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Mental Well-being

Transition to retirement is less traumatic if you plan ahead to have purpose and meaning in your life in later years. Even if you’re already retired, it’s not too late to make plans for your future. What are your daydreams about? Where do you focus your attention? What inspires you to spend your energy on? A good place to start this quest is with your values, because anything you do that matches your values will bring meaning and purpose to your life.

Taking time each day to write two pages about whatever is on your mind can be a real eye-opener. This morning I ran across some journaling I did nine years ago. I was amazed to discover that things that troubled me then have been resolved, many of my intentions back then have come to pass, and some things still need addressing! Here’s the thing. Whatever spews out of your mind day after day, day after day, starts to show patterns in your thinking.

Eleanor Roosevelt’s words above are right on target. When we stop engaging with others, and stop doing things that have meaning and purpose for us, we start to shrivel up. Our elder years can be a time to find new ways of engaging with others, and better aligning who we are on the inside with what we do in the outside world. We can try on other ways of doing and being and becoming.

Feeling sad and weepy at retirement is more common than you might think. Men especially may experience this, because they tend to have just a few roles outside of work other than husband, father, and brother, but women, too, can feel lost without a job.

Who am I when I’m not doing what I used to do?

Optimism and pessimism are familiar terms, but Martin P. Seligman has given us a richness of understanding in his book, “Learned Optimism”. And what about “cheerful pessimists” and “realistic optimists”? Consider three aspects of these approaches to life. 

When you have a job to finish, is it better to motivate yourself by looking back at the part you’ve already done, or look ahead at what’s left to do? If you want your willpower to kick in, it’s better to look ahead at what is left to do. What do you usually do to finish something – look back or look ahead? This is a small example of monitoring your behavior, to help you stay on track.

The brain needs tasks to be finished. If you have uncompleted tasks or any unmet goals in your life, they have a strong tendency to keep popping up in your mind. We can clear our minds by writing down a plan, because that gets the items out of the mind. Then you won’t be beating yourself up, thinking that you don’t have enough willpower to do whatever it is you’re wanting to accomplish.  

Have you ever noticed your willpower fading as the day wears on? Maybe you find it harder to get things done. You might lose patience and snap at loved ones, or find your thoughts spiraling out of control. Perhaps you experience decision fatigue – feeling like you can’t make any more decisions, and compromise becomes more difficult. The reason is that we have a finite amount of willpower, and it becomes depleted as we use it. We use willpower to