Just like a closet in your home can easily reach a cluttered, disorganized stage, so can our minds. Both require regular thinning out, re-prioritizing, and replacing wornout stuff with something newer and better suited to our needs.
I have written before about dumping personal habits that no longer serve their purpose. Rather than revisit that topic, I'd like to explore a different kind of mind-cleaning: the buildup over time of commitments, must-dos, should-dos, and want-to-dos. Most of us hold onto a self-image that says we can do anything we set our mind to. When a friend calls we respond. When an interesting new volunteer opportunity arises we squeeze it in. When a friend recommmends a new book to read, we get it and put it on the teetering stack by the bed.
Think of the messiest place in your home. Let's assume it is a hall closet: try to jam too much in and it becomes useless. You can't open the door without the risk of something falling on your head. When you need an item in the back of the closet you must take time to remove things that are blocking your way. The more we try to squeeze into that space the less it can perform its intended function. Finally, we are forced to take drastic action: take everything out and put back only the stuff that belongs there.
Our minds can become just like that closet. We try to pack in so much that we actually end up harming our productivity and happiness. Year after year we fill our schedule with meetings, events, and activities that no longer satisfy us or fit our lifestyle. Our mental closet has no space left to actually enjoy what we are doing. We go through the motions because we always have.
Fall is a good time to:
Stop doing what you do every fall and take the time to decide if everything continues to fit your life. Does that organization you belong to still meet your needs? What about the three time a week exercise class at 6:00 AM that leaves you dragging for the rest of the day? Is meeting friends at the coffee shop every Friday still a joy? Do I really have to dust every other day? Could I save a lot of money if I cooked at home more often?
Look at your options. The great thing about retirement is you have the freedom to look at how your life is going and make changes if you want to. Look at all the options you have for social interaction, hobbies, strenghtening your body and health through new exercise routines, or going back to college to get that long-delayed degree. Think about your important realtionships...is there something I can do to make things nicer around the house? If I hire a cleaning service I can start those night classes I've always wanted. Can I squeeze that into my budget?
Listen to your heart. Too often I think we discount the importance of our emotions when we make decisions. During our working lives, usually thinking with your heart as well as your head can get you into trouble. Rare is the job where logical thought, an ordered system, and performance-based evaluations are balanced against how all of it makes you feel. But, now, you can listen to what your heart is telling you. Does this feel right? Am I more content if I do this instead of that? Is it less "productive" but makes me smile? Your heart can't always overrule your head, but at least give it a chance to be heard.
We all learned to Stop, Look & Listen near train tracks. That continues to be good advice. A satisfying retirement requires that you keep a balance between your head and your heart. If something you are doing doesn't bring you joy or satisfaction and you can choose to do something else, then do so. The person best able to judge your performance is you.