Life consists of a series of ongoing lessons. From the time we are born until we die we are learning. Some of the lessons learned in childhood are: the stove can be hot and burn us, some foods taste better than others, hugs are healing, toys should not be flushed down the toilet, and falling down hurts.
We enter the educational system and learn that rules are to be followed, homework is to be completed and turned in on time, tests can cause anxiety, being included in a group feels good and it feels terrible when we are not. We go on to realize that what we learned while in school is not as important as the process of learning how to learn. Some lessons are unpleasant like life may be unfair and that some people cheat and lie to get ahead. Other lessons empower us like learning the value of a good friend, learning what we are good at doing, and learning to forgive.
When we are no longer working numerous new lessons are presented and give us an opportunity to continue our learning and growth. We also discover some of the lessons we should have mastered in earlier phases of life come back again and again until they are completed.
Here are five lessons my husband, Chris, and I learned during our countdown to retirement and beyond:
- Planning is Essential
Taking the time to think about how you want your retirement experience to unfold and creating a plan for how, where, and on what you will spend your time increases your chances of success. Accept that it is impossible to anticipate all of the changes you are likely to experience. You do not know what you do not know. However, creating a plan will do wonders to keep you grounded as you go through this major life transition.
- Time Apart will Save Your Marriage
I love my husband with all my heart and soul. But too much togetherness puts a strain on our relationship. We found a solution by scheduling time together and time apart. For us, the most difficult challenge was making sure we each had space in the house to call our own and that we have scheduled time alone in our home. The helps avoid the feeling of being “invaded” by the other spouse. Conversely, if you are single you may suffer from too much alone time and may need to find ways to spend time with others.
- Moodiness may just be moodiness or it may be more
Dealing with uncertainty day after day takes a toll on your emotions. Most people are resilient and are able to bounce back. But sometimes moods can be a sign of underlying depression that may deepen as uncertainty continues. Finding someone with whom it is safe to vent your fears and frustrations can help. But remember, your spouse is going through this same situation and may not be you best choice for venting.
- Focus on Fixing Yourself
With increased unstructured time you may find yourself nit picking and criticizing those around you more often. This is the time for you to focus on fixing yourself. The only person you can change is you. Your dissatisfaction with another often has more to do with dissatisfaction with yourself than anything else. Remember the Serenity Prayer: God grant me the courage to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
- Make time for fun
When things get tough, do something fun. It is so easy to get caught up in frustration and overwhelm. When I need a break, I surf the Net and watch a funny video to interrupt my pattern of thinking and responding. Laughter is essential for good health. It is also essential for surviving the transition from working to not working.