Over the nearly two years life of the Satisfying Retirement blog I have written a lot about changes, both mine and yours. In most cases they are important adjustments; discovering new passions and interests, working after retirement, how to 'survive" being home with your spouse or partner all day...things that take effort and work. These changes usually come as a result of understanding more completely the consequences of no action, or a habitual behavior that produces unsatisfactory results.
In some cases what happens is a shift in priorities. What seemed very important is now less so. Either we change or circumstances do. What are some examples of shifting priorities? Let me count the ways!
Worrying about Retirement Finances: Like most new retirees, this concern was probably #1 on my worry list when I stopped working. No matter how many times I crunched the numbers there was a nagging fear I was forgetting something important. There was no way I was properly prepared.
Almost eleven years later and even after a few nasty recessions, this fear has dropped significantly on my priority list. After weathering everything the economy could throw at us, we are virtually right where I thought we would be when this journey started in 2001. Of course we have made cutbacks and adjustments to our expenses and plans. But, those changes actually fit our present lifestyle better than our previous approach.
How I Spend My Free Time. I love to read. Retirement provides many hours a day to indulge in this pleasure. While working I had little time to simply pick up a book or two (or three) and clear the time to dive in. That is no longer the case. I read at least one book a week.
Our backyard is a very pleasant place to be. Lots of plants, grass for the the puppy to run and play, colorful pots with flowers in bloom 12 months a year, and a fountain that adds the cooling sound of falling water all help draw me outside. However, in one important sense I have noticed a priority change in the last few years. In the past I would be sure all the pots were filled to the brim with flowers in full bloom, even in the summer when it is hard to keep things from burning up. Plants would be trimmed on a weekly basis and weeds would never live to see a second day.
But, now, my priority is to enjoy what we have even if some pots remain unfilled, weeds are noticed here and there, and plants are a little more ragged. Instead of spending my time in the backyard maintaining and improving what is there, I find myself simply enjoying what I have. Maintenance has taken a back seat to enjoyment.
Time in Nature. We live in a part of the country that experiences very few natural disasters. Tornadoes, earthquakes, mud slides, blizzards, or ice storms are virtually unknown to the Phoenix area. Our winters are mild and benign. Of course, searing summer heat of 100+ for 4 or 5 months can be deadly if you aren't prepared. But, after seeing pictures of the damage tornadoes cause or Hurricanes like Katrina, I'll take hot anytime.
Like many Phoenicians I tend to spend a lot of time inside, even during the most pleasant times of the year. Over the last 18 months or so, I have begun to force myself outside more often. Some of that is in response to blogs I read. The health benefits and fun that people like Early Retiree Tamara or Walking to Retirement Steve enjoy by embracing nature have affected my attitude. I also enjoy being in the sunshine and fresh air. At almost 63 (2 weeks away!) I realize I don't have an endless future. The ability to enjoy outside is now. This priority is rising rapidly.
Staying Up To Date On World Events. Partly because of my job and partly because I liked to stay in touch, I used to be a news and current affairs junkie. Two daily newspapers, a dozen different magazines, an hour or two of CNBC a day and another hour surfing the Internet's various news sites kept me on top of what was happening in the world. I was stimulated and engaged by following everything so closely.
I don't know if this is a function of retirement or simple burnout, but I find myself much less interested in closely following all of that. Now I read one or two world news and economic magazines a week, the Saturday morning Wall Street Journal, and watch no news programs on television.
Of course, just by having the Internet I am aware of the economic mess that Europe is in and the growing threat of Iran and North Korea with their nuclear aspirations. It is impossible to not be aware of the dysfunctionality of the U.S. government and our debt problem that threatens my grandkids' future.
So, not consuming all the information doesn't mean I am in the dark. It does mean the hours I spent being on top of all the world's news and problems are now spend in totally different ways. In switching most of that input off, my attitude, happiness, and ability to develop other interests have increased dramatically. The point is not that staying tightly looped into news and information is bad. It is that my priorities shifted and I was able to drop something that had been an integral part of my life and swap it out for other things.
Retirement isn't unique as a time of life when you find yourself making changes. That happens continuously whether you are 8 or 80. The important message is to recognize when something is no longer feeding you what you need and change your diet. It is much too easy to become stuck in a rut and settle for consistency. It is counterproductive to stick with a priority in your life after it is no longer a true priority.
How have some of your priorities shifted during retirement? Have you noticed you approach relationships, or your spiritual life differently? Is a new interest, like blogging or RV travel what you think about most often? Does that new grandchild make other parts of your life suddenly retreat into the background? I'd love to read about your priority adjustments.
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