Flourishing in Retirement

People make their way through life and into retirement in various ways so how do you flourish in retirement? Unfortunately, there is no one formula that fits all your time, experience, and wisdom you have accumulated along the way. You may just have to work it out yourself!

A Sense of Loss.

We all face retirement with a sense of loss in many ways. After all we have lost our social network our regular income and we face new family challenges. But those who thrive in retirement are the ones who use what they picked up along the way to retirement to make their world a better place. It can give retirees a reason to be thankful every night and wake up smiling every morning.

Wrong Perception of Retirement.

Sometimes, retirement is wrongly portrayed as a utopian period during which people are happy and content to do little or nothing with their time. This error in thinking presupposes that the stuff you do leading up to retirement will be enough to keep you happy for the rest of your life. This makes great advertising slogans for Superannuation companies who produce emotionally charged commercials and brochures. The truth is retirement is really just an empty space that requires constantly working at relationships, time management and, most of all, taking action to generate positive feelings.


Martin Seligman a few year ago wrote a book called ‘Flourish”. It’s a result of years of work as a leading psychologist and university professor. In that book he says that if you want to flourish at any age there are five things that matter about what you choose to do.

1)  Positive Emotions.

He concludes that positive emotions almost always involve other people. I can see his point because every time Ive had a belly laugh its been when Ive been with other people. I do smile at the TV programs occasionally when I’m alone but rarely do I laugh out loud. Over and over again studies on positive emotions point to our feeling more positive after helping others. So here’s a test for you. Find one unexpected thing to do tomorrow and just do it. It may be ringing someone who you haven’t seen for some time or someone who you know is lonely. It may be standing on the street corner giving away $1 coins or perhaps mow the lawn of a neighbour who needs it done. If you notice after your experiment that you feel more positive, then keep finding things that make you feel better and Seligman’s research tells me that you will improve your mood.

2)  Engagement

Do something that you can get completely engaged in. This means finding a task where you lose track of time. Maybe like me it will involve fixing something. My father-in-law spent his retirement inventing things in his workshop. Unfortunately for me they were never great money making inventions but fortunately for him they were totally absorbing.

3)  Relationships

Put time into meaningful relationships. My daughter sent me a picture from about 5 years ago when I took my grandson to Dreamworld. They had an air cannon that shot foam balls onto the path below. He was shooting grandad as often as he could and laughed out loud every time he hit me. Now that was a fun time but it reminded me that I’ve missed so much of his life and he’s now growing up so quickly. So, if I have one word of advice for those about to retire it’s spend as much time as you can with family with whom you have positive relationships. Sometimes you may feel like pulling back but you will build such positive memories and it will result in more fulfilment in your life. As an exercise, why don’t you think of someone who has done something significant for you in the past and write them a letter of thanks. Then if possible list them and read the letter to them. That should take your positive feeling to a whole new level.

4) Meaning.

Do something that has meaning to you. Sometimes people suggest you get involved in stuff because they think your problem is not having enough to do. In my experience that’s not the issue. I believe the issue is doing things that have no meaning or things that make no difference in your life. One thing that’s obvious to most retirees is that this may be the last period of their life before sickness put you in hospital or the grave. So it’s very important to find something that gives you meaning. Personally that comes from my involvement in my local church. The mission of the church is so much bigger than me and usually involves helping others to find their way in life.

5) Achievement

You must do things that you can finish so you can find a sense of achievement. Some of the things Ive done in the past never had a completion. Things like helping some people who seem to go from one crisis to the next can be wearing. So if you have that sore of engagement with some people mowing the neighbour lawn can be the answer because you will know when its finished and you can see wha you have done.

And Finally

These five simple, yet profound, points can change your life and retirement forever. Taking time to reflect on the areas of questions above will make you a member of a very exclusive club, and put you years ahead of less-prepared people as you move toward retirement.

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