September 17, 2020

Shifting Priorities

Over the ten year life of Satisfying Retirement, I have written a lot about changes, both mine and yours. In most cases, they are essential 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 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 our 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 forgot something important. There was no way I was prepared correctly.

Almost twenty years later, this fear has completely disappeared from my priority list. In fact, I would guess that this particular concern was not terribly worrisome after four years of retirement. That doesn't mean that some economic bump or stone wall isn't in front of us.

But, after weathering everything the economy could throw at us over two decades, we trust our ability to survive and stay happy. Of course, we have made cutbacks and adjustments to our expenses and plans. But, those changes actually fit our current lifestyle very nicely. I am not naive, just confident in our ability to weather any storm.

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, with usually two or three different genres going at once (historical fiction, non-fiction, murder mystery, spiritual)

Our backyard is an enjoyable place to be. Enough plants and trees, grass for the dog to run and play, colorful pots with flowers in bloom for 7 months of the year, and a small fountain fashioned out of an old pump and basin 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 three or four 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 every week, and weeds would never live to see a second day.

But, now, my priority is to enjoy what we have even if almost all pots remain barren during the heat of summer. Weeds are noticed here and there, and I don't obsess about them. A few patches of grass are kind of barren; the sprinklers don't provide full coverage. Spending hundreds of dollars to fix that deficiency doesn't seem worth it. 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, mudslides, blizzards, or ice storms are virtually unknown to the Phoenix area. Our winters are mild and benign. While forest fires can be deadly in parts of Arizona, Phoenix is safe from the type of disaster that the West Coast is living through.

Of course, searing summer heat of 100+ for five months can be deadly if you aren't prepared. But, after seeing pictures of the damage from tornadoes or Hurricanes like Laura just caused,  I'll take hot anytime.

Like many Phoenicians, I tend to spend a lot of time inside. Over the last few years, I have begun to force myself outside more often. Embracing nature a bit more have affected my attitude. I also enjoy being in the sunshine and fresh air. At 71, I know 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 somewhat 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 keep 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 of the current political craziness,  but I find myself much less interested in following all of that. I am aware of the big stories of the day. It is impossible to not be mindful of the dysfunctionality of the U.S. government and polarization. 

Not consuming all the information like I once did doesn't mean I am in the dark. I just find it more beneficial to read the analysis or maybe someone's thoughts on what a particular event means to the big picture. 

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 looped into news and information is a mistake. 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 the only 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 real priority.

Retirement is about finding  new peaks to scale


  1. I don't think pulling back from consuming as much news and current events has anything to do with being retired or older. I think it's happening to many of us because it's so stressful to follow because we're seeing a breakdown of values and norms we've held dear all our lives. Being engaged in politics used to be one of my greatest joys and most entertaining time fillers. I've shifted away from consuming and following what's going on as closely as I used to, but it's out of self-preservation, not a choice to find something else more satisfying to do with my time.

    1. Maybe we have become wiser in the way we choose to spend our time. We are able to step away from an activity that irritate or upsets us. I keep hoping we have reached some sort of tipping point with how things are going, but every day was bringing a new low, a new shock. So, I had to cut back the input.

      In normal circumstances i would expect things to settle down after election day. But, I'm pretty sure things will not improve for quite some time after that.

  2. I used to be a news and political junkie. It began when I was 7 years old in 1960 and JFK was running for the presidency. Even in the not-so-good times, I was able to make some sense of how things were playing out in our world and country. During election times, I'd have 2 different tv's tuned into 2 different stations throughout my day. But not anymore. The news is horrifying on a daily basis, and I can make no real sense of it at all. I follow a couple of trustworthy sources that condense the news of the day. That's about all I can handle.I do look for opportunities to make a difference for the good, so I haven't entirely given up.
    It's very sad to facing a national crisis of this magnitude at this point in my life. I have managed to simplify and enjoy things for the most part - but the present state of the country is heartbreaking.

    1. I feel constantly torn: turn my back on the stuff that is driving me crazy, or wade into the "battle?" Recently, I finished reading the Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. There are way to many similarities to ignore. Like You, this is not what I expected to live through in the last few decades of my life.

  3. Entering year 7 of retirement.. my how the time flies..and yes, this gives a bit of an edge to thoughts of mortality and being sure to make the most of the vibrant years I have ahead.. knowing full well that in a decade or two, my abilities will likely be different. Soo— like you, I prioritize all the activities that give me PELASURE: WHen I worked two jobs for years, it was hard to fit in the books I wanted to read, the museums I wanted to visit, the friendships I wanted to nurture.

    As retirement unfolded, we tried out a couple of paths that didn’t fit and being resilient as we are, we shifted course. Don’t expect retirement to be a straight line!!!!!!

    Now, especially with Covid times upon us, my homebody tendencies and priorities in general are a lot like what they always were, but I have more TIME and even more energy (I’m not using my energy to work anymore!! LOL!!) to pursue them!

    I made friendships a priority and pre covid I spent a couple of days a week with friends, at social events or art group, or playing cards, or having lunch. Now, we ZOOM and chat on the phone and fb is a life saver ever with all it’s negatives,I can still “CHAT” with my friends in Italy, Portland, Alabama,New jersey.,. That’s quite a miracle!!

    Reading and music: I need BIG DAILY DOSES of both!

    Intellectual stimulation: I watch at least 2-3 youtubes or podcasts per week, about topics I want to know more about: Nutrition, sleep, neuroplasticity, and water coloring are my current topics..

    Family: Time wiht Ken, time with Andrew. <3

    Open mindedness: I have a vow not to become an old stodgy person.I love to stay up on the latest in tech and computers, on science and culture, and yes, the news. I read it,I don’t watch it. I check in twice a day and then try to forget about it. (Harder.....)

    Spirituality: I pray and meditate daily. ANd do some spiritual reading almost daily.

    All this adds up to a joyful, grateful existence and I am blessed to have the freedoms and resources to pursue happiness.I know many others cannot.

    Counting my blessings,today!! CLEAN AIR! Health! Love! And some great blog posts to dig into!!

    1. I've always enjoyed your positive attitude and approach to life, Madeline. Even when you had a detour that took you to another part of the state for awhile, you realized that wasn't what is best for you and convinced Ken to make a course correction.

      Keeping our minds engaged and stimulated by new things are so important to a satisfying retirement. I think the folks who get stuck in old solutions to new problems are the ones who struggle the most.


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