September 14, 2019

Is Retirement Really About The Little Things?


Being happy is an important part of living a satisfying retirement. Life is too short to be spent grumpy and out-of-sorts. If you have figured out what brightens your days and makes you smile you have taken important steps toward an enriching retirement lifestyle.

The fascinating thing about this subject is the list of happiness-producers is always unique to you. If you try to copy someone else's path to joy you will be disappointed. These triggers must be figured out by you. It is also quite true that things that make you the happiest aren't usually big things. Sure, winning a lottery will probably put a smile on your face (until you see the tax bill). Landing a major sale from your hobby-turned business or the birth of a grandchild are  good things.

But, what about the small stuff that can brighten any day? What are the little things that, when they happen, make you feel pleasure and contentment?  Are you missing moments of happiness because you are thinking too big? Maybe you need to shrink your focus. Discover some happiness triggers that you can lean into whenever you choose. From my life here a few examples to get you started:

Hot cocoa and a fire. Since I live in a place that is hot a good part of the year, when things turn cooler my wife and I get excited by the simple pleasure of a log crackling away in the fireplace and a cup of hot cocoa while we snuggle on the sofa to watch a favorite movie or read quietly side-by-side. We are happy and content when the wind blows (sort of) cold air from the North and the whipped cream in the cocoa sticks to our lips.


Sunshine on the patio. For almost 330 days a year, Phoenix enjoys sunny days. You might think the simple joy of sitting on the back patio in the sunshine would have worn thin by now. Not by a long shot. I can enjoy watching the birds at the feeder, listening to the fountain.  and watching the shadows move across the floor. Overcast days make me sad. I live where I do because sunshine makes me happy.

A giggling child. My grandkids have the greatest laugh. It is physically impossible to listen to one or both start to giggle and not smile and laugh right along with them. Their obvious joy is instantly transferred to me. 



A puppy. Is there a puppy alive that can't charm a smile out of even the grumpiest old man? Is there any way to not be happy around something that so blindly loves you and wants your love and attention? 

Yes, there is extra responsibility and those occasional messes to clean up. But, overall, aren't puppies happy-producers?

Fixing a problem with a computer. Though not an expert by any means, I do enjoy helping friends when something has gone wrong with their computer. After performing the necessary cleanup of software conflicts or deleting unneeded programs, I love seeing the smile of their faces when everything works the way it should. It takes very little of my time, but makes someone else's life just a bit easier and it makes me happy to help.



A mystery book you can't put down. Reading is one of the great pleasures in life. A well-written novel can take you anywhere whenever you want a getaway. I love mysteries for their ability to weave a complex set of clues through a few hundred pages, finally tying it all together at the end. I rarely figure it out early, but the challenge is there.


A thoughtful comment on this blog. Someone taking the time to leave a comment makes me happy. It shows I have written something that caused another person to take a few minutes to read and react. Seeing there is a new comment on one of these posts makes me smile.


I could have added bigger things to my list like a paid-off mortgage or next year's cruise to the South Pacific. Certainly a clean physical exam makes me happy. Those triggers are obvious.

Maybe not quite so obvious is to focus on the small stuff, the everyday parts of your life. If you can put just a few of your own happy points in your day, your life will feel blessed, content and delighted. And, that is a satisfying retirement.

34 comments:

  1. Bob, another gem. Simple, clear, meaningful.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Agree with all of the above, except "Fixing a problem with the computer" which in my mind is like a short trip to hell.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have to agree with Tom, here!

      Delete
    2. Bingo! I enjoy helping others, but I am about to transition from an 8 year old desktop to a laptop at home. I dread the process.

      Delete
  3. Puppies and giggling children are almost universal on the list of things that make people happy. Frankly, I don't trust a person who doesn't like either one.

    But your list is a reminder to us all that we have to take a moment here and there to appreciate the little things that make us happy. One of mine is when it's really sunny and the prisms I have hanging in the windows throw rainbows all over the walls. Right now I'm looking at six.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We have a stained glass-type window over the front door. At certain times of the late afternoon it casts the most interesting shapes on a wall in the living room. Prisms are so simple and pretty.

      Delete
  4. I'm happy when I see my four month old grand daughter smile. Still waiting on the giggles. I metal detect as a hobby and when I find one old Wheat penny, it makes my day. My wife thinks I'm crazy for getting excited about finding a penny, but it is the little thing that makes me happy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The thrill of discovery, right? What you find is less important than the fact that your skill (and technology) found something!

      Delete
  5. Simple pleasures! Like you, sitting on the patio watching birds and having that first cup of strong coffee in the morning is bliss. Every day. Coming out of the library with a bag full of books to read!! A home made apple pie cooling on the counter. A Morning of playing cards,laughing and political discussion with my neighbors. A perfect fitting pair of jeans found at the consignment store.A quiet morning in the kayak with Ken out on Saguaro Lake.Life is so full of joy and beauty to enjoy.. it only takes a small shift of focus to move out of a cranky mood or any feelings of ingratitude.What a great post,Bob!!!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your days always sound so interesting and varied. We were at Saguaro Lake last month for lunch overlooking the lake. So pretty and calming.

      Delete
  6. Great food for thought! Walking in a forest, billowing white clouds on a cool blue sky, a successful new recipe....these are a few of my favorite things!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hold on, there is a song "a few of my favorite things." That is one I can actually play on the guitar!

      Clouds are interesting for us desert rats. We can go weeks without any clouds. Then, when they appear you realize what has been missing.

      Delete
  7. Replies
    1. Big things can be great, but are few and far between.

      Delete
  8. Sometimes the busy world people don't like to hear it, but enjoying simple pleasures adds up to a fulfilling life.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Saturday morning and I have 60's oldies cranked up on Spotify. That's a simple pleasure.

      Delete
  9. Hi Bob! I completely agree. While the "HIGHS" are nice, it is the string of little pearls that give life a certain richness. Sitting and watching the waves on the beach this morning with my husband and dog is one of those! Enjoy your Saturday! ~Kathy

    ReplyDelete
  10. Perhaps the secret to enjoying life in general is appreciating the little things. If I never hear about another "bucket list" again I'm okay with that.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Since little things make up the vast majority of our days, celebrating them just makes sense.

      Delete
  11. Thanks for your post Bob! When I first joined the ranks of those in retirement, I thought that I needed to be "busy" all day every day doing something to replace what I felt was my important professional job. It has taken me the better part of two years to enjoy slowing down and realizing that when I look around me each day so many wonderful things are occurring. Helping someone reach an item at the supermarket that is high on a shelf, stopping and politely signaling for other people to cross in front of me when I am driving at intersections, stuck in traffic, or in a parking lot, helping people move things with my truck, turning home repair needs into a project whether I perform the maintenance myself or contract out to have it performed, etc etc etc. I used to consider many of these items a "waste of time" when I was working, and now I can see the joy of simple acts of kindness and simple projects. I love to cook for my family and friends, and now that I am retired, I have much more time to improve those skills. I ensure that my wife has a hot meal waiting for her after she works her 12 hour shift in nursing. These items are not the major impact items I would have completed in my profession but they are actually more satisfying to me now. Life is such a wonderful experience and once I slowed down, I have been able to cherish even the most trivial of experiences in a much different light.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love your description and urge everyone to reread it and think about Dan's words.

      BTW, I often have to help a fellow grocery shopper reach something on the top shelf. They are always so grateful for such a simple act.

      Delete
  12. I concur that it's the little things. There are many momentous occasions in life, i.e. graduating from post-secondary (then it's getting up & going to work), the wedding day (then it's settling into the day-to-day when the honeymoon's over), building a house (then it's settling into the day-to-day things like cleaning the bathrooms). As you said, the big things are great but few and far between. So many little things to revel in. Just in the past 24 hrs, I've reveled in watching baby calves running and jumping in the pasture, looking out at bedtime as the full moon lit up the mist rolling in from the river, enjoying the best milk shake from the burger bar in town, getting help with tending to my mom's house from my son, sharing a meal and playing cards with old and new friends. I'm 6 yrs into retirement and still revel in the slow mornings over a cup of coffee.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your day sounded fabulous. And, yes, that first cup of coffee with the morning paper is very special. JTo make it even nicer, it is starting to be cool enough in the mornings to start out this way on the back patio.

      Delete
  13. One of the things I miss most from my Southern roots is a big, rip-roaring thunderstorm. Those are a rare occurrence in the Pacific Northwest. So this afternoon, when a few thunder rumbles echoed through the neighborhood (thunder "lite" by Southern standards), I was delighted.

    Add a cup of my favorite tea and a good book, and you have a wonderful afternoon!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We are promised (?) a thunderstorm and up to an inch of rain this evening. Like you, we enjoy the rare monsoon storm in all its power.

      Delete
  14. I completely agree. Too much emphasis is placed on the big things and we forget to enjoy the everyday pleasures. I’m sitting here right now listening to thunder and waiting for the storm to begin. I love rainy days and I’m ready for one today. I’m also ready for cooler temps so I can spend some time reading on my deck. Those things don’t cost a penny but they make me love my life.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Like you I am finding fresh energy from our dropping temperatures. The last few mornings have been in the 70s, which feels so invigorating. Now, I can read the paper and have my coffee on the porch. In another few weeks it will be pleasant enough in the afternoons to move my painting efforts outside as well.

      It doesn't take much to make me smile.

      Delete
  15. I love these posts, Bob. Both to see what gives others joy and to remind me of how fortunate I am.

    My list would include, like others, lounging in the mornings (especially Monday mornings) over coffee and my laptop while others are scrambling to work. A crisply hit golf shot that actually goes where I want it to (rare). And maybe most enjoyable, hanging out with our adult kids, who are now more like friends than the children that we had to guide and worry about every day.

    Thanks for this!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are welcome, Dave. We are lucky enough to live within 5 minutes of our grandkids and their family and 15 minutes from our other daughter. Not having to restrict visits to just a few times a year because of distance is a never ending blessing.

      When I have to be driving either early morning or late afternoon hours, I am reminded how nice it is to rarely worry about rush hour traffic. What a stress-inducing nightmare!

      Delete
  16. The little everyday things that I enjoy are too numerous to name: feeding the goldfish in the pond, walking through a rocky Garry oaks meadow by the bay, the pattern of red leaved on the vine along our French, the purring cat curled up on my lap, the satisfaction of a well-written sentence, and so forth, and so forth. I love my life.

    By the way, as a short person, I am always grateful when someone reaches something down for me. I’ve been known to climb up display cases trying to get something on the top shelf!

    Jude

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Betty is just 5 feet tall, so I quite aware of the everyday challenges faced by "vertically challenged" folks.

      Delete

Inappropriate comments will be deleted