to give to our families, friends, and the world in general.”

Enjoy these “gifts” for you.   A few suggestions for self-acceptance follow:

  1. Just say “no” to things you don’t want to do.

This was a difficult one for me.  I was so used to trying to please people that I ended up doing lots of things I didn’t really want to do.  It was liberating to discover that as soon as you say, “No, I don’t want to do that, the other person would say, “Oh, OK.”  And that was the end of that – no excuses, no explanations.  It was perfectly fine to decline.

  1. Laugh! Have fun. Life is short and often difficult.  Laughing and playing help to get us through.  See the humor in almost every situation.
  1. Don’t hide your so-called flaws. Nobody’s perfect, and we wouldn’t like them if they were!  Think of a time when you’ve liked a person so much better because he or she was willing to admit a weakness.
  1. Gift yourself with time; to exercise, to be quiet and find your balance, to eat healthily, and to love yourself.

Pay yourself first.

Quit using “lack of time” or “guilt about pampering yourself” as an excuse to skip doing something good for your body, mind and health.

Create a “happy place” for yourself. A place where you regain your center.  This could involve planting flowers, listening to music, dancing, playing an instrument, and so on.  Whatever does it for you.

Homework for your Happy Retirement Guide                                      

  • Cherish and nurture your self-esteem

Find ten things – both big and small- that you like about yourself.  Are you a good mother, a fabulous cook, a good tennis player, a supportive wife?  Don’t over think this.  Just write down the first 10 things you like about yourself.

  • Write ten things you like about your appearance and physical abilities

I’m sure you spend lots more time than that cataloging your so-called flaws.Instead of thinking about your flabby thighs and your wrinkled neck, how about considering your nice smile, or your pretty hair, your strong arms and legs. .

Write your answers in your Retirement Journal and add this information to all you’ve discovered about yourself so far in Retirement 1-10 posts.

Positive aging, positive retirement and positive living are just around the corner!

Go ahead, gift yourself right now.







Retirement 9: Four Ways to Discover Your Authentic Self

What look do you want?

How do you discover your authentic self by looking in the mirror? This might seem like a strange question that has little to do with life in retirement, but the answer is revealing because the look we pursue says something about us.  It says, “This is the face I’m showing to the world.  This is what I want to be.”

Will the real you please stand up!

For some, it’s professional dye jobs and plastic surgery.  For others, it’s the decision to stop all that stuff.  I know of one coworker who said if she ever had a car accident just remember that L’Oreal # 56 was her hair color.  Another friend said, “I just ignore my wrinkly neck and wear low-necked shirts.

My daughter-in-law recently asked me how long I was going to remain a blonde. “Oh, forever, I’m never going to stop coloring my hair.”  Actually,  that’s probably not true.  I’m sure there will come a time when the maintenance becomes too much trouble, but it hasn’t come yet.

How does your authentic self dress?

Think about your look.  What kind of clothes do you like to wear?  What makes you most comfortable?  Sweats? Athletic clothes?  Classic ensembles?  Jeans?  Designer dresses?  Are you artsy or Bohemian?

The way we look and dress says something about us.  It’s one of the primary ways we express ourselves.  What’s the vision you want to project to the world?  It’s worth spending a little time thinking about it.  The one where you’re the most comfortable is probably the most authentic.

Who does your authentic self want to spend time with?

I don’t know about you, but I’ve reached the time in my life when I don’t want to deal with difficult or high-maintenance people.  If someone makes me feel small or less than I want to be, I limit my time with that person.  If I need to play a part to keep them happy, then I can’t be the authentic person I want to be.

Conversely, those people who make me feel good and seem to accept me – warts and all – those are the ones I want to share my authentic self with.  So think about who those people are for you.  Take a few minutes to make a list:  write down the names of those who you most love to spend time with and the names of those you’d like to avoid.

Make a conscious decision to make more time for the former and less time for the latter.  This is real life,  however, and sometimes we must spend time with difficult people.  But it doesn’t have to take over your life.  The trick is in controlling and limiting how much that time takes from our lives.

What things does your authentic self most value?

Of course, the most important “things” in life aren’t “things” and are probably pretty easy for you to list.  I can quickly say that I most value, “my husband, my children and grandchildren, my larger family, my friends, my home, my spirituality, my fitness level and health.”

Your list may be completely different.  Do you value financial freedom?  Travel?  Fitness?  Learning?  Think about the things that are most important to your life.  Write them down.

The trick is then to figure out if we spend our time on the things we most value or if we spend it on other things.  If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll find out if we’re living authentically.  If I say that I most value my relationship with my husband but spend little time with him, that’s not authentic.  If I say that I value my relationship with my children but spend my time criticizing and arguing with them, that’s not authentic.  If I say I value my health, but don’t find the time to exercise, that’s not authentic.

This exercise can be really eye-opening and even life-changing.  Retirement offers us the chance and the time to make what we say we value and how we live match.  We can take Shakespeare’s advice to be true to ourselves.  We can become the real, authentic people we were meant to be.

This isn’t the first time we’ve written about authenticity.  It’s an important subject.  Take a look at this earlier blog.  

Here’s to discovering your authentic self!


Retirement 8: The Self Discovery Process

Self Discovery: Who are You?


Self Discovery:  Will the real you please stand up?

Sensational retirements don’t just happen. They take some planning, and the place to start is with you. Take a little time to think about this and begin by asking yourself some questions to peel back the layers and find the “authentic you.”

Drill deep.  It took years of experiences to add those layers and it may take some time to remove the ones you no longer want or need. Write a description of who you believe you are. Link to mind-mapping to try mapping a visual of who you are.

A simple example of mind mapping for self discovery

  1. Start by placing “Who Am I” in the center oval on a horizontal/landscape sheet of paper.
  2. Draw lines radiating from that center oval. Name these ovals wife, or mother, or daughter, teacher, writer, dancer, husband, golfer, volunteer, tennis player etc. Use as many as you need to describe you.
  3. Use mind mapping to discover the real you.

    3.Once you have a number of larger roles that describe you, fill in labels around the center oval

  4. Draw lines radiating from each outer oval that more finely describe you in that role. Represent all aspects of these roles around each oval.
  5. Continue this exercise until you have covered all aspects of who you are.
  6. Reflect on what you’ve identified. Now eliminate the parts you don’t enjoy. Prioritize and highlight the parts that inspire you.
  7. Leave room for unknown possibilities or unrealized dreams for how you would like to be. Represent these ovals as future goals
  8. This simple exercise enables you to take a look at the person you believe you are and identify what part you want to strengthen and the ones you want to adopt.

There are many ways to mind map.  This example is easy and paints you a visual of how you would define yourself.  If you include viewpoints from family, coworkers and friends you would have additional ovals/perspectives to add to your self-description.  This isn’t difficult or time consuming but provides a place to begin.

Here are a couple of ideas on your self-discovery journey to help you get started. List:

  • How do you most like to spend your time?
  • What are your ten favorite activities that make you the happiest?
  • When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

These are activities that you do now and enjoy.  Activities that make you feel happy and energized.  You may not be able to spend as much time as you’d like doing them at the moment, but in retirement the sky is the limit!

When I first did this exercise, I was surprised to find that I spent very little time doing the things that actually made me the happiest. That was something that needed to change in retirement. It’s the reason you are working on your happy life plan.

When Pam was a girl of 8 she told a neighbor that she wanted to grow up and be a singer like Dinah Shore.  The neighbor laughed and of course that didn’t happen.  But she always loved to sing and she joined a chorus the first year of retirement.  She was so happy at rehearsal she became teary eyed.  A singer at last!”  There are many ways to live your dreams. The first step is identifying them.

Homework for happy retirement.

Create a mind map to describe who you are and list the ten activities in your life that make you the happiest and what you wanted to be when you were a child.



contact us:


Retirement 7: Embrace Change and Enrich Your Life


These chickens are afraid of change!

No matter how excited you are about retiring, it represents a major change. Prior to this departure, you knew what was expected and required of you, but here you are in a whole new role. Even though it’s a wonderful role, it’s still change, and that can be daunting.

It’s even more daunting if you don’t want to retire. Before we quit working , I can remember my husband saying that he feared retirement more that death.  Wow!  That’s an unpleasant comparison.

In either case, retirement demands a significant change to a significant portion of your days, week and years.  How will you adjust?  How will you maintain your equilibrium and your balance, so that you can make this transition smooth? Take a look at this interesting article about change.  Here are some additional suggestions.

Four ways to embrace change and enrich your life

  • Accept that change will happen. Sometimes we get so used to the routine of our lives that we’re thrown off balance when it takes a detour. You know the old saw that says, “nothing stays the same except change.”  That’s for sure.  Even change that’s good – like retirement – can be stressful.  It’s OK.  Everything will be all right.  In fact, it’s going to be wonderful.
  • Be good to yourself. Indulge yourself a bit when you’re in the middle of change.  If you can’t indulge yourself, at least try to be as nice to yourself as you’d be to your best friend.
  • Know that flexibility is the key to happiness. Let it go.  Take it as it is.
  • Realize that working through change makes you stronger. I love the quote from Eleanor Roosevelt that says, “A woman is like a tea bag. You can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.”

“A wise person adapts to circumstances, as water shapes itself to the vessel that contains it.”       Chinese Proverb

Instead of being seduced by ambition at work, you can now put your efforts into understanding the beauty and possibilities around you, the talents and successes of others, the stories and lives outside your workaday world.

If you read Dixie’s last post, you’ve already begun your transition by exploring the inner you and outlining a plan that will put you in a proactive position. You’ve already started on your journey of discovery that will enrich your life and will bring you rewards that will fill you for life.

And by the way, my husband who so feared retirement, couldn’t be happier!

How are you adapting to retirement so far?   



There is a whole new kind of life ahead, full of experiences just waiting to happen. Some call it “retirement.” I call it bliss.
— Betty Sullivan

Retirement 6: Replace your work purpose


Retirement is a departure from the purpose of work and also the routine of work.  You already know the compensation ends.  The routine that surrounds and supports your work also ends.

Find your new purpose?

When the purpose ends so does the routine that surrounds and supports your work.   You know the routine that I’m talking about:

  • Preparing clothing for work
  • Planning ahead for fixing dinner. Need to stop at the store on the way home?
  • Buying your lunch?  Fix a lunch.
  • If there’s family, getting them up and off to their destinations.
  • Gas in the car?
  • Setting the alarm for 1-2 hours before starting the commute.
  • The commute. Is it an hour each way? Less? More?  Allow for traffic, weather.
  • To do List to clear up what wasn’t finished yesterday. Start on new projects.
  • Family activities after work?
  • Stop at the dry cleaners.

After retirement, that routine changes drastically.  The drain on your time changes from all the tasks listed above to “What am I going to do today?”  Sure you still need to keep up with the laundry, the meals planned and the family attended to, though they probably have their own homes by now. You have all day to deal with these items and if not today, then tomorrow works too.

Find Your New Purpose

 Now is the time to shift your passions and probe your curiosity to identify your new purpose in retirement.

Purpose evolves as you pass through the many phases of your life.  This may stem from passions from the past or desires at one time or another that you didn’t have time to pursue. In retirement your constraints are lessened because you may be downsizing your home, the kids are through college, the car is paid for, the weddings are over and you are into the next phase.

Positive feedback always feels good. It can happen outside of work.

Now, the “job well done” may only come from inside you after retirement, but the truth of the statement still resonates.  And it may resonate on a much more personal level that will have residuals that far out-distance a title and a salary.



How do you find purpose?

Continue reading Retirement 6: Replace your work purpose