In this series of exclusive videos, the author of Thriving in Retirement offers insights and advice on how to make the most of retirement
Hi, Guideposts. I'm Eric Thurman. Thinking about this season of life we commonly call retirement, what might we be tempted to miss? And let me outline for you something that I put in my book about five parts of life. That you have not just your money and your health, which are the things that get talked about the most, but you also have relationships, your mind, and your soul. So what do we mean by neglecting or enhancing your life?
What we tend to do is hear a lot about how we look and how we feel. We're seeing a lot of advertising on television about various drugs you can take that will improve your life, and that's a fine thing. And we also hear a lot about financial planning for this season of life, and that's wise. But what we need to bolster in addition to those are the ones that don't get talked about enough, which is we need to work our mind.
Our mind is like a muscle. You use it or you lose it. And the thing we've heard so long about—let's just play some crossword puzzles—isn't enough challenge frankly. You need to work your mind or it will decline. And then your relationships, that's a key part. People who have warm relationships are healthier, live longer, and are happier.
And then your soul is critical. That's a big part of who you are. We may have neglected it earlier in life, because we're so busy with our careers or raising our family and all those other activities.
But now is a good time to be reflecting and saying what is my relationship to God? What is the meaning of life? And that's an area of focus. These are the things that matter most as you go forward into the advanced and mature years of life.
Hi, Guideposts. I'm Eric Thurman. When I have been talking to people, trying to learn as much as I can about this season of life, and I talk to people for their thoughts about retirement, the single comment I get back most often is, "I don't know exactly what I'm going to do. I just want to be happy." Well, that provoked me to study happiness and actually write a book on the subject of this season of life and how to be happy.
And I came to a conclusion that there are really only three things that lead to happiness. You can make a list. In fact, it's kind of fun to do. Get out a piece of paper and make a list of all the things you think make you happy. You can list 150 items, if you want. I hope you have that much happiness. But if you dig down a little deeper and look below the surface, I think you will find that all of those items relate back to one of three key sources. And they are purpose, pleasure, and peace.
So if I'm at peace and I have a sense of well-being and I feel like I'm living where I belong and I'm connected with people, then that peace brings me happiness. And, if I have real pleasure, like I'm involved in a hobby where I just lose myself, can't tell even what time it is because I'm so engrossed in it, that kind of pleasure brings me happiness, too.
Caution here—happiness can mean happenings and happenstance. Happiness can be confused for fun, which is temporary. The pleasure I'm talking about is stuff that's deep pleasure, and that comes from deep personal connection, or doing things that you find important, or things that you find creatively satisfying.
But purpose is the best of a bunch of them. If you feel like your life has meaning, there is something that feels valuable to you, then you're involved in it, and you're causing it to expand, like maybe you're volunteering at something like an animal shelter, or I've got some friends that are doing some care for homeless people, they are ignited and energized by that experience. Because they feel it's important and they're satisfied with it.
So purpose, pleasure, peace—those are the keys to happiness, not only in retirement, but at any season of life. I want you to be happy. In fact, I call it thriving when you get all three of those working together.
Hi, Guideposts. I'm Eric Thurman. If you are wishing that you had more connections with other people in your life, more friendships, more relationships, how do you go about getting that? I think it's important to realize that proximity is as important as the amount that you love another person.
What am I talking about? Well, if you have somebody you deeply love, maybe a family member but scattered to the far corners of the country, you don't get to see them very often, does that mean that you can't have warm close relationships? I hope not.
Enjoy your loved ones every chance you get, but on top of that add in warm cordial friendships with people who are nearby. I mean, you really need to get to know your neighbors or somebody at church or somebody that's in an affinity group, whether you have a hobby that you like to play cards or go running or go fishing, whatever it is. You need other people in your life.
And you say I'm not that kind of an outgoing social person. Very understandable. Many people feel that way, because we are all are a little hesitant about rejection. And if we try to reach out to somebody knew, what could happen? They might not like me, and that would feel terrible.
So let me tell you there are a couple of easy icebreakers you can use to begin finding if you can connect with another person. You can have almost any stranger, person in the shopping line at the grocery store, you can start with this question. What do you think about—and complete that question with whatever you want. What do you think about the likelihood it's going to rain tomorrow. What do you think about the redecoration of the grocery store, or what do you think about unsweetened almond milk?
You can ask any question you want, but what do you think about is a good opening line. It's unthreatening. There's no danger in asking that question. And then you might get a short reply, because people aren't used to making new friends. And you can draw a person out with a second question of—or a second comment, just tell me more. Tell me more.
Do you like cooking? You can take off on any subject you want with those two tools of what do you think about and tell me more. Because what I have found is that people like me when I am interested in them. Everybody likes being liked. And so if I reach out first showing a friendship gesture, people tend to come back.
Now not everybody will become an instant lifelong friend, but you'll be surprised how quickly people will open up, because we're just not in the habit of talking to each other that way. So don't miss a chance to cultivate new relationships and check out and see who you might find a good connection with. Because relationships are what make life really rich.
Hi, Guideposts. I'm Eric Thurman. In this stage of life, when you reach what we call retirement age, whether you're retired or not, one of the things that is most important is whether you have close, warm relationships. Without those, it's amazing how empty life can be. In fact, one of the things people have told me is that after they quit working, it wasn't the income that they missed the most, it was the interaction with other people.
I found that it surprised me how I had neglected friendships. I had lots of friends, I just wasn't spending time with them. I wasn't engaging with them. These are the people you need to reflect back to you who you are and what you're thinking. There's a limit to what I can discover just talking to myself. I need somebody I trust and that knows me and I know them and we have that interchange, back and forth, about how we look at life and what matters. Because life is very different when you reach the third stage of life.
Your first stage, of course, was childhood. Then you have normal adulthood. But we have a third stage now of decades that people are living, after they finish working, and how are you going to do that? Are you going to be alone? Are you going to be isolated? That's deadly. No. Have some friends around, and have people that you can talk with and share your deepest feelings.
When we think we want to cultivate our friendships, what makes it work? Well, the thing that I found is it's a bunch of little stuff, actually. Little things matter a lot. Sometimes, it's the small gestures that endear you to another person. So the small things matter.
Another thing that matters is frequency of contact. I may have a dear friend who is across the country, or a relative I love dearly that I only get to see once or twice a year, but who can I relate with frequently? Frequency is important for being able to process feelings. You won't have enough time if you only see somebody once a year to catch up on all the things you felt in the last six or eight months. So have some people nearby that you can share with too.
And what do you mean share? I mean talking about the deep things inside. What are your private thoughts that you don't ordinarily share with other people? When you have that kind of contact, that kind of human interaction, it's life giving for both of you.
Social media is a big part of our lives now. Wasn't always. But how does this affect our relationships? It can affect it adversely if we rely on social media to the neglect of being able to connect with people face to face. Why is that such a big deal?
Well, we see things in people's facial reactions that you just wouldn't get from a text message. I'm all for using FaceTime and Skype and these sorts of things to talk to people I love who live far away, but that's not adequate for feeling I've got a real communication going of talking through the things that are in my heart and on my soul. And you need those too.
We had a similar thing happened decades ago when you'd have old people that would leave their TV on in their home, just so they'd have some company. They'd be able to hear a human voice. But you see, that is not adequate either, because it's not a two way conversation. Unless you can have a reactive dialogue where you can see how the other person's receiving what you're saying, and there's a lot of messages that come, not just through the words, but through the gestures and the tonal expressions.
You need all of those to connect. And human beings are social creatures. We need social connection, not just social interaction through a text. So have text and all the social media that you can enjoy, but be sure that it's a supplement, not a replacement, for in-person connection.
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