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.
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.
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.
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!